Monday, February 05, 2018

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Brutal. That's the word that comes to mind when I think about this book. The actions recounted here of the whites towards the Indians were brutal. The attitudes between the same were brutal. And Dr. Dunbar-Ortiz's reporting here is likewise brutal. She offers no sympathy, makes no attempt to rationalize anything that the whites did or failed to do. Or maybe that's just my perception as the cultural descendant of those people.* Either way, I appreciate the honesty.

The title of this book pretty much describes the content. For the indigenous people of North America, the milestones of U.S. history are not our elections or official wars, but rather the multitude of conflicts that drove them off their land and irreparably changed their way of life. Dr. Dunbar-Ortiz starts by sketching the history of the Americas before Columbus arrived. She tells of a place that was hardly a wilderness, but rather as settled as Europe, albeit with significant differences in how farming was managed. She then tells of European culture in regards to aggression and consolidation of power. What follows is the tale of the conquest of a continent, told from the point of view of the conquered. It's not told in a whiny voice, but rather the voice of a people "struck down, but not destroyed". (Despite efforts to do just that.) The indigenous people of North America are still here and they're still resisting attempts to marginalize them.

As a white boy, I found the book uncomfortable to read. There was no silver lining in Dr. Dunbar-Ortiz's tale. It didn't offer a happy ending or even the hope of one. Instead it offered the education and insight to create awareness of the problem. What I can or should do to work against the problem is unclear. But it's not an issue I want to ignore.
*What particular sins against the native Americans my immigrant ancestors may have committed in the centuries long conquest of the continent, I don't know.

Check it out.
LibraryThing link


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