Burry My Heart at Wounded Knee Analysis
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown provides Americans with a new perspective of the Western Frontier in the late 1800s and portrays another side to a story that has been told for many centuries. Brown allows the reader to experience what the American Indians were being forced to go through and why some of their reactions were what they were. When the government was forced to intervene because of westward expansion, American Indians were the first to face the repercussions. When Congress first gave western settlers free land under the Homestead Act, American Indians were quickly made part of negotiations over land with the American government that would force them to either comply with their terms or perish.
Because the goal for most settlers was to eventually make roots in California and Oregon where free land was promised, that meant that many an Indian land would be traveled through with little to no punishment. Due to the westward travel Indians began being concentrated onto small areas of land that the government had set aside for their use, but because of the greed of the American settlers, Indian land was constantly decreasing. An example such as the Sioux Indians who once roamed throughout the Dakotas eventually became limited to a ten by one hundred and fifty-mile reservation (text book). The Indians learned through trial and error that the American government could not be trusted with their best interest. Cochise believed that no man that was a representative of the United States government could be trusted. Cochise believed that no man that was a representative of the United States government could be trusted. After learning what happened at Camp Grant in chapter nine of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Cochise of the Apache tribe says that, “no Apache should ever again put his life in the hands of the treacherous Americans.” (9)
In later years the Indian Bureau invited tribe leaders to gather in Washington to discuss treaty obligations with the commissioner of Indian Affairs, Francis Walker. Walker explained to the leaders that were present that they were not going to be given much of a say in the negotiations being made and explained to them what was about to happen. Walker gave the ruling: “First, the Kiowas and Comanches here represented must, before the fifteenth of December next, camp every chief, head man, brave, and family complete within ten miles of Fort Sill and the agency; they must remain there until spring, without giving any trouble, and shall not then leave unless with the consent of their agent.” (11) He continued on to explain that any person who refused the negotiation and would not abide by its rules would be considered an enemy of the United States and would be treated as so. The driving of the Indians onto reservations is what led to the war in the West. Lone Wolf of the Kiowa tribe explained his displeasment with Washing by saying, “Washington has deceived me—has failed to keep faith with me and my people—has broken his promises; and now there is nothing left us but war. I know that war with Washington means the extinction of my people, but we are driven to it; we had rather die than live.” (11)
Although there were many battles between the Americans and Indians war was not even the main cause of death for most Indians. A majority of Indians died because of liquor and disease. When Chief Joseph, of the Nez Percés, died the physician reported his death to have been from a “broken heart” because of his loss of trust in the American government and its policies. (13) The people of the Nez Percés tribe only wanted to be free men who were able to live in peace alongside the white men and had promised to obey every law were denied that they were always sent back to an Indian Territory. (13) Because of this a loss of trust in the American government followed by the Indian’s despise of America.
Each time President Grant was notified of Indian attacks or brutality he was only told the side of the settlers. President Grant was aimed to please his voters by providing them with protection against the barbaric ways of the Indians, he lost the respect of the men and women who had once freely roamed the United States. The policies that were put in place by the American government were never for the betterment of the Indians but always for the greedy settlers who were hungry for land and wealth. To this day Indians are still living in poverty on some of the reservations, so because of the policies set in place over a century ago people are still facing the impacts.