“Yes we still matter”: Native people are – through their strength, resilience and creativity – forcing questions like “What kind of country do we want to be?” – A New History of Native Americans

THE HEARTBEAT OF WOUNDED KNEE: Native America From 1890 to the Present by David Treuer (Illustrated, 512 pp., 2019)

 Book review in The New York Times (20 January 2019)

David Treuer: A New History of Native Americans Responds to ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’ | Read the full review by Ned Blackhawk >>  

Over the past 12 months, Native American politicians, artists and academics have made uncommon gains. Indeed, Native American women helped to make 2018 the Year of the Woman. In November, New Mexican and Kansan voters elected Debra Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) and Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk) to Congress, while voters in Minnesota elected Peggy Flanagan (Ojibwe) their lieutenant governor. In October, the sociologist Rebecca Sandefur (Chickasaw) and the poet Natalie Diaz (Mojave) won MacArthur Foundation Awards, while throughout the spring and summer, the playwrights Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee), Larissa FastHorse (Lakota) and DeLanna Studi (Cherokee) had historic openings at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., Artists Repertory Theater in Portland, Ore., and Portland Center Stage, respectively. From the cover of American Theater magazine in April to CNN on election night, the work of these eight dynamic Native women garnered national acclaim. 

Such achievements represent more than added texture to the mosaic of modern America. They underscore the rising power of American Indians over the past two generations. […]

There is an urgency to fashion new national narratives. Treuer’s suggestion, for example, that Indian peoples have been infected by colonialism with a disease “of powerlessness … more potent than most people imagine” could be extended to include the subordination experienced by other gendered, racialized and historically disempowered communities. This disease also has the potential to spread even further, because it cannot simply be up to America’s indigenous people to ward it off. As Treuer explains, “This disease is the story told about us and the one we so often tell about ourselves.”  […]  

Ned Blackhawk (Western Shoshone) is a professor of history and American studies at Yale University, where he coordinates the Yale Group for the Study of Native America.

Source: A New History of Native Americans Responds to ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’
URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/20/books/review/david-treuer-heartbeat-wounded-knee.html?module=inline
Date visited: 26 January 2019

Discussion with author, David Treuer, on the New York Time Book Review Podcast 

Podcast: 25 January 2019; excerpts transcribed from an interview with the author
(30:00 to 52:50)

35:25 All natives have at some point in their lives had that conversation:
– Yes I’m still here
– Yes we still exist
– Yes we still matter
And people look at us as if we are crazy, if we tell them this.
But in the popular imagination we haven’t been living in the past 125 years. We have just been in some sort of afterlife, a perpetual purgatory of suffering. […]
36:50 We are imagined all the time. The very first revolutionary act of the young colonists back in the 18th century was to dump tea in Boston harbour but they dressed up as native people and then dumped the tea in the harbour. So America’s very first act was in reference to, and in relation to us. They were protesting how they were being downtrodden by the British, by dressing up as what they imagined us downtrodden people. So we occupy a central place in the stories America tells about itself. And yet we are, because of numbers and geography, almost invisible in the daily lives of most Americans. So there is a huge disconnect. […]  
49:50 If you want to understand what America means you cannot understand it without thinking about us. […] 
51:33 America has always struggled to make its behavior match its ideals.
  • Are we a country of hunger, where we quest after other people’s things?
  • Are we an imperialist country?
  • Are we a country that doesn’t care about the rights of minorities or disenfranchised people?
  • Or are we a country that believes in supporting and protecting one another?

That’s been at the heart of all of its major conflicts. That was a question embedded in its civil war, that was embedded in the fight at Wounded Knee. What country do we want to be. […]  

I’d like to point out once again: native people are – through our strength, through our resilience, through our creativity – forcing the question: what kind of country do we want to be? And might we want to privilege our virtues and our values over our baser impulses. 

Source: New York Time Book Review Podcast (transcribed excerpts)
URL: https://itunes.apple.com/nl/podcast/the-book-review/
Date visited: 26 January 2019

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