An Indigenous Peoples' History Of The United States Book Review
By Alexis Mercer
I started reading An Indigenous Peoples’ History Of The United States this past winter. It is one of the most painful books I have ever read. And not because it is poorly written, is boring, or is lacking in any way. It is a fascinating book with details that are astounding.
It is one of the most painful books I have ever read because it tells the tale of the utter devastation that was brought upon the Indigenous people of the land in order to found what we know as the United States of America.
Not only did it take me an exorbitant amount of time to read due to my wanting to soak in the terribly sad details on each page, but I have also put off writing the book review for as long as possible. It is the kind of book that settles in your brain and you want to keep those thoughts to yourself for awhile.
It seems that everything I started to write about the book was cliché and ignorant on my behalf. There is so much I didn’t know about the founding of this country. And I was a good student in American History in high school! Granted, it has been a while. But I have always loved reading. I did well in school. The details in this book are the details that aren’t included in textbooks.
My brother in law saw that I was reading this book when we were together over spring break. He attended a private school on the East Coast for high school. He told me that this book was one of the many books they read in lieu of a textbook. I found myself wishing that had been me. I feel as though I was lied to all those years ago.
There are details and facts in this book that every American should read and consider.
The author, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, takes the reader through eleven chapters of the founding of the United States of America as known by the indigenous people and those who studied it from this angle. Some of the topics include the “Culture of Conquest”, “The Last of the Mohicans and Andrew Jackson’s White Republic”, and “US Triumphalism and Peacetime Colonialism.”
Within the first few pages I picked up a highlighter and began to mark the lines I found most significant. My book is full of marks. And I can guarantee if I went back and read it again, I would find varying lines to highlight that are significant in other ways than my original read.
“Incapable of conquering true wilderness, the Europeans were highly competent in the skill of conquering other people, and that is what they did. They did not settle a virgin land. They invaded and displaced a resident population.” (Dunbar-Ortiz 47)
What is certain is that this book has changed the way I view the world. Not the people who are currently residing in the United States, or how they view our country. But I am thankful for this new perspective and ability to deliberate on my own thoughts of our country, government, and founding principles.
I couldn’t more highly recommend a book to anyone. Just give yourself plenty of time to read and process. Don’t be afraid to set it down for a while, read a piece of fiction that requires little thought, and come back to it after you have given your brain a break from the thoroughly explained devastation of the Indigenous people.
For those of you who are in or near Newaygo County, copies are available for purchase at Flying Bear Books in Newaygo.
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