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.
5/21/2018 05:08:49 pm
Thanks for the excellent book review. I have it but have not started it but had heard the author interviewed. I also had read Howard Zinn's "The People's History of the United States, which is not told by the "victors" of history also has info I never learned in high school or college! It has some information about the Indigenous but not enough so looking forward in a historical sense but not an emotional sense, to read Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's book.
5/21/2018 05:57:49 pm
Many many thanks, Alexis, for reviewing this difficult, powerful and extremely important book! The Native Circle of Newaygo County is organizing a study group to read and consider this book as a group. Anyone who would like to know more is welcome to leave their name and contact information at Flying Bear Books, 231-414-4056
Mary Anne Bolthouse
5/21/2018 07:09:01 pm
I have read this book as well, as a Native American Indian I found myself being angry, sad, hopeless and reading a few chapters again, I know what my (our) ancestors had to go through in order to keep surviving amidst all the fear and greed. Thank you for giving such a wonderful review.
5/22/2018 08:31:22 am
I was happy to see your review of this book. I am about 1/2 way through, and has taken me several weeks and also many highlighting of excerpts. It is amazing how learning about history from another’s perspective can enlighten and deepen understanding of the world in which we live, and also cause much head shaking, anger, and even gratitude for finally knowing other truths. It also begs the question: so what can I do about it now, a descendent of the colonial history here? I find myself first becoming hyper aware that the footsteps I take here in Newaygo County walk upon the footprints of others who were here and tended a land for millennia that looked much different than it does today because of their tending. That what I perceive as the apparent absence of the thriving Tribes of this area was by no means a choice of theirs. And that what I perceive as the apparent abscence of the Tribes and People of this area is truly a misperception: “We Are Still Here” is what I now hear and see across our county and across this country. This is not “my” land upon which I live now, but was stolen from others who lived here before me, and is being borrowed from the future generations. I feel I owe both to walk softly with respect and awareness upon it. I cannot change the past, but I can help myself and others to know a more truthful history; to learn with open mind and heart of the Anishnaabe and other People of the present; and work to support a world where Native Indigenous and ALL people within their cultures can be honored, respected and supported to thrive in our world today.
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