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The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regim The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire. With growing support for movements such as the campaign to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the Dakota Access Pipeline protest led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States is an essential resource providing historical threads that are crucial for understanding the present. In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz adroitly challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants, displacing or eliminating them. And as Dunbar-Ortiz reveals, this policy was praised in popular culture, through writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Walt Whitman, and in the highest offices of government and the military. Shockingly, as the genocidal policy reached its zenith under President Andrew Jackson, its ruthlessness was best articulated by US Army general Thomas S. Jesup, who, in 1836, wrote of the Seminoles: “The country can be rid of them only by exterminating them.” Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative. An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States is a 2015 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature.


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The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regim The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire. With growing support for movements such as the campaign to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the Dakota Access Pipeline protest led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States is an essential resource providing historical threads that are crucial for understanding the present. In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz adroitly challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants, displacing or eliminating them. And as Dunbar-Ortiz reveals, this policy was praised in popular culture, through writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Walt Whitman, and in the highest offices of government and the military. Shockingly, as the genocidal policy reached its zenith under President Andrew Jackson, its ruthlessness was best articulated by US Army general Thomas S. Jesup, who, in 1836, wrote of the Seminoles: “The country can be rid of them only by exterminating them.” Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative. An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States is a 2015 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature.

30 review for An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amy Sturgis

    I received this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program. First, I should say that I recognize what a herculean proposition it would be to create a history of the United States as experienced by its Indigenous inhabitants; I greatly respect both Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz for accepting the challenge and Beacon Press for its foresight in publishing its ReVisioning American History series; and I think this book is an extremely important one. I hope it will have far-reaching ripple effects in th I received this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program. First, I should say that I recognize what a herculean proposition it would be to create a history of the United States as experienced by its Indigenous inhabitants; I greatly respect both Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz for accepting the challenge and Beacon Press for its foresight in publishing its ReVisioning American History series; and I think this book is an extremely important one. I hope it will have far-reaching ripple effects in the field. Over and over again, I found myself nodding at Dunbar-Ortiz's critiques of past approaches hailed as innovative while, at their core, they were based on subtle evasions or outright dismissals of settler colonialism and the genocide on which it was/is founded. Perhaps this book can motivate a new generation of historians (and citizens) to deal more honestly with the past. If it does, its worth could not be overstated. That said, I see fundamental flaws in this study. For one thing, Dunbar-Ortiz apparently is untutored in and unwilling to consult specialists on economics or intellectual history, and this causes her to mislabel and misattribute key forces and movements that rest at the heart of her argument. This ensures that her work cannot speak to other survey works and texts, and that is a terrible shame. For instance, she makes the very basic error of calling the hoarding of gold and the exploitation of colonial resources capitalism, when this practice and its corresponding theory/philosophy was, in fact, mercantilism. (Theorists of the Scottish Enlightenment such as Adam Smith, who became leading minds of free-market capitalism, framed their arguments in opposition to and in order to discredit mercantilism, not in support of its practice. These aren't the same or even similar ideas.) More troubling, however, is Dunbar-Ortiz's reliance on older secondary and tertiary sources that do not represent the latest understandings of the subjects she wishes to discuss. For example, she sets the stage for her discussion of "U.S. Triumphalism and Peacetime Colonialism" by offering a quote she attributes to Black Elk that says "the nation's hoop is broken and scattered." Yet it was proven some time ago (in 1984, by the anthropologist who founded and directed the American Indian Studies Research Institute at Indiana State University in Bloomington, and this has been the subject of much publication since) that Black Elk never said any of this at all; the entire passage is a complete invention, one of many, poetic license taken by Black Elk's white interviewer John G. Neihardt to meet Neihardt's own (white) agenda in storytelling. Black Elk's own words and opinions were quite different. If Dunbar-Ortiz is claiming to represent the Indigenous perspective, and yet she is quoting as the authentic voice of a Native leader prose that was discounted decades ago as pure fabrication by a non-Native, shouldn't this give us pause? Several such examples of a lack of rigorous research struck me as undercutting Dunbar-Ortiz's entire project. I wish this work had been pursued with more precision and discipline and attention to detail; that said, perhaps it will inspire those who follow to do a more thorough and rigorous job.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    I'll keep this simple: if you read this exceptionally researched and beautifully written book and still think the United States is great or has ever been great, you need to take a long hard look in your mirror, then ask your god for forgiveness.

  3. 4 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    Not so much a history of the Indigenous Peoples of North America as much as a re-telling of American history that actually includes their unfortunate role within it, which is way more prominent in ways you haven't imagined. This is a succinct, powerful read whose basic premise, the US is a settler-colonial power, screams at you throughout. The sections on the plight and horrific fate of the IPs are worth it alone, but the author does a helluva job revisioning America's history by showing the roots Not so much a history of the Indigenous Peoples of North America as much as a re-telling of American history that actually includes their unfortunate role within it, which is way more prominent in ways you haven't imagined. This is a succinct, powerful read whose basic premise, the US is a settler-colonial power, screams at you throughout. The sections on the plight and horrific fate of the IPs are worth it alone, but the author does a helluva job revisioning America's history by showing the roots of militarism, racism, and warlust in the original Whitey conquest and slaughter of the continent's original inhabitants. Wonder why our culture is the way it is? You need not look too far back for the imperialist, militarist spirit informed pretty much our entire history. You might not know that, but it's only because this part of the tale typically gets left out. There's a reason why we're so good at killing people around the world: we had the Indigenous People to practice on first!

  4. 4 out of 5

    George

    "An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States" by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is a good overview of U.S. history from the perspective of the Indigenous Peoples of North America. This is an important book. This is not a pleasant book to read. Dunbar-Ortiz demonstrates that the United States, since its founding, has been a colonial-settler empire. She discusses several popular, big concept myths that obscure the reality of the United States: The founding myth of the Thirteen Colonies breaking free "An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States" by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is a good overview of U.S. history from the perspective of the Indigenous Peoples of North America. This is an important book. This is not a pleasant book to read. Dunbar-Ortiz demonstrates that the United States, since its founding, has been a colonial-settler empire. She discusses several popular, big concept myths that obscure the reality of the United States: The founding myth of the Thirteen Colonies breaking free from the British Empire; the myth of the Western Frontier; the modern myth of the ever more perfect union of multicultural, multiracial peoples living in a Melting Pot; the Nation of Immigrants. Each of these myths obscures the reality that the founding and continued development of the United States coincided with (and continues to coincide with) the near complete destruction of North America's Indigenous civilizations and genocide of its peoples. It's not a perfect book. It could have had some better editing to keep a tighter focus on the main topic - especially in the last third of the book. The only complaint I have (and it's a minor complaint) is that Dunbar-Ortiz should have skipped the early section on Medieval Europe, Medieval Spain, and the Crusades. She is out of her depth on those topics. For example, she has it backwards when discussing Spain. The Moors were the colonial-setters and Ferdinand and Isabella were the leaders of the Indigenous resistance. As I said, she should have skipped this section entirely - it wasn't needed for the focus of her book. Overall, I think this is an important book about U.S. History. I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in U.S. history, Indigenous Peoples, or colonialism. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Notes: Audiobook: Narrated by: Laural Merlington Length: 10 hours and 18 minutes Release Date: 2014-11-18 Publisher: Tantor Audio

  5. 5 out of 5

    Danika at The Lesbrary

    This was a difficult read. The events covered are—of course--brutal, and there is so much to take in about the unimaginable cruelty of the white colonists of the Americas. Every time I read about colonization (which is ongoing), I learn it is somehow is even worse than I previously thought. This was also difficult in the sense that it is a ton of information to fit into one book, including a lot of numbers, names, dates, etc. There is so much covered, but here are some of things I took away from This was a difficult read. The events covered are—of course--brutal, and there is so much to take in about the unimaginable cruelty of the white colonists of the Americas. Every time I read about colonization (which is ongoing), I learn it is somehow is even worse than I previously thought. This was also difficult in the sense that it is a ton of information to fit into one book, including a lot of numbers, names, dates, etc. There is so much covered, but here are some of things I took away from it: - Just how much the indigenous peoples of the Americas had shaped and changed the land before colonists arrived--Dunbar-Ortiz argues that had North America been the untouched wilderness that is part of the white myth of colonization, European colonists wouldn't have been able to survive. They didn't know how to conquer wilderness. What they did know how to do is conquer people, and steal their cultivated land, buildings, trade routes, roads, etc from them. - It's incredible that scalping is now associated with indigenous people, when it was indigenous people's scalps that were collected by white people for reward (including women and children). - Dunbar-Ortiz does a great job in showing how the colonization of the Americas is connected with the colonization of other parts of Europe (like Ireland) as well as Africa (and the resultant slave trade). For instance, white colonist small farmers couldn't compete with plantations that used slaves, so they kept pushing into and squatting on indigenous land. - The reason that colonists won so many of the initial battles against indigenous people was because they used already existing conflicts between indigenous nations and temporarily allied themselves with one group before turning on them when the conflict ended (especially in Central America). Those are just a few bits of things that really stuck with me, but the effectiveness of this book is because of its broad scope, and showing how each individual story fits into the greater narrative of injustice and resistance.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    Not since David Stannard's "American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World" have I read such a clear history of the United States. In no way do I want to diminish from the great work of Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" but that text did not stay with me or speak to me in the same way that Dunbar-Ortiz's book has. It is readable enough to assign to a high school audience, so if you are a parent trying to supplement the nonsense that generally passes for US history consid Not since David Stannard's "American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World" have I read such a clear history of the United States. In no way do I want to diminish from the great work of Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" but that text did not stay with me or speak to me in the same way that Dunbar-Ortiz's book has. It is readable enough to assign to a high school audience, so if you are a parent trying to supplement the nonsense that generally passes for US history consider assigning this to your son or daughter. I plan to come back to this book every Thanksgiving so that I can better commit to memory some of stories and facts Dunbar-Ortiz raises to our attention, such as the story of the Ulster-Scots ("already seasoned settler colonialists" by the 18th century) using techniques already practiced on the Irish (such as scalping) on Indigenous Americans and the refusal of the Sioux Nation to accept hundreds of millions of dollars awarded in a 1980 Supreme Court case as reparations given their belief that "accepting the money would validate the US theft of their most sacred land." In a political environment where US Americans can still use the term "illegal immigrant" without irony it would help to have as many people armed with the true facts of our settler colonial legacy as possible.

  7. 5 out of 5

    laurel [suspected bibliophile]

    A brief history of the United States, as seen through the lens of the American Indians who were thoroughly slaughtered, removed and erased from their own lands. This is a must-read, and should be mandatory reading for all high school students and general readers of American (US) history. It unravels the layers of propaganda, misinformation and erasing American Indians faced, and debunks many common myths about the lands and peoples of the United States before European colonization. The first myth A brief history of the United States, as seen through the lens of the American Indians who were thoroughly slaughtered, removed and erased from their own lands. This is a must-read, and should be mandatory reading for all high school students and general readers of American (US) history. It unravels the layers of propaganda, misinformation and erasing American Indians faced, and debunks many common myths about the lands and peoples of the United States before European colonization. The first myth is that the Americas were not the blank slate of opportunity, resources and freedom that has been taught in history books, and that American Indians were not the dirty, savage people in need of "civilizing," which has been used as colonizer justification for the actions of the Spanish, French, English and American colonies in systematically enslaving, invading and eradicating indigenous lands. Various American Indian communities did much to shape, alter and cultivate the landscape to suit their needs, and in many cases American Indian cities and communities were more populated than many European cities (and had better infrastructure, organization and hygienic practices than their European counterparts). Dunbar-Ortiz does a fantastic job pointing out American culture wasn't homogenous, but incredibly varied, unique and intricate (and often more advanced and egalitarian than European cultures). She also slices through a common interpretation that germs undid the indigenous population, but rather it was a systematic invasion from a peoples well used to subjecting and enslaving other people (see: the English with the Scotts and Irish; the Spanish and the Inquisition, the Jews and the Moors; the general entrapment of land-holding serfs and peasants, the rise of the landed nobility and the take-over of the commons; etc. etc. ad nauseam). Misconceptions over the American Revolution (and how much of the occupation of North America was conducted by squatters breaking US treaties with various indigenous communities), the various Indian Wars throughout the 19th century, and the concentration and subjugation of American Indians onto reservations (and the forced removal of their culture, language and traditions), are addressed as well, along with how the United States government commonly used the military (specifically: Black soldiers) to pacify the West after the Civil War as a way to use one marginalized, problematic group to destroy another marginalized, problematic group. And of course, the entire 20th century, the Civil Rights movement, and the slow two-steps-forward-one-step backward way of addressing restitution for centuries of genocide and invasion. There is so much more I could talk about and go on, but essentially: Read (or listen) to this book. It really is essential reading, particularly as the history of the United States continues to be reshaped into patriotic propaganda for conservative (and also liberal) objectives. However, it is definitely a brief overview of events and different peoples, and as the author states, if you want to learn more, read what indigenous historians have been writing about individual communities. The history of American Indians is vast, complicated and so much richer than we were taught in school.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Johnny Cordova

    While I am in passionate agreement with the thrust of this book — that the United States is a “crime scene” founded on a systematic strategy of genocide — I found Dunbar-Ortiz to be an infuriatingly unreliable narrator. It’s unfortunate because I was excited to pick up this book and really, really wanted to like it. Early in the first chapter she describes indigenous diets as “mostly vegetarian” and persists throughout the book to refer to various tribes as “indigenous farmers.” While it’s true t While I am in passionate agreement with the thrust of this book — that the United States is a “crime scene” founded on a systematic strategy of genocide — I found Dunbar-Ortiz to be an infuriatingly unreliable narrator. It’s unfortunate because I was excited to pick up this book and really, really wanted to like it. Early in the first chapter she describes indigenous diets as “mostly vegetarian” and persists throughout the book to refer to various tribes as “indigenous farmers.” While it’s true that some of America’s native tribes possessed sophisticated systems of agriculture, it’s widely known that hunting was an integral part of life — animal protein was a prized and indispensable food source. Not only that, but many tribes were nomadic hunter-gatherers, something that the author scarcely acknowledges. Is Dunbar-Ortiz trying to portray indigenous populations as more politically correct, thus sympathetic, for a liberal readership? Or trying to legitimize them as “civilized?” Whatever the case, one gets the feeling that the author is willing to play games with the truth in order to propagate her agenda. Another eyebrow-raising moment comes later when she claims that Crazy Horse was killed trying to escape his reservation. On the contrary, it’s well-established that Crazy Horse was set up to be murdered by one of his own people — the culmination of a long-standing, petty, intratribal rivalry. He wasn't trying to escape. If one were to do a thorough fact checking, I suspect one would uncover similar distortions, omissions, and revisions of the true history. It’s a real shame because this should have been an important book. Criticisms aside, I found myself cheering Dunbar-Ortiz throughout for her unflinching, scathing condemnation of the lies that made, and continue to make, America.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    Reading this book was a life changing experience. So much history of which I was ignorant explained and documented. My mind was blown on every page. For instance: "Scalping" was a practice brought to the colonies by the Ulster Scots who had practiced it first on the Irish, and then on the Indigenous peoples occupying the colonies.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm

    One of the (many) things that unsettles me in my regular engagements with US history is the near total absence of any discussion, or seeming awareness, of the country as a colony of settlement. The country’s indigenous peoples are barely considered in the national story or for that matter in most of the historical texts. We see it in the subtle (and not so subtle) language of US history – in the ‘settlement’ of the frontier; in the ‘opening up’ of the west, in the ‘last’ of the Mohicans, of the One of the (many) things that unsettles me in my regular engagements with US history is the near total absence of any discussion, or seeming awareness, of the country as a colony of settlement. The country’s indigenous peoples are barely considered in the national story or for that matter in most of the historical texts. We see it in the subtle (and not so subtle) language of US history – in the ‘settlement’ of the frontier; in the ‘opening up’ of the west, in the ‘last’ of the Mohicans, of the Californians and the overwhelming absence of images of indigenous Americans as contemporary figures in US popular culture (let’s leave aside their exploitative and in many cases frankly racist images in elite sport – baseball and football, notably). Yet, as Rozanne Dunbar-Ortiz shows in this engaging book, telling US history from ‘the native’s point of view’ (to misappropriate Clifford Geertz) casts the country in a whole new light. From the outset, she is uncompromising, stating that the “history of the United States is a history of settler colonialism – the founding of a state based on the ideology of white supremacy, the widespread practice of African slavery, and a policy of genocide and land theft” (p2) and making clear that this is not a happily-ever-after kind of history, and that this is only ‘a’ native history; there will be others. This then is a history of dispossession, of being made alien at home, of being made marginal in the only place your people have been – that is, it is a story of colonisation of a mind we have seen in many other places – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, The Philippines, South Africa as well as throughout Central and South America and so on and so forth. As any historian of any of those places will say, yes they are settler colonies but they are all distinct. It is this distinctness that adds the unsettling and unexpected second strand to Dunbar-Ortiz’s argument: that the process of conquest and the military practice it spawned shaped and continues to shape not only its self-perception but also the contemporary form of US military engagement with the world. She paints the picture of conquest by total war centred on the targeting of civilians, the destruction of property and the basic requirements of life and continuing relentless assaults by both standing armies and ‘special forces’ (or Ranger patrols of irregular groups). It is a compelling case drawing on analyses of contemporary US military jargon and slang (where it remains common for enemy territory to be labelled Indian Country, or In Country) to reinforce the point. On reflection it is probably the sheer banality of contempt for the USA’s indigenous peoples that makes the blindness about settler colonialism so unsettling. There is a third sense in which Dunbar-Ortiz’s narrative is unsettling. A key way that historian make sense of what we do it via periodisation, that is, our tendency to break the issues/period we study into distinctly labelled time periods – colonial, federal, ante-bellum, reconstruction and so forth through the 18th and 19th centuries in the USA. In the same way as other indigenous historians have shown (see, for instance, Ranginui Walker’s Ka Whauwhai Tonu Matou dealing with Aotearoa/New Zealand) this indigenous history of the USA proposes a profoundly different, native-derived periodisation – and therefore different ‘turning points’ and historical nodes. Not surprisingly, it also offers a profoundly different reading of many of the key historical myths, stories and analyses that dominate the received versions of US history. Finally, the key to the book is Dunbar-Ortiz’s dual set of skills: first is her confidence with the material, with events and stories that are known well, those that are not, and her ability to marshal that material to build a compelling argument (which the best we can ask from any historian). Second, she does not shy away from labelling invasion, settler-colonialism and genocide for what it was – in a setting where the dominant view of settler society ranged between physical extermination of the indigenous (as encapsulated in the statement usually attributed to General Philip Sheridan, ‘the only good Indian is a dead Indian’) to the 'humane' view, as seen in the programme of Richard Henry Pratt and the subsequent Indian Schools movement, to ‘kill the Indian and save the man’. Most powerfully, she paints a picture of indigenous peoples who wish to continue to exist, whose struggles for economic self-determination on their own terms (not those under governance regimes imposed by the colonial state) are paying off and a setting where the narrative of dysfunction is offset by advances in indigenous self-defined struggles and improvements – although happening after the book was finished I can’t help seeing the struggles over the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2017 as the kind of hopeful future Dunbar-Ortiz sees. Of course, any history from an indigenous point of view must also be highlight, as this does, the continuing adversarial context of, in this case, highly militarized settler-colonialism. In this world, where the state and phoney science is regularly arrayed against groups who have never surrendered their sovereignty there remains much that can go wrong. Dunbar-Ortiz is adept at highlighting these tensions, drawing on their historical foundation and contemporary circumstances. This is a tale of nations constantly vying for land and power on the one hand and to defend their existence on the other; the boundaries are never consistent but in the long run there is a single narrative – the fundamental one written out of the received version of US history. In the blurb on the back, the historian of African-American struggle Robin D G Kelly describes this as probably “the most important US history book you will read in your lifetime”: I’m often wary of blurb’s marketing aspect, but in this case Kelly may well be right – and it he’s wrong, it is certainly in the top five. This challenge to the orthodoxy is well crafted, elegantly argued and fundamental to any approach to US history that deals with past in the country’s present, and the oozing sores left by the unacknowledged costs of colonisation (usually benignly labelled nation formation). I cannot recommend this highly enough.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Ahhh...I'm sad. This is nonfiction and because this was incredibly sad...it hurt my heart. I struggle with this topic, even when it is brushed over in fictional stories. I'm half native american and half European. So this book was about my people....both the massacred and the ones with guns. Every book has a slant and that is what I struggle with the most. I want this part of history in whatever story I'm reading the way I want cheesecake.....I want the whole thing and not just a piece. I'm glad Ahhh...I'm sad. This is nonfiction and because this was incredibly sad...it hurt my heart. I struggle with this topic, even when it is brushed over in fictional stories. I'm half native american and half European. So this book was about my people....both the massacred and the ones with guns. Every book has a slant and that is what I struggle with the most. I want this part of history in whatever story I'm reading the way I want cheesecake.....I want the whole thing and not just a piece. I'm glad this book wasn't longer, but even with that said, there was still so much to be said. My ancestors left the reservation in the very late 1800's and early 1900's, and entered white society. Neither option was easy. This is an important part of U.S. history and I don't think enough can be said about it. So 4 stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David

    The epigraph and concluding quote in the final chapter of this book sum up why it's such an important read: "That the continued colonization of American Indian nations, peoples, and lands provides the United States the economic and material resources needed to cast its imperialist gaze globally is a fact that is simultaneously obvious within - and yet continuously obscured by - what is essentially a settler colony's national construction of itself as an ever more perfect multicultural, multiracia The epigraph and concluding quote in the final chapter of this book sum up why it's such an important read: "That the continued colonization of American Indian nations, peoples, and lands provides the United States the economic and material resources needed to cast its imperialist gaze globally is a fact that is simultaneously obvious within - and yet continuously obscured by - what is essentially a settler colony's national construction of itself as an ever more perfect multicultural, multiracial democracy...[T]he status of American Indians as sovereign nations colonized by the United States continues to haunt and inflect its raison d'être." - Jodi Byrd "The future will not be mad with loss and waste though the memory will Be there: eyes will become kind an deep, and the bones of this nation Will mend after the revolution." - Simon Ortiz

  13. 4 out of 5

    tout

    The NODAPL struggle in North Dakota over the last year has encouraged me to revisit and deepen my understanding of what it means to be indigenous in the US. Reading this book, wading through a history of genocide, offered a number of important reorientations for me. As far as I know, there aren't other comprehensive histories of the US from the perspective of indigenous people's, however this could have been much better. If anyone has any recommendations I'd be excited to look into them. A few si The NODAPL struggle in North Dakota over the last year has encouraged me to revisit and deepen my understanding of what it means to be indigenous in the US. Reading this book, wading through a history of genocide, offered a number of important reorientations for me. As far as I know, there aren't other comprehensive histories of the US from the perspective of indigenous people's, however this could have been much better. If anyone has any recommendations I'd be excited to look into them. A few significant problems I had with the text: -Early on in the book there is a brief summary of life before colonization. The author presents an argument against the idea that Native Americans were savages without civilization, government, etc , instead arguing that they constituted state-like structures and forms of organization in some ways different, but equally intelligent compared to those of the colonizers. Fundamentally, this form of argument is flawed since it is not a level of sophistication in governing men and "nature" that makes one unsavage, but how one relates to the world (i.e. not committing genocide on people and destroying the world). From this perspective, Native Americans were not inferior, but in so far as they did not reproduce the forms of power of Europe, were ethically far greater. (This is by no means meant to reduce all nations to the same, since they were not and many were also had their problems, but on an altogether different level than their colonizers). -Too much of this history focuses on victimhood and horrific defeat, which in some way is part of the same reasoning behind the elders at Standing Rock hiring non-violent civil disobedience advisors and encouraging only non-violence actions in response to violence. Perhaps at Standing Rock this is primarily a strategic decision, but one must question why the warrior and resistance does not get as much space within this book and why a discourse of recognition and rights does. -There's very little or no criticism given of seeking recognition and rights, especially given the history of broken treaties. There were a number of interesting themes and concepts that are explored in depth despite the shortcomings. One is that the US military continues to refer to being in enemy territory as being in "Indian Country", which has more recently been shortened to "In Country". The book makes the argument that the genocidal war against the first nations forms the foundation of how the military has operated as an imperial power throughout the rest of the world (especially in terms of counter-insurgency). Another is that the settler mentality, beating back the wild frontier, continues to form the core of American's idea of individual freedom and the idea of what it means to be American. America has never been great. It's been hell from the beginning.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Hall

    The United States understands genocide to be a terrible thing that other countries have done, or are doing. The eradication of an entire population—civilian women, men, and children—along with their culture and national sovereignty—is something we condemn in our media. When we see genocide happening elsewhere, we debate if and when we should step in with economic sanctions or military action—when it is time to put a stop to a crime against humanity. Rarely, if ever, do we examine our own history The United States understands genocide to be a terrible thing that other countries have done, or are doing. The eradication of an entire population—civilian women, men, and children—along with their culture and national sovereignty—is something we condemn in our media. When we see genocide happening elsewhere, we debate if and when we should step in with economic sanctions or military action—when it is time to put a stop to a crime against humanity. Rarely, if ever, do we examine our own history long enough to understand that the United States was created by people who committed genocide against the people who were already living here. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, in her book An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, gives us this truth in its fullness, showing us the history we have attempted to deny. She does so “…not to make an accusation but rather to face historical reality, without which consideration not much in US history makes sense, unless Indigenous peoples are erased (p. 7).” A book of this nature could easily become so mired in pain that healing is impossible or so lost in names and dates that we forget it was—and is—lived in flesh and blood. Dunbar-Ortiz does neither: history lives in her words, as she unearths what we do not know and connects it to what we have learned. Our history is charted for us as our ancestors lived it, stolen territory by stolen territory. At a little over two hundred pages, this book is not only vital and revelatory, but a relatively quick read. The author sets the stage by dispelling a colonialist myth—when we speak of Indians, we are not speaking of a monolithic culture: “Native peoples were colonized and deposed of their territories as distinct peoples—hundreds of nations—not as a racial or ethnic group (p. xiii).” She also dispels the notion that Indians were uncivilized: “In the founding myth of the United States, the colonists acquired a vast expanse of land from a scattering of benighted peoples who were hardly using it—an unforgivable offense to the Puritan work ethic. The historical record is clear, however, that European colonists shoved aside a large network of small and large nations whose governments, commerce, arts and sciences, agriculture, technologies, theologies, philosophies, and institutions were intricately developed, nations that maintained sophisticated relations with one another and with the environments that supported them (p. 46).” Ah, but what about all those stories of Indians sneaking into settlers’ villages in the night and wreaking havoc? If the colonists were murdering, so too were the Indians, the story goes. Dunbar-Ortiz puts the story in perspective: “Settler colonialism, an institution or system, requires violence or the threat of violence to attain its goals. People do not hand over their land, resources, children, and futures without a fight, and that fight is met with violence. In employing the force necessary to accomplish its expansionist goals, a colonizing regime institutionalizes violence. The notion that settler-indigenous conflict is an inevitable product of cultural differences and misunderstandings, or that violence was committed equally by the colonized and the colonizer, blurs the nature of the historical process (p. 8).” Dunbar-Ortiz walks us through that historical process: from the Northwest Ordinance to the Louisiana Purchase, from the Monroe Doctrine to the Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears, from the Long Walk to Wounded Knee. She exposes the heroes of our national lore—Kit Carson chief among them—as the leaders of a “scorched earth” approach to Indigenous peoples in which women, men, and children were massacred town by town, food sources were confiscated and eliminated, and nations of people were force-marched from their homes. She also discusses the pivotal role that authors played in the formation of our national myths, beginning with James Fenimore Cooper: “Cooper’s reinvention of the birth of the United States in his novel The Last of the Mohicans has become the official US origin story (p. 103).” As Dunbar-Ortiz replaces our mythical past with the real one, she describes the concrete forms and consequences of genocide, including broken treaty after broken treaty. Recognizing the validity of treaties shows us a path forward: “The central concern for Indigenous peoples in the United States is prevailing upon the federal government to honor hundreds of treaties and other agreements concluded between the United States and Indigenous nations as between two sovereign states (p. 203).” Native activism, from the seizure of Alcatraz in 1969 and the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 to many legal battles over land rights and broken treaties, has centered on this one idea: sovereignty. Dunbar-Ortiz details this activism, and what sovereignty means to specific nations: for example, the Sioux have sought the return of the Paha Sapa, or the Black Hills, since their seizure in 1876. Dunbar-Ortiz’s history of the United States asks us to face facts and move forward, respecting the goals of Native activism as we do so: a future that acknowledges the past must, by its very nature, be transformative. If we are to create this future, we must have a full understanding of our past—and I can think of no better way of gaining that understanding than reading Dunbar-Ortiz’s book, which should become required reading in all US history courses.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*

    Such a necessary read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cory

    The case that the dispossession of Native Americans and the seizure of their lands constituted a genocide and a form of colonialism/imperialism in the modern-day United States is an easy and powerful one to make. It's frustrating, then, that Dunbar-Ortiz decides to overstate it, bringing in another set of (in my view) unnecessary political positions to the storytelling. This is what turns the book from a work of history to a work of activism. D-O comments on the activism/academic distinction, dec The case that the dispossession of Native Americans and the seizure of their lands constituted a genocide and a form of colonialism/imperialism in the modern-day United States is an easy and powerful one to make. It's frustrating, then, that Dunbar-Ortiz decides to overstate it, bringing in another set of (in my view) unnecessary political positions to the storytelling. This is what turns the book from a work of history to a work of activism. D-O comments on the activism/academic distinction, decrying what she frames as a bias against activists by the academy. Certainly to her the political positions she takes follow from her reading of US history and the connections must be important to highlight. However, it's fair to say that they distract and detract from the reframing of the "settlement of the West" as genocide. First, to point out the good this work does: D-O makes an extremely strong case that even (some of) the very earliest European settlers in the US had the aim of wiping out Native Americans wholesale from quite early on. Sadly, they were quite effective in this goal. I am grateful to her for convincing me just how soon that began to be part of the European mindset. However, a number of things undercut her telling of this narrative. First, she euphemistically refers to Native American attacks on settlers as, say, "driving them off." These attacks were sometimes (intentionally and not) involved the deaths of innocents (children e.g.). This should not distract from the overall message of a genocide against Native Americans; very few societies could face utter destruction and remain completely innocent of war crimes. The European settlers' crimes were magnitudes worse. So, why be euphemistic? It seems important to face the potential argument "Native Americans were brutal and killed children, too" head on. Second, although I am biased by my relatively liberal upbringing, the myth of the European settler is far less homogeneous than D-O assumes. Worship of settler heroes does not come in through "mothers' milk" in the US. For instance, see the movement to remove Andrew Jackson from the $20 (great idea!). That we have Jackson on the $20 at all speaks to D-O's main point, but that a movement could arise hoping to boot him off speaks to mine. Third, D-O's effort to say that other US institutions (military, capitalist oppression...) were founded or have their roots in the destruction of Native Americans seems off-base. Certainly, the US military derives names and terms ("Indian country", "tomahawk missile"...) from its historic engagements with Native populations as D-O reminds us frequently. But brutal counterinsurgency tactics, slaughter, genocide, othering, and imperialism existed (in European history and elsewhere) long before Columbus set sail for "the New World." Indeed, D-O herself points this out with her mentions of English colonialism and settlement in Ireland. It seems more apt to say that these are ancient characteristics of society and war rather than something new. So why bring, say, capitalism into the discussion of the oppression of Native populations? One can only imagine that D-O dislikes these institutions and so accords them a larger role in the genesis of oppression than they merit. The book is worth reading if you're unconvinced about the genocide of Native populations in the United States. But if you're already on that boat, this book will either be preaching to the choir or will be bringing in extraneous (and unjustified) elements to that story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kate Savage

    I've been having this feeling lately about anti-immigrant xenophobia: that if you were to dig past the hate and into the fear, and then even past the fear -- you'd find shame. A rotting, festering shame of what white settlers did and do to native people. An unacknowledged knowing: our ancestors were murderers, rapists, terrorists, thieves. Instead of speaking the words, we lash out violently against others who immigrate to this land, fearing they'll do what we've done and keep doing. We use the I've been having this feeling lately about anti-immigrant xenophobia: that if you were to dig past the hate and into the fear, and then even past the fear -- you'd find shame. A rotting, festering shame of what white settlers did and do to native people. An unacknowledged knowing: our ancestors were murderers, rapists, terrorists, thieves. Instead of speaking the words, we lash out violently against others who immigrate to this land, fearing they'll do what we've done and keep doing. We use the words for them that would rightfully be used for our ancestors and ourselves. I've been feeling that maybe healing only comes with a reckoning with history. So books like this one feel very important. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is up against an impossibility: to write all of U.S. history from the perspective of all of the indigenous nations it abused. And do it in 230 pages. So of course, everything is summarized and glossed-over. This book is no substitute for deeper study of any region, event, or people. But it's still a remarkable achievement. It's not a history of indigenous people, but rather a retelling of the popular founding narratives from the perspective of indigeneity. I was surprised by the effort she makes to clarify that the weapons of settler colonialism were first used against the peasantry of what is now Great Britain. She also explores how the tactics sharpened in wars and massacres against the Indigenous people of this continent have been used by the U.S. to bludgeon people all over the world. To give one tiny example: when John Yoo wrote the "torture memos" (which justify torture and prisoner abuse) he found legal precedent in the way the U.S. tortured and abused Indians. They were the first "unlawful combatants," without even the minimal rights given to prisoners of war. And still after all the history of horror, she ends with these lines by Acoma poet Simon Ortiz: The future will not be mad with loss and waste though the memory will Be there: eyes will become kind and deep, and the bones of this nation Will mend after the revolution.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Leftbanker

    Yet another example of how we have made calling everyone else racist the new goal of scholarship. Congratulations! This book should be called "White People Are the Root of All Evil in the World" because it has little to do with the history of America's indigenous peoples. To even call this book a "history" is being extremely generous with that word as it is mostly her opinions or opinions of other people she happens to agree with. To take only one example, she completely discounts the role that i Yet another example of how we have made calling everyone else racist the new goal of scholarship. Congratulations! This book should be called "White People Are the Root of All Evil in the World" because it has little to do with the history of America's indigenous peoples. To even call this book a "history" is being extremely generous with that word as it is mostly her opinions or opinions of other people she happens to agree with. To take only one example, she completely discounts the role that infectious diseases played in wiping out huge swaths of native people as European viruses entered into societies with no immunities. She takes the side of a few crack pots who claim that diseases only played a minor role and the true culprit was genocide. Unless you are saying that small pox was genocide which is completely stupid because European settlers didn’t have any idea of what small pox was nor did they know the first damn thing about any of the diseases they faced. The author takes this stupidity one step further by comparing the death of indigenous people from diseases to the Holocaust. The author also tries to paint the pre-Columbian era as some sort of Eden in which “man lived in perfect harmony with nature.” This sort of mythology adds nothing to our understanding of Native Americans. I’ve already read A People’s History of The United States so I know that our forefathers were pirates and this book adds zero to any further explanation of these peoples.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    To shamelessly steal from the Homeland opening credits, which have been sticking in my thoughts since reading this book, "the first revolution is when you change your mind about how you look at things, and see there might be another way to look at it that you have not been shown." (Gil Scott-Heron) This is a serious eye-opener and a view of American history that I have not been shown until now. This is an uncomfortable book that won't make you feel great about American history, but the importance To shamelessly steal from the Homeland opening credits, which have been sticking in my thoughts since reading this book, "the first revolution is when you change your mind about how you look at things, and see there might be another way to look at it that you have not been shown." (Gil Scott-Heron) This is a serious eye-opener and a view of American history that I have not been shown until now. This is an uncomfortable book that won't make you feel great about American history, but the importance and repercussions in today's world make reading it critical. Strongly recommend.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alma Ramos-McDermott

    Using the premise that the United States’ history is one of “settler colonialism,” (wherein the settler participates in genocide and land theft), Dunbar-Ortiz discusses the reasons behind colonization of the land and the many atrocities committed to the indigenous people going back to pre-Revolutionary War days. Read the rest of the review on my blog: http://shouldireaditornot.wordpress.c...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    It definitely took me a while to read this book--mostly because I read before I sleep at night and it is very hard to read about genocide and be able to fall asleep. This is one of the best books I have ever read for understanding the United States. Everyone in the US should read it. Everyone.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Evelyn Woagh

    This is a really important book, despite its problems. I learned a lot, I see things more clearly, and I'm more conscious of the nature and ongoing effects of imperialism and colonialism. But I'm not about to hold this as perfect as others might, who would also seek out alternative histories. I feel similar about this book as I do with Howard Zinn's. Namely, that it was written by an academic, and that the cisgender author has no understanding or willingness to study and talk about, the various This is a really important book, despite its problems. I learned a lot, I see things more clearly, and I'm more conscious of the nature and ongoing effects of imperialism and colonialism. But I'm not about to hold this as perfect as others might, who would also seek out alternative histories. I feel similar about this book as I do with Howard Zinn's. Namely, that it was written by an academic, and that the cisgender author has no understanding or willingness to study and talk about, the various aspects of differing genders, expressions, and orientations, and how they are a significant part of history, direction-action, and revolutionary movements. One major problem I have appears toward the beginning. The issue here is the exception she takes with imperialism among indigenous peoples. Frequently she contradicts herself when trying to present indigenous civilizations as a good, reformed version of hierarchy and capital. In one sentence, she says it is unclear whether the labour controlled by the mayan state(s) was exploited, and in the sentence right after, lists off exploited classes used for the labour. In one sentence stating the violent oppression existing in the later stages of the central american empires, and in another derides the spanish for invading -just- when the mayan emperor was about to ~reform~ the system. Seems thusly to miss the point, which is understandable considering her status as a bourgeois academic. Further, she mentions nothing of the Two-Spirit, opting instead for a binary view of indigenous peoples, repeating the cisgender ideal of how violence targeted 'men, women, children' in the generically binary-hierarchy sort of way. There is also an excess of graphic depictions of violence, which I skipped as usual. Moving forward, I really appreciate her understanding of the indigenous history of the irish peoples. She gives me a clearer picture on the root causes of my and my family's displacement from the ancestral homeland. It's nice to have my people's history within the category of indigenous survival, where it truly is. I also appreciate the deeper understanding for the division between catholic and protestant, the non-irishness of the ulster-scot invaders, and the relation between how the ulster-scots and the angles colonialised ireland similar to their colonialising the americas. She is reformist in the sense that she values word changes, lobbying, and political correctness as progress toward better life for indigenous peoples. But, as we can see by the pervasiveness of oppression even in 'the north' of the united states, such liberalism does nothing to truly free anyone. Often, it has hardly helped anyone or improved conditions even slightly, instead focusing our energies and sense of accomplishment on whether or not our perceptions have been altered to view oppression differently, rather than to destroy it. These values are also expressed in a manner consistent with her position in bourgeois academia, which Howard Zinn is guilty of even moreso. For example, she doesn't offer any sort of criticism of the hierarchal and oppressive societies that occur even among indigenous peoples, such as the maori's past genocidal tendencies toward their neighbours. It is not just about the mayan empire as an exception. She also suggests that the best societies of the americas were the matriarchal ones, while erasing the gender-variant societies such as the Two-Spirit separatists as any possibility of a better life. She also claims that indigenous refusal to accept money reparation rather than land repatriation is because of how land is so important to them. But just before, with regard to leadership of indigenous nations, she criticised them for colluding with the white settlers and building up their own wealth rather than being communal by tradition. With this in mind, I don't think the refusal of money is connected with it not being enough for indian families for one year, or that it's about the importance of land; in this regard it is about plutocrats and traitors fearful of their people not being economically dependent on them, if even for a short time. It is of selfishness and greed, just as it has been in histories of all hierarchal societies. Instead of refusing the money, I think the better option would have been to accept the money, use it to stockpile resources for the Black Hills nations, and then engage in direct action and self-repatriation -using- that money. As for reparations, I support them in a certain way. Basically, I support reparations only when they are extracted solely from the finances of the wealthy. Which will never happen under current culture of cognitive dissonance, as seen by even the writings of those in the 'People's History...' series.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Frances

    I learned a lot from this book and am glad I read it. It made me think, which is the only thing I really want from a book. Even though I was under no illusions regarding the United States and its treatment of Indigenous peoples, there were many times I had to put the book down to take a few minutes to process what I had just read before continuing. I think Dunbar-Ortiz does an admirable job in condensing such a complex and long history into a short, very readable 240 pages. She does an excellent I learned a lot from this book and am glad I read it. It made me think, which is the only thing I really want from a book. Even though I was under no illusions regarding the United States and its treatment of Indigenous peoples, there were many times I had to put the book down to take a few minutes to process what I had just read before continuing. I think Dunbar-Ortiz does an admirable job in condensing such a complex and long history into a short, very readable 240 pages. She does an excellent job finding the commonalities in colonialist narratives and excels at simplifying complex topics in an engaging way. A lot of the criticisms about the historical accuracy of this book take on a different light when you compare them to the lack of criticism for, say, Jared Diamond’s silly chapter on Haiti in his book Collapse, where he suggests that Haiti is poor because of its failure to reward "hard work," with no mention of how foreign intervention has worked over centuries to take agency away from the country's people, as Keane Bhatt notes in this excellent article: https://archive.org/stream/CollapseHo.... I also find the criticism of this book ridiculous in light of how popular Yuval Hariri is. In Sapiens, he off-handedly dismisses the damage the British did to India, writing: "How many Indians today would want to call a vote to divest themselves of democracy, English, the railway network, the legal system, cricket, and tea on the grounds that they are imperial legacies? And if they did, wouldn't the very act of calling a vote to decide the issue demonstrate their debt to their former overlords?" Diamond and Hariri are wildly successful authors who are often asked to weigh in on issues of national and international importance because nothing they have said really challenges common narratives. Their (often erroneous) narration of the world's history (and by extension, their explanation of the present state of the world's affairs) is comforting to those in power, and therefore accepted. Dunbar-Ortiz, on the other hand, challenges the narratives many of us have grown up with. She confronts the reader with historical realities. And that makes people uncomfortable. So they are much more critical of perceived errors and discrepancies that would be accepted, if not celebrated, in the works of people like Diamond and Hariri. I’m not saying the book shouldn’t be criticized, only that the criticism itself should be looked at critically. Myths are hard to dismantle. And it's uncomfortable to admit that many of us have directly benefited from the horrible treatment of Indigenous people. What is even more uncomfortable is that we continue to benefit from it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Mans Mckenny

    Let's be honest: most K-12 education in the US does a poor job of exploring the US History beyond the traditional colonialist narrative, and many people (including myself) barely looked for more on the topic when and if we get to college. This book is an excellent primer to build on the entire history of the US through the lens of the colonized (both on the continent and, interestingly, abroad, as well). This book is a sucker-punch full of testimony and research, and native voices prevail in the Let's be honest: most K-12 education in the US does a poor job of exploring the US History beyond the traditional colonialist narrative, and many people (including myself) barely looked for more on the topic when and if we get to college. This book is an excellent primer to build on the entire history of the US through the lens of the colonized (both on the continent and, interestingly, abroad, as well). This book is a sucker-punch full of testimony and research, and native voices prevail in the text. Some things I really appreciated were the modern comparisons to the military. Recommended!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elena

    Read this book! As the author puts it, the “history of the U.S. is a history of settler colonialism – the founding of a state based on the ideology of white supremacy, the widespread practice of African slavery, and a policy of genocide and land theft." I think it's impossible to understand or talk about politics, current events, or our lives without a basic grounding in the true history of this settler colonial state and this book is a GREAT place to start. I wish I had learned even a small par Read this book! As the author puts it, the “history of the U.S. is a history of settler colonialism – the founding of a state based on the ideology of white supremacy, the widespread practice of African slavery, and a policy of genocide and land theft." I think it's impossible to understand or talk about politics, current events, or our lives without a basic grounding in the true history of this settler colonial state and this book is a GREAT place to start. I wish I had learned even a small part of this history when I was younger, agh! It's surreal to think about all the lies and myths that I bought into growing up. I was taught that the horrors (historical and contemporary) perpetuated by the U.S. were... predestined at best and "accidental" at worst? A big shift came when I realized how methodical the violence and genocide were (and are) and realized that it did NOT (and does not) have to be this way. I feel very lucky to have read this book chapter-by-chapter with my African & Native Solidarity reading group. I learned so much I don't know how to summarize it all... I might try to read it again straight through and write an update of what I found the most enlightening!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    Difficult, but important. Very important.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sofia

    This should be required reading for every person living in the United States. An incredibly important work and eye-opening reexamination of history.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    Engaged history writing has the advantage of clarity, provided that the author indicates what he or she stands for. That is certainly the case with Dunbar-Ortiz. She is of Native American origin and was active in the Pan-Native American movement. From the beginning of the book she outlines what its theme is: that the fight against the indigenous nations in North America was driven by an imperialism and racism that is ingrained in Western culture since Roman times; and specifically that the wars Engaged history writing has the advantage of clarity, provided that the author indicates what he or she stands for. That is certainly the case with Dunbar-Ortiz. She is of Native American origin and was active in the Pan-Native American movement. From the beginning of the book she outlines what its theme is: that the fight against the indigenous nations in North America was driven by an imperialism and racism that is ingrained in Western culture since Roman times; and specifically that the wars against the indigenous peoples in what later became the United States, both by the British (colonizers) and especially by the US state (from 1776) was a deliberate genocidal policy aimed at complete eradication, p 2: "The history of the United States is a history of settler colonialism—the founding of a state based on the ideology of white supremacy, the widespread practice of African slavery, and a policy of genocide and land theft." Now, it really isn't evident to use the concept of genocide, which was coined in the 20th century (the Holocaust), also for prior periods (I just refer to the discussion about the Armenian genocide). Dunbar-Ortiz argues that the fight against the Native Ameriacan nations was a conscious effort to wipe the indigenous peoples of the planet. She has plenty of quotes from US Presidents (of course foremost Andrew Jackson, but also Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt ...) and commanders of the US military that seem to substantiate this view. I am unable to judge, but still I'm not sure you can use the very loaded term of genocide in this case. But without doubt, the eviction of indigenous peoples in the United States from their land and their treatment afterwards certainly has all the appearances of a fundamentally unjust historical process. Let's take a further look at Dunbar-Ortiz' style of argumentation. That is obviously very focused on the upholstering of her own thesis, but so much so that she only cites facts and quotes that support her view. Nowhere in this book are cited elements that may indicate in the direction of other points of view, or at least nuance her own view. Take for example the pre-Columbian period: here Dunbar-Ortiz moves heaven and earth to show that the indigenous peoples across America were living an almost heavenly existence, with plenty of food, in harmony with their habitat and surrounding peoples, etc; repeatedly she cites Charles Mann and his very questionable views. I made several attempts to check certain historical facts that she cites in her exposition on the US war against the Indians, and regularly it appears that her version is at least very selective. Take for instance the "Long March of the Navajos" in 1866, presented by her as an attempt to kill thousands of indians, but in other, respectable studies I read a much more nuanced story. And so I can continue for a while. Furthermore, Dunbar-Ortiz constantly draws parallels with the US action in the world in recent history and today. She regularly cites the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan. From her contention that US imperialism is inherently connected to the genocidal policy towards the Native Americans this perhaps is understandable. But she proceeds with so much zeal that this book sometimes reads more like a classic marxist review of US foreign policy than a work about the history of the United States through the eyes of its indigineous peoples. Unilateralism and selective presentation are the main problems of this work. It is striking for instance how few indigenous sources the author cites. We get little or no insight into the organization of the Native American resistance, and in the internal dynamics on the side of the indigenous peoples themselves. Moreover, at times the historical narrative is very slovenly and confused. No, engaged historiography certainly is not served by this work.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris Nagel

    The butler did it. Certainly not a joyful book. The most interesting argument Dunbar-Ortiz makes is that the history of the US is the history of US imperialist militarism and ceaseless campaigns of extraordinary violence against any people that stands in the way of adventurism on behalf of political and capitalist elites. That's not in itself innovative, but her depiction of the endlessness of it, the unremitting constancy of it, is what impressed me.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Li Sian

    What an absolutely amazing book - Dunbar-Ortiz reframes US history as irrevocably a history of settler-colonialism, arguing as others have done before, that white settlers' policy of massacre against Native peoples, constant renegement of diplomatic treaties with indigenous nations, forced re-education of Native children, and more atrocities beside constitutes nothing less than genocide. What she does, which perhaps few or no one else has done before, is draw a direct line between the genocide o What an absolutely amazing book - Dunbar-Ortiz reframes US history as irrevocably a history of settler-colonialism, arguing as others have done before, that white settlers' policy of massacre against Native peoples, constant renegement of diplomatic treaties with indigenous nations, forced re-education of Native children, and more atrocities beside constitutes nothing less than genocide. What she does, which perhaps few or no one else has done before, is draw a direct line between the genocide of Native American peoples and US foreign policy in the 19th and 20th centuries, arguing not only that both were motivated by manifest destiny but also that in essence the US penchant for occupying boils down to the treatment of other territories in the rest of the world as "Indian country" (Dunbar-Ortiz notes frequently that this actually a military term in use). It is this straight line between past and present that she also employs to great effect in arguing that the US' "War on Terror" and its occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq is rooted deeply in the US's history of expanding outwards, into the original "Indian country". She's extremely convincing in selling this bold claim, picking out John Yoo's notorious "Torture Memo" and the reference contained therein to a 19th century federal case concerning the massacre of Native Americans (which, btw, the Supreme Court found to be lawful !), and in which we see the genesis of the disastrous concept of "unlawful combatants" who can be tortured and detained at will by the counterterrorist machine. Between the historical fact of forcible re-education and coerced assimilation of Native children, as well as the extremely high incidence of sexual violence perpetrated within such Native re-education schools (upon children, by their white teachers), and the contemporary fact of high incidences of sexual violence within Native communities, especially reservations, by white men who are not brought to justice under Native jurisdiction, she also draws the straight line, to devastingly convincing effect. Two more things: 1) I also really appreciated her take on the relation between slaves of African descent and Native Americans, and I think it's a really thoughtful approach taking on both cross-cutting exploitation AND solidarity against oppression, 2) the one thing I would really have liked to hear more about from her was Native American husbandry. In the book, Dunbar-Ortiz really contrasts traditional Native ways of relating to and managing the land with the all-consuming, exploitative form of industrial capitalism that white colonists soon imported to the continent without ever really expanding upon it. Which is fair - a friend has pointed out to me that not all Native peoples within the American continent had as symbiotic or utopian a relationship to their environment as could be read from the book, the Mayans' civilisation did collapse due to ecological disaster that may have been partially caused by them, so it's probably pretty hard to generalise. I just kind of wished that if Dunbar-Ortiz was going to offer a solution to US foreign policy based on her diagnosis of what the problem actually is, she could talk a bit more about how white people in the US totally caused global warming as well. (Yes, that was facetious.) In conclusion: READ THIS BOOK!!! Am recommending it to all my social justice-minded friends.

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