He believes that the “tiny, fretful, intricate details are what make us who we are. And they are lost again and again when we paint over them with the tragedy of ‘the Indian’”. He suggests that, “in this sense, the victims of Wounded Knee died twice – once at the end of a gun, again at the end of a pen”. And so, with The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, David Treuer resurrects them, reanimates them, and casts them in a role that would have befuddled Brown: that of fully realized historical actors. With this book, a new era might begin, in which popular conceptions of Native history include more than just a series of wounds.
In this ambitious book, David Treuer points out that some 200 Lakota Indians survived the 1890 massacre. His work tells the story of those who endured and seeks to rescue modern Indian history from cliché or, even worse, oblivion. In this Treuer, who is an anthropologist, novelist and Ojibwe Indian (on his mother’s side), does an able if unspectacular job. Much of the book is given over to recounting the story leading up to Wounded Knee. It is a sorry tale familiar to most students of American history: disease, theft, deceit and slaughter, followed by immiseration, decimation and a civilisation crushed under the weight of America’s manifest destiny... The book really comes alive, though, when it recounts the ways in which Indians have experienced the modern world — such as Treuer’s bitter, angry grandfather, who, like a third of adult Indian males, fought in the Second World War and tells tales of hugging trees to avoid shell burst during the Battle of the Bulge.