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A Century of Dishonor: The Classic Exposé of the Plight of the Native Americans Paperback – June 9, 2003
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- Item Weight : 13.1 ounces
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 048642698X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0486426983
- Dimensions : 6.58 x 0.7 x 8.02 inches
- Publisher : Dover Publications (June 9, 2003)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #604,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Long passages of this book consist of extracts from the official government reports and other printed correspondence. I think Jackson’s intention in crafting her book this way was to show, beyond any doubt, that the U.S. government knew exactly what was happening concerning the acts of violence and broken treaties. Any citizen could have known about this if they had bothered to find out. Jackson condensed as much information as she could for the general public.
Jackson expresses genuine outrage and grief for the lies and cruelty waged against the native inhabitants. Still, her perspective is very much that of a 19th century Christian reformer. She celebrates the spread of Christianity among Native Americans, never considering whether Christianity might be part of the problem. She also celebrates the tribes that live in a “civilized” way, turning to farming versus hunting and gathering. Throughout, she adopts the typical attitude of the “white man’s burden” toward saving these people. This perspective clashes with modern sensibilities, and there are newer, better ways of looking at this terrible history. Still, her work was at the vanguard of social justice writing for its time, and the book had concrete impacts on how Congress dealt with Native Americans.
If this topic interests you, read this book to learn how the issue was seen by 19th century reformers.
To glean how much people already knew about sociology and anthropology, even if sometimes misguided, and about basic human rights is to strip the perpetrators of atrocities and injustices of any excuses. Truly, this book reflects the dishonor of our country that is well over not one but two centuries old and still violating our principles today.
By 1881 the American Indian was no longer a serious threat to settlers and no longer “in the way” of Manifest Destiny since we had already stolen all their land, wrecked their culture, slaughtered the buffalo down from 9 million to 55 and reduced 99% of the Indians to pauperism on reservations. So now our society could quit demonizing them and start romanticizing them by constructing the “Noble Red Man” image and discarding the “bloodthirsty savage” image. Doing so was a balm to our deservedly guilty conscience.
Jackson's book was intended to raise a voice for the Indian just as Stowe's novel ”Uncle Tom's Cabin” had done for slaves.
Jackson's goal was to publicize the plight of the Indian and the long history of illegal underhanded dealing by the U.S. Government(and U.S. Citizenry). The reader must remember that, though the corruption of the government and their rip-off of the Indians is very “old news” to us in 2016, it was headline material in 1881 – the beginning of what has been termed the Progressive Age when social do-gooderism reached the national stage.
Chapter One is a lengthy treatise on Law: International, national, personal and Biblical... it is Jacksonbuilding the cross that she will hang the government on in the following chapters.
Casual readers today who already know about the sinful ways of the government can skip this tedious chapter.
Subsequent chapters are some interesting “case histories” of the bad treatment given to an assortment of tribes as a means to convict the government. About Jackson's case histories...
Anyone who has delved even casually into tribal histories will see immediately that she has had no personal day-to-day, live-next door experience with “wild” Indian. She bases all her descriptions of Indians and events upon the reports of others and is very, very selective in her choices. Of course this leaves her writing with a very, very pro-Indian skew to Indian nature and behavior and a very anti-white man taint to events and character. Of course, she was writing a book she hoped would influence politics in favor of the red man so the reader won't be surprised at the bias.
Had Jackson stuck with her expose of the government's corruption and illegal treatment of the Indians her book would have been largely unarguable by anyone. But when she chose to try to also paint the Indians as some noble, innocent, long-suffering, peaceful, pacifistic group she opened herself and her book to massive attack from the couple million or so Americans who knew better and could prove it... especially those west of the Mississippi. In short, had she stuck to the Truth her position would have been much, much stronger.
This book is interesting for the same reason some quaint antique is interesting. Not that it is interesting, or useful today, or even of high quality, but just because it had a place in the sun at some bygone time. Many more modern books on these topics will be of greater value to the reader... and more objective than this one. The excellent works of Robert Utley come to mind.
All that said, this is an interesting book simply because it is what it was... a Progressive attempt to get the government to stop being so corrupt and heartless. Good Luck with THAT !