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An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (ReVisioning American History) Paperback – August 11, 2015
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“Meticulously documented, this thought-provoking treatise is sure to generate discussion.”
“What is fresh about the book is its comprehensiveness. Dunbar-Ortiz brings together every indictment of white Americans that has been cast upon them over time, and she does so by raising intelligent new questions about many of the current trends of academia, such as multiculturalism. Dunbar-Ortiz’s material succeeds, but will be eye-opening to those who have not previously encountered such a perspective.”
“From the struggles against the early British settlers in New England and Virginia to the final catastrophes at Sand Creek and Wounded Knee, Dunbar-Ortiz never flinches from the truth.”
“[An] impassioned history.... Belongs on the shelf next to Dee Brown’s classic, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“A must-read for anyone interested in the truth behind this nation’s founding.”
—Veronica E. Velarde Tiller, PhD, Jicarilla Apache author, historian, and publisher of Tiller’s Guide to Indian Country
“This may well be the most important US history book you will read in your lifetime. . . . Dunbar-Ortiz radically reframes US history, destroying all foundation myths to reveal a brutal settler-colonial structure and ideology designed to cover its bloody tracks. Here, rendered in honest, often poetic words, is the story of those tracks and the people who survived—bloodied but unbowed. Spoiler alert: the colonial era is still here, and so are the Indians.”
—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams
“Dunbar Ortiz’s . . . assessment and conclusions are necessary tools for all Indigenous peoples seeking to address and remedy the legacy of US colonial domination that continues to subvert Indigenous human rights in today’s globalized world.”
—Mililani B. Trask, Native Hawai‘ian international law expert on Indigenous peoples’ rights and former Kia Aina (prime minister) of Ka La Hui Hawai‘i
“An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States provides an essential historical reference for all Americans. . . . The American Indians’ perspective has been absent from colonial histories for too long, leaving continued misunderstandings of our struggles for sovereignty and human rights.”
—Peterson Zah, former president of the Navajo Nation
“An Indigenous Peoples’ History . . . pulls up the paving stones and lays bare the deep history of the United States, from the corn to the reservations. If the United States is a ‘crime scene,’ as she calls it, then Dunbar-Ortiz is its forensic scientist. A sobering look at a grave history.”
—Vijay Prashad, author of The Poorer Nations
“Justice-seekers everywhere will celebrate Dunbar-Ortiz’s unflinching commitment to truth—a truth that places settler-colonialism and genocide exactly where they belong: as foundational to the existence of the United States.”
—Waziyatawin, PhD, activist and author of For Indigenous Minds Only
“Dunbar-Ortiz strips us of our forged innocence, shocks us into new awarenesses, and draws a straight line from the sins of our fathers—settler-colonialism, the doctrine of discovery, the myth of manifest destiny, white supremacy, theft and systematic killing—to the contemporary condition of permanent war, invasion and occupation, mass incarceration, and the constant use and threat of state violence.” —Bill Ayers
“Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States is a fiercely honest, unwavering, and unprecedented statement, one which has never been attempted by any other historian or intellectual. The presentation of facts and arguments is clear and direct, unadorned by needless and pointless rhetoric, and there is an organic feel of intellectual solidity that provides weight and trust. It is truly an Indigenous peoples’ voice that gives Dunbar-Ortiz’s book direction, purpose, and trustworthy intention. Without doubt, this crucially important book is required reading for everyone in the Americas!”
—Simon J. Ortiz, Regents Professor of English and American Indian Studies, Arizona State University
“Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz writes a masterful story that relates what the Indigenous peoples of the United States have always maintained: Against the settler U.S. nation, Indigenous peoples have persevered against actions and policies intended to exterminate them, whether physically, mentally, or intellectually. Indigenous nations and their people continue to bear witness to their experiences under the U.S. and demand justice as well as the realization of sovereignty on their own terms.”
—Jennifer Nez Denetdale, Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico and author of Reclaiming Diné History
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz grew up in rural Oklahoma, the daughter of a tenant farmer and part-Indian mother. She has been active in the international Indigenous movement for more than four decades and is known for her lifelong commitment to national and international social justice issues. After receiving her PhD in history at the University of California at Los Angeles, she taught in the newly established Native American Studies Program at California State University, Hayward, and helped found the Departments of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies. Her 1977 book The Great Sioux Nation was the fundamental document at the first international conference on Indigenous peoples of the Americas, held at the United Nations’ headquarters in Geneva. Dunbar-Ortiz is the author or editor of seven other books, including Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico. She lives in San Francisco.
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Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz tells An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States with meticulous attention to an impressive volume of verifiable factual information, beginning with the premise (later on competently argued and fully proven) that from the beginning U.S. history is a tale of colonial settlement bent on decimating an entire indigenous population in order to appropriate vast new properties and resources. In other words, an invasion of a land inhabited by a pre-existing people with laws and covenants and self-governmental structures identifying them as the rightful owners and rulers of this place. In addition, the author in turn decimates the puerile understandings fostered by generations of teachers and scholars regarding the motivations and actual practices of our so-called American heroes, almost to a man an apologist for genocide, also relating two-hundred years of precedent to the continued intent behind U.S. military involvement throughout the world. She brilliantly exposes the lies behind our self-congratulatory stance, and every U.S. citizen would be well-served to face the truth of his own history. A great starting place for righting wrongs and creating a better country.
Joel R. Dennstedt – Author / Top Reviewer for Readers’ Favorite
A have a minor problem with the writing; as an academic writer and reader, I am distracted by the use of adjectives. Adjectives and adverbs are necessarily subjective judgments, best left to the reader. Given the perspective of this work, however, and the broad sweep of nihilistic colonial violence and genocide, emotional writing is likely called for and appropriate.
This book presents Anglo readers with some serious problems. We live in a country founded on said violence. No matter how high or low we stand, we stand there on the bones of the murdered. Ortiz does not suggest we all go home to Europe, by any means, but begs us to be aware. So much of this history is hidden, buried, unconscious. And for many people (nations) it is no great favor to make the unconscious conscious. Even so, she highlights on every page the necessity of doing so.
This is good, solid writing and an historical tour de force. This work is relevant every day. I recommend it.
The history of genocide in the original 13 colonies and its spread as the country expanded is thoroughly described. However, the book is very light in its coverage of the active Indian slave trade established by the Spanish - particularly in New Mexico and California.
So, my little baby complaint is that this book is meant for a popular audience and uses settler colonialism as its primary framework, which is totally cool! More people should know about settler colonialism! But she never defines it, and while theoretically her examples show it, my second complaint comes into play with this: almost all of her examples of settler colonialism involve militaristic action (either with an actual military/militia, or an unorganized body of white folks just killing people.) This runs the risk of making other parts of settler colonialism, especially assimilation attempts (allotment, boarding schools, termination, etc.), seem somehow less damaging and harmful. 'Can't we hold both as terrible?' Yes we can and should, but given the amount of space in the text that she gives to the former and not the latter speaks to the possibility that the reader will miss the damage of the latter.
My final overarching complaint is that this book is incredibly, dangerously caught up in pain and death. And I know that we need to make that pain legible to white settler folks, but I also think that she leaves very, very little room for stories of resilience and survivance (despite her citation of Vizenor,) and I think that people (white settlers and indigenous folk) need to see stories of survivance to understand what to do next. This is influenced by a lot of personal stuff, but I really do think that those narratives need to carry as much weight as the death and pain because focusing on death and pain only perpetuates the dehumanization of indigenous folks.
BUT: I will say I think it's a decently accessible book for getting people to think settler colonialism and begin to change the paradigms of the dominant narratives about the US state. I just think that when you finish it, you should immediately read one of the books she suggests to get a taste of narratives of resilience and survivance.