A number of years ago I read a book by Dee Brown called “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee“. It was not an ordinary history book. It told events with a passionate regard for the victims of a genocide. It made your heart beat faster and it made you feel angry.. it made you cry at the sheer injustice of it all.
I grew up watching cowboy films. The picture that this painted was often of marauding Indians who liked nothing better than killing the white man and then scalping them. These were “savages” who painted their faces and lived in wigwams and had strange names like “Laughing Cloud” and “Crazy Horse”.
We were not supposed to have any sympathy for them. The cowboys rode in on their galloping horses and represented the force of good over evil. So when they triumphed (and they always did) I cheered and felt that all was alright with the world.
But as I grew up I got to know an alternative history. A different picture was painted such as the words (and photographs in Dee Brown’s book).
This was yet another outstanding TED Talk. Aaron Huey uses the photographs of the Lakota people in Dakota as a backdrop to the alternative history of the “Indian Wars“. His voice quivering with emotion sometimes he shows us the way that what is left of a once proud people now live short lives, largely unemployed, with sickness and a lot of despair in what are, in effect, Prisoner of War Camps.
The most powerful statement that he makes refers not just to the Native Americans but to any dispossessed people anywhere in the world… he talks about the moment when the oppressors stand back and say “my oh my… just look at how they live and what they are doing to themselves!”
If you are a teacher reading this blog I challenge you to show this video with its poerful message and stark photographs to your students and then let them decide what view of history they want to understand and indeed, if they live in the United States, what they, the inheritors of the “best meat” feel should be done about the position of the inheritors of a largely destroyed culture and way of life.
- America’s native prisoners of war: Aaron Huey on TED.com (ted.com)
- 50 Books That Changed The World (sugarslam.com)
- 50 Most Influential Books of the Last 50 (or so) Years (superscholar.org)