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"Native America: A New Narrative?" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2020 9:06 p.m. PST

"David Treuer's new book reaches the reader garlanded in praise from the world's most revered arbiters of taste. It is a New York Times bestseller; the paper admires the way it ‘suggests the need for soul-searching'. Vanity Fair likes its ‘hopeful vision of the past and future of Native Americans'. The Economist calls it ‘sweeping, essential history'. Books on Native American history are often ignored. Why is this one different?

One reason is that it is not an examination of the colonial roots of Native disadvantage. Instead, it is a good news story about Indian resurgence told by an American literary star, an Ojibwe from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. It is no coincidence that The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is enjoying a similar level of mainstream approbation as J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis in 2016. Yale-educated Vance told a story of how boot-straps dedication to hard work had allowed him to transcend the welfare-dependent culture of his Kentucky childhood. Vance's message, that the real problem for poor white Appalachians is despair and learned helplessness rather than a structural lack of opportunity, proved so welcome in the Trump-era that a film adaptation is in production. Treuer's book is not so personal, but his message is just as congenial to today's small government and strong personal responsibility ethos. Rather than the old, popular story told in Dee Brown's 1970 bestseller Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West – that America was responsible for tragic acts of cultural destruction against Native Americans – Treuer is keen to promote awareness that the Indian heart beats on. Indeed, it is doing better and better: ‘No longer does being Indian mean being hopelessly characterized as savage throwbacks living in squalor on the margins of society, suffering the abuses of a careless, unfeeling government.'…"
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