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An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

Revisioning American History
Written by: Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Narrated by: Laural Merlington
Length: 10 hrs and 18 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4.5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Today in the United States, there are more than 500 federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the 15 million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Dunbar-Ortiz adroitly challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants, displacing or eliminating them. And as Dunbar-Ortiz reveals, this policy was praised in popular culture, through writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Walt Whitman, and in the highest offices of government and the military. Spanning more than 400 years, this classic bottom-up peoples' history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative.

©2014 Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (P)2014 Tantor

What the critics say

"Meticulously documented, this thought-provoking treatise is sure to generate discussion." (Booklist)

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

looks good

These stories and theories support the first hand and other stories I've heard from local indigenous people.

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A fine example of honest history

A different and honest take on USA history.This is worth reading to counter the usual patriotic myths.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • endlessemma
  • 2015-08-03

Useful information, not quite listenable

I know some about settler colonialism and the genocidal practices of the U.S. against Native Americans, but I don't know enough. This book would have made an excellent textbook in an introductory Indigenous Studies course - lots of specific information, an authoritative tone, good discussions of methodology. As an audiobook, though, there wasn't enough story to really gain traction. Without characters or even units on specific groups or regions to hang all this new information on, I was left floundering in a sea of genocide and horrors. Probably much like early indigenous communities...
The narrator did not help this much. Every sentence is read with the same urgency and earnestness. All facts are equally weighted. There's no vocal signaling that we have reached the middle or end of any story. I understand that the topic is very serious and important, but I can't really hang onto the topic when there's no variation in the tone.

109 people found this helpful

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  • Joseph R. Schwartz
  • 2019-07-16

Learned a catch phrase instead of history

The author opens the book by sharing some very personal details of her life, including teaching and the years spent completing this "short" book. Teachers often stay with a phase, to help students better remember what they want to be the key point of focus.
In this book, I hoped to learn the history of the peoples living in the U.S, prior to its change, by European influences and colonization, But, I only came away with a new term, "Settler Colonialism." Although, I may eventually have reached some description of life and events on this continent prior to 1500, ( Although, time measured in this way is an imposed European concept, I hope the author will allow it if only for the purpose of a shared understanding of the "when' we are describing), the author's apparent ( heavy handed) need to make a harsh case against the Europeans overwhelmed the opportunity to learn and severely reduced the value of the subject. Readers may want to turn to " Empire of Summer Moon," for some sense of the history of the indigenous peoples, in the U.S. But, that history is limited and too recent.

Facts appear to be presented to persuade, rather than educate. Historical events are diminished, by modern jingoist phases like, imperialism and settler colonialism ( , which, are clearly meant to bring the reader from the past to more recent time and and set of circumstances with a very unhappy, genocidal component, the National Socialist's "Lebensraum".)
Either the narrator consciously uses an affective tone, emphasis, and phrasing to support an argument rather than deliver facts, or, the author has not included enough of a balanced text, so the reader can listen and learn.

The author's intention seems too focused on the agents of an infamous policy. Genocide as the author states is a modern term, not even used at the time being examined. A reason might be that the behavior or outcome, whether conscious or not, was in a way more commonplace and not so unusual as to be considered as we do now, more than 400 yrs later. Fortunately, it was limited in a way that it is not now, by the available technology, Someone once said, "the past is like a foreign country; they do things differently, there. This is some unhappy fact that the author leaves out.

in my opinion the book becomes less about the indigenous peoples and more about the history of the non- indigenous peoples of the Colonial and Post Colonial periods and their effects, on the North American Continent. For history to be effective and meaningful, there may need to be a record on which to draw. Based on the book's beginnings, sadly i couldn't get through w/o jumping ahead looking to find some insights, many of these people's record of may still be too thin to drawn on. Perhaps the author looked to the records of the non- indigenous peoples, instead. As the author points out, there are many books written from the European perspective. There is not enough history being written from differing perspectives. This was an opportunity that failed.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Libertarian Heretic
  • 2019-02-22

Insane Marxist Screed

A tendentious manifesto arguing Europeans only contribution to America was playing Nazi-Stormtroopers for 500 years.

Any book that argues the Protestant hymn 'Washed in The Blood' is a paean to white supremacy because it includes the lyric 'Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?'; that Native Americas were mostly peaceful vegetarians, documented cases of cannibalism, wars of territorial expansion and human sacrifice notwithstanding; that the Medieval Crusades were a colonial adventure of the European capitalist class using the smokescreen of religion to induce false consciousness and advance class warfare; or that American entry in WWII was nothing more than another episode in American colonialism/imperialism, a skill perfected in the butchery of Natives is the product of a warped overactive imagination and cannot seriously be considered history. This is more shrill propaganda, cataloging any form of violence that can be attributed to whites as opposed to a positive retelling of how Native society navigated the relationship with the newcomers. I like Native archaeology and oral history and really wish there would have been more of that here. Unfortunately this manifesto is so unreasonable and off topic it now ranks as my only audible book out of 75 I was unwilling to finish. That is saying a lot when this capitalist reviewer found the Hugo Chavez favorite 'Open Veins of Latin America' very doable.

There are a few good points and book recommendations in this work but honestly this author makes Howard Zinn look like Ronald Reagan. If you want an unbiased account of America perfidity toward Native Americans stay with the classic, 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee'.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Buretto
  • 2018-01-04

Almost complete truth, just churlish in tone

First of all, let me state... I probably agree with over 90% of the information that the author presents. That's not to say I have any great insight, but rather most of what is presented here can be found in other, better written and more entertaining, books. The history of this country is steeped in genocide, no question.

Where it goes wrong is the petulant, and often disingenuous, accounts of the less than glorious history of the United States of America. That name being the first childish line in the sand for the author. A steadfast refusal to call the country America, or the people American, despite the fact that it's the only country with that word in its official title. Do we call Mexico, Estados Unidos? Or Brazil, República Federativa? Even by general use anywhere around the world, for better or worse, everyone understands what American means, and it's not Simon Bolivar, a legendary and heroic South American. Yet, these people are referred to as separatists or settlers, as if the history can be erased by stripping the oppressors of their name. It's all the more hypocritical as the name Indian is accepted by resignation as not worth the effort to fight.

Once more, let me reiterate. The information is almost entirely true! But it risks the worst possible result, which is through it's propagandist tone, allowing right wing yahoos to criticize, leave 1 star reviews, with comments to the effect that all things white are bad, all things red, brown and black are great. Well... that, while certainly not entirely true, is a large part of the the story. Introducing Sam Houston as an alcoholic settler war-hero hardly gives the listener any assurance of a scholarly work. By all means, put the boots to him, and Andrew Jackson, and John Chivington and George Armstrong Custer. SOBs, the lot of them! But the true, accurate stories of these men and their deeds is damning enough! I admire Black Kettle, Red Cloud and Crazy Horse as much as anyone, and they were by no means responsible for the genocidal acts of the American government and the 7th Cavalry, but they were not without flaws. The humanity of the indigineous peoples is sadly underrepresented in this book.

Overall, the biggest problem is that the author states up front that this is meant to be an objective account of history of the country. It's about as objective as Fox News is fair and balanced. It's telling people the only truth they only want to hear, and it comes off just as shrill. It's a perfect book for a young adult, newly released from their childlike naivete, having learned their parents and society has lied to them, about virtually everything. There's a righteous outrage in the story, and in the narrator's voice (which I suppose is a positive, in accurately capturing the vitriol). But just don't act like it's telling the full story. Inaccuracies, particularly in European histories, and the complete lack of any unflattering characteristics of Incas, Mayans, Aztecs, Comanches, etc. gives it the distinct feeling of kool-aid expected to be drunk. At one point, a mesoamerican city is described as Bigger than London! Okay, so it must be great, then.

By all means, listen or read this book. Then check out more scholarly works with more nuanced history, and less spleen-venting. Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors, and The True Flag, are books I'd highly recommend for some of the episodes of American genocide and imperialism.

90 people found this helpful

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  • Nashville
  • 2016-11-09

Must read

Should be required reading for all US citizens! Even if you don't agree with the author's conclusions, it is important to consider history from different points of view.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Charles
  • 2019-06-26

Dissatisfied

1. Reader preached as giving a sermon rather than just reading a history book
2. The author complains about the military and then used the KISS (keep it simple stupid) and repeated each occurrence a minimum three times.
3. If I had been reading the book I would have thrown it away but as I paid way too much for it and I was “trapped “ in my car on a long trip made longer by this book
4. Some Historical evidence inaccurate

2 people found this helpful

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  • Kenneth M Yates Jr
  • 2018-12-01

Great primer for a deeper understanding

Great overview and introduction to an Indigenous People's History that primes the reader/listener to dive deeper. I plan to read about the American Indian Movement (AIM) to learn more about the resistance of indigenous peoples in the americas from the 20th century generations experience.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Yassert Gonzalez
  • 2018-09-27

Compelling and illuminating

This book is a must read for those interested in Native American history and culture. It help me place pivotal historical events in a broader context.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-03-14

Sobering

I had to stop several times .. just stop and let this unfamiliar perspective sink in, sometimes while the tears subsided. It fits with other sobering insights I've gathered from some other views of history .. religious history and economic history. I will be buying a hard copy of this book to read again and have for reference.

8 people found this helpful

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  • TM
  • 2015-04-09

Disturbing

This is a story that needs to be told. I had a hard time finishing but glad that I did.

14 people found this helpful