Study Guide

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

by Dee Brown

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Analysis

Form and Content (Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

A prevailing force within the United States in the nineteenth century was the concept of Manifest Destiny, the belief that the entire continent was destined to be settled and ruled by (white) settlers from the East. In search of wealth or land, tens of thousands of settlers began moving west in the decades before the Civil War, quickly coming into conflict with the indigenous population: American Indian tribes that had long been settled on the land.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is a historical account of this movement, and its effects on the American Indian peoples, as seen through their eyes. The period between 1860 and 1890 is the major focus of the book. This period represented the peak years of conflict between the white settlers, the military sent to protect them, and the American Indian tribes already present on much of the land. The period was bounded in the beginning with the start of the Civil War and ended with the massacre at Wounded Knee Creek, the last major incident between native tribes and the U.S. cavalry.

Dee Brown follows a sequential series of events, basing much of his work on American Indian accounts, including records of treaty councils held during formal negotiations between U.S. representatives and tribal chiefs. Even councils held in remote areas generally included interpreters and recorders. Chiefs or older members of the tribes were free to present their thoughts, even those recounting past events. The result was a rich history available to someone willing to search them out, as Brown did, in government archives. Many first-person accounts by the American Indians involved in these events can be found throughout the book.

Brown’s narratives of the tragedies that unfolded during these years are gripping in their pathos. It was said that the only promise the white people unfailingly kept was that they would take the land. Treaties would be made, promising that the land would remain within the hands of the native tribes in perpetuity. As Brown continuously documents, such treaties remained valid only until white settlers and the U.S. government desired the land. Members of the tribes would then be either moved again or killed. To many of the soldiers, it made little difference as to which occurred. General Philip Sheridan summed up this attitude with his statement “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.”

Brown completes his account of these years with the description of events at Wounded Knee Creek in 1890. Leaderless after the assassination of Sitting Bull on the Sioux reservation, hundreds of the Hunkpapa Sioux sought refuge with Big Foot and his people near Pine Ridge, in present-day South Dakota. Sighting a cavalry detachment, Big Foot placed his people under their protection in the vicinity of Chankpe Opi Wakpala, known as the creek at Wounded Knee. He ordered them to surrender any weapons to the soldiers. A gun discharged, probably accidentally, and soldiers began to fire indiscriminately. Before the firing ended, some three hundred American Indian men, women, and children were dead.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Historical Context

Vietnam and the My Lai Massacre
When Brown first published Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee in 1970, the United...

(The entire section is 406 words.)

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Quizzes

Questions and Answers Chapter 1: “Their Manners are Decorous and Praiseworthy”

Study Questions
1. What tribe did Christopher Columbus meet upon landing in North America, and where did he meet them?

2. What four Indians gave aid to the Pilgrims, and why?

3. Who led the Indians’ war against Massachusetts colonists?

4. What was the Indians’ nickname for Andrew Jackson?

5. Who was the most powerful Indian tribe in the West in 1860?

Answers
1. The Taino, in San Salvador.

2. Samoset, Massasoit, Squanto, and Hobomah volunteered to aid the Pilgrims because they knew some English.

3. King Philip of Pokanoket.

4. The Indians called Andrew Jackson “Sharp Knife.”

...

(The entire section is 90 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 2: The Long Walk of the Navahos

Study Questions
1. What was the name of the first fort the Army erected on Navaho lands?

2. Why did the Navahos attack the fort’s soldiers?

3. What sparked the Army’s massacre of the Navahos?

4. What did General Carleton say the Navahos must do to achieve peace?

5. How is General Carleton described?

Answers
1. Fort Defiance

2. To replace their horses and mules that had been shot by a company of mounted soldiers.

3. A disputed horse race between Manuelito, riding on his pony, and a lieutenant, riding his quarter horse.

4. Obey the Army’s orders for them to go to the Bosque Redondo...

(The entire section is 119 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 3: Little Crow's War

Study Questions
1. To where did the Santee Sioux retreat during the ten years before the Civil War?

2. Why did the Santees become angry at the U.S. during 1862?

3. How did Sibley respond to the message Little Crow sent him on September 7?

4. What reward did the murderers of Little Crow receive?

5. Describe the physical properties of the Santee reservation.

Answers
1. The Santees retreated to a strip of territory along the Minnesota River.

2. The annuities promised the Santees by treaty were not given, and the reservation agent for the Upper Agency refused to give them food from his warehouse.

3. Sibley...

(The entire section is 150 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 4: War Comes to the Cheyennes

Study Questions
1. Why did whites begin settling in Colorado in large numbers?

2. What were Black Kettle’s reasons for not fighting the whites?

3. What Indians did John Evans say could be killed?

4. Why were the Southern Cheyennes invited on the expedition against whites at Platte Bridge Station?

5. What was the ultimate result of the Sand Creek massacre?

Answers
1. Gold was discovered at Pikes Peak in 1858.

2. Black Kettle wanted to be friendly and peaceable, was not able to fight the whites, and wanted to live in peace.

3. Evans said that all those not on a reservation could be killed.

4....

(The entire section is 126 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 5: Powder River Invasion

Study Questions
1. What was the Powder River tribes’ reaction to the rumors of soldiers surrounding them, and why did they have that reaction?

2. What did the Cheyennes say would stop their attacks on whites?

3. Why was Sitting Bull opposed to negotiating with the soldiers?

4. What did the Cheyennes learn from their September charge against the Army?

5. What fate did the Galvanized Yankee troops meet in the winter of 1865?

Answers
1. The tribes were skeptical because they thought their country couldn’t be invaded.

2. The Cheyennes would agree to halt their attacks once the government hung Colonel Covington....

(The entire section is 134 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 6: Red Cloud's War

Study Questions
1. Why did Colonel Maynadier deploy Indians to Powder River, and who were the Indians he deployed?

2. Why did Red Cloud decide to wait to sign the treaty?

3. What sparked the Sioux’s confrontation with the Army?

4. What was the Indians’ strategy against the Army?

5. What were the end results of Red Cloud’s war?

Answers
1. The Indians were deployed because whites weren’t willing to go. The five Sioux he sent were Big Mouth, Big Ribs, Eagle Foot, Whirlwind, and Little Crow.

2. Waiting allowed him time to send runners to other tribes and time to gather beaver pelts and buffalo hides for trade....

(The entire section is 178 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 7: “The Only Good Indian Is a Dead Indian”

Study Questions
1. Who was the leader of the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos?

2. Why did the Indian chiefs stay put?

3. How did General Hancock respond to the Indians leaving the conference, and what was the Indians’ response to Hancock?

4. For the Indians, what was the impact of the death of Roman Nose?

5. Why did the Southern Cheyennes divide?

Answers
1. Roman Nose was the leader of the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos.

2. The chiefs decided against joining because they disagreed about strategy.

3. Hancock burned the Indian's entire abandoned camp, and the Indians responded by destroying telegraph...

(The entire section is 144 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 8: The Rise and Fall of Donehogawa

Study Questions
1. Who was Donehogawa?

2. Who went to Washington, D.C., to meet President Grant?

3. What was the trick played on the Sioux?

4. How did Donehogawa placate the Sioux?

5. What caused the downfall of Donehogawa?

Answers
1. Donehogawa was an Iroquois who had forged a friendship with President Grant and was appointed by Grant as Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

2. A delegation of the Oglalas, led by Red Cloud, and a delegation of Brules, lead by Spotted Tail, met with the President.

3. The treaty they had signed, as it was ratified by Congress, made no mention of the Laramie or...

(The entire section is 198 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 9: Cochise and the Apache Guerrillas

Study Questions
1. How did the conflict between Cochise and the U.S. begin?

2. What was the Apaches’ response to the murder of Mangas?

3. What were the results of the trial of the Tucson killers?

4. Why did Cochise want a reservation in Canada Alamosa?

5. On what basis was Eskiminzin imprisoned?

Answers
1. Cochise was accused of stealing cattle and kidnapping a half-breed boy.

2. The Apaches responded with raids on settlements and trails in Arizona and New Mexico.

3. The Tucson killers were found not guilty, and Lieutenant Whitman’s career was destroyed. He resigned after being submitted to three...

(The entire section is 146 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 10: The Ordeal of Captain Jack

Study Questions
1. Why did the Modocs adapt the nickname of Captain Jack for Kintpuash?

2. Why did the whites want Jack to lay down his gun?

3. Why did the Modocs surrender?

4. Why did Hooker Jim’s band leave Captain Jack?

5. What happened to Jack’s body?

Answers
1. The Modocs thought “Captain Jack” was a funny name.

2. Because Captain Jack was chief, the whites believed that his example would be followed by others in his tribe.

3. The Modoc tribe had been promised that the murderers of the white settlers would merely be kept on a reservation to the south.

4. Hooker Jim disagreed with...

(The entire section is 129 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 11: The War to Save the Buffalo

Study Questions
1. What did the treaty of Medicine Lodge grant the Kiowas?

2. What was Kicking Bird’s response to taunts from the warriors?

3. How did the Kiowas respond to the convictions of their two leaders?

4. What happened at the sun dance of 1874?

5. Why did Sherman bring Satanta back to jail?

Answers
1. The treaty granted the Kiowa territory and the right to hunt south of the Arkansas River if there were enough buffalo “to justify the chase.”

2. In response to the taunts, Kicking Bird took 100 warriors, launched an attack on a mail coach, and won a fight with Army soldiers.

3. The Kiowas...

(The entire section is 159 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 12: The War for the Black Hills

Study Questions
1. What prompted whites to begin settling in the Black Hills?

2. What was the debate the chiefs had over what should be demanded from the U.S.?

3. What was the meaning of Sitting Bull’s vision?

4. Why did the Indians go to Little Bighorn Valley?

5. What did the American outrage after the Custer massacre produce?

Answers
1. General Custer’s report that the hills were full of gold prompted the whites to converge on the Black Hills.

2. The chiefs had debated whether to accept payment for the gold mined in the hills, or absolute Indian sovereignty over the hills, with no miners allowed in the hills....

(The entire section is 167 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 13: The Flight of the Nez Percés

Study Questions
1. How did the Nez Percés get their name?

2. What damages did white settlers inflict on the Nez Percés?

3. What move did General Howard make against the Nez Percés?

4. What was the Nez-Percé’s strategy?

5. Where were the Nez Percés sent?

Answers
1. The French saw that some of them wore dentalium shells in their noses.

2. Gold miners stole their horses, and cattlemen stole and branded their cattle.

3. Howard arrested the prophet Toohoolhoolzote and ordered the tribe to move to the Lapwai reservation within 30 days.

4. The Nez Percés decided to flee to Canada in order to...

(The entire section is 124 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 14: Cheyenne Exodus

Study Questions
1. What were the Northern Cheyennes’ objections to being put on the Cheyenne-Arapaho reservation?

2. What was the Cheyennes’ impression of Carl Schurz?

3. What was the disagreement between the Cheyenne chiefs?

4. How did the U.S. respond to the Cheyennes’ request to go north?

5. Where were the Cheyennes at Fort Keogh sent?

Answers
1. On the reservation, there was no game to hunt, the water was bad, rations were insufficient, and there were too many mosquitoes and too much summer heat.

2. The Cheyennes named Schurz “Big Eyes” and wondered how, with such large eyes, he could be so ignorant....

(The entire section is 150 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 15: Standing Bear Becomes a Person

Study Questions
1. Why were the Poncas to be sent off their land?

2. How many Poncas died a year after they arrived in the Indian Territory?

3. Why did General Crook oppose returning the Poncas to the Indian Territory?

4. What was the legal argument made on Standing Bear’s behalf?

5. Was the murderer of Big Snake punished?

Answers
1. After Custer’s defeat, Congress decided the Poncas needed to be removed to the Indian Territory.

2. Nearly one-quarter of the tribe died.

3. General Crook was outraged by the tribe's plight, and he was especially impressed by Standing Bear.

4. The argument...

(The entire section is 123 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 16: “The Utes Must Go!”

Study Questions
1. What did Ouray receive in his treaty negotiations?

2. What was the effect of the $1000 annual stipend, lasting for 10 years, that was given to Ouray?

3. What did Meeker think would force the Utes to work for him?

4. Who wrote the anti-Ute article?

5. Where were the rest of the Utes sent?

Answers
1. He received 16 million acres of forest and meadows, and the promise that whites would be prohibited from entering the Ute’s land.

2. He had motivation to maintain the status quo and became increasingly allied with the U.S.

3. Meeker believed that if he replaced their ponies with draft...

(The entire section is 149 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 17: The Last of the Apache Chiefs

Study Questions
1. What was the reaction to Clum’s demand for the Army soldiers to leave?

2. Why did Victorio decide to resist the U.S.?

3. Why did General Crook return to Arizona?

4. How did the War Department punish General Crook for Geronimo’s escape?

5. Why did General Crook avoid fighting the Apaches?

Answers
1. After Clum's demand, there was outrage in Washington, D.C., New Mexico and Arizona, and Clum decided to depart for Tombstone.

2. Victorio believed that resistance was the only way to avoid the extinction of the Apaches.

3. Crook returned in order to restrain and organize the Army...

(The entire section is 127 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 18: Dance of the Ghosts

Study Questions
1. How did General Terry gain access to Sitting Bull?

2. Why did the Sioux come into Fort Buford?

3. Why did Sitting Bull reconcile with the commissioners?

4. How did the audience respond to Sitting Bull’s speech at Bismarck?

5. How did the Ghost Dance religion begin?

Answers
1. The War Department made arrangements with Canada for Terry to go into Canada with the Mounties to meet Sitting Bull.

2. The harshness of life in Canada and lack of governmental support caused the Sioux to leave Canada and go to the Great Sioux Reservation.

3. Sitting Bull wrongly thought that the commissioners...

(The entire section is 129 words.)

Questions and Answers Chapter 19: Wounded Knee

Study Questions
1. How did the Ghost Dance religion affect the Sioux?

2. How many guns did the Sioux have at Wounded Knee Creek?

3. How many Sioux died at Wounded Knee?

4. Where were the wounded Sioux taken?

5. Who commanded the Army soldiers?

Answers
1. Because of their belief that their ancestors would soon return to life and the whites would leave, the Sioux did not retaliate against the Army soldiers.

2. The Sioux had two rifles.

3. Approximately 300 Sioux were massacred.

4. The survivors were taken to the Episcopal mission at Pine Ridge.

5. Colonel James W. Forsyth was the...

(The entire section is 95 words.)