Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Suggested Essay Topics

Dee Brown

Suggested Essay Topics

Chapter 1: “Their Manners are Decorous and Praiseworthy”
1. The first chapter briefly outlines the white settlement of America from 1492 to 1860. What were the consequences of those settlements for the Eastern Indian tribes discussed in the chapter?

2. The second part of the first chapter describes the position of various Western tribes as of 1860. Why does Brown provide these descriptions of the tribes he will extensively discuss later in the book?

Chapter 2: The Long Walk of the Navahos
1. Much of the conflict between the Navahos and the U.S. involved the destruction of Navaho horses, mules, livestock, crops, and food stores. The Army also issued insufficient amounts of rations and other supplies to the Navahos. What was the purpose of those actions, and how might the whites have justified them?

2. Brown describes the disputed horse race between Manuelito and the Army lieutenant, and the subsequent massacre, as permanently creating bitterness between the Navahos and the Army. What were the possible reasons for the Army to trick Manuelito and massacre the Navahos?

Chapter 3: Little Crow's War
1. Brown says “ten years of abuse by white men” caused the Santee Sioux to begin fighting the whites. Did the tribe have any other option besides attacking the whites?

2. Most quotations in Chapter 3 are of Santee Sioux, while quotations of whites are short and infrequent. What effect does this disparity have on you as you read the chapter? How would the framing of the events described in the chapter have changed if most of the quotes were from the Army and other whites?

Chapter 4: War Comes to the Cheyennes
1. Compare and contrast the initially cordial relations between the Plains Indians and whites from 1858 to mid-1864 with the state of their relations as described at the end of Chapter 4.

2. The Bent brothers serve as pivotal figures in this chapter. Describe the reasons for their rejection of white civilization, and describe their relationship with the civilization they abandoned.

Chapter 5: Powder River Invasion
1. Compare the naiveté of the Plains Indians as described early in Chapter 5 with their increased skepticism, ferocity, and confidence at the end of the chapter. What were the reasons for this change in attitude? What results did the change produce?

2. Do you think the reluctance of the 2,000 troops under Colonels Cole and Walker to continue serving in the Army after the Civil War ended contributed to the Army’s loss to the Sioux? Why or why not?

Chapter 6: Red Cloud's War
1. Red Cloud won his war against the Army. What tactics did he employ to help him win? Could similar tactics have been employed by other Indian chiefs to achieve victory?

2. The Sioux’s suspicion of the whites resulted from U.S. aggression and the duplicity, trickery, and lies, as well as from their exposure to previously unknown technology. Compare and contrast the Sioux’s reaction to aggression and dishonesty with their reaction to the whites’ technology.

Chapter 7: “The Only Good Indian Is a Dead Indian”
1. Is General Sheridan’s ruthlessness and statement that “the only good Indians I ever saw were dead” an accurate representation of the whites’ basic attitude toward the Cheyennes and other Indian tribes?

2. Gray Beard insists on being treated like a man, and not a dog, by the whites. On the other hand, Stone Calf tells General Sheridan that his soldiers should “grow long hair” in order to give the Cheyennes “some honor in killing them.” What effect did the Indians’ cultural standards and warrior ethos have on their opinion of the Army and their strategy against it?

Chapter 8: The Rise and Fall of Donehogawa
1. Does the fate of Donehogawa suggest that no Indian could remain in a position of power in the U.S....

(The entire section is 1663 words.)