Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

by Dee Brown

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In Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, who is the last chief to fight for Native American lands?

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In Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, the author relates Chief Red Cloud's infamous claim that the U.S. Government

“made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.”

Several chiefs from Bury My Heart are possible correct answers to your question, because they are the last chiefs of their tribes to fight for their ever-desirable land before surrendering, Crazy Horse and Chief Joseph are the most significant leaders.

1. Crazy Horse--Crazy Horse is the last chief of the Sioux to fight against the American government. More successful than many chiefs in warding off the military's attacks on Native American soil, Crazy Horse is a key player in Red Cloud's war, especially at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in which Custer and his men are annihilated. Later, when military troops attack in full force to avenge Custer's death, Crazy Horse tries once again to repel them, but he realizes that he cannot win and surrenders, hoping to save as many of his people as possible and return to what is left of their land. However, when Crazy Horse leads his people back to Indian territory, he is captured and then killed in a botched escape. The book's title derives from Crazy Horse's parents' action of honoring him by burying his heart and bones near Wounded Knee Creek.

2. Chief Joseph--Chief Joseph is the more likely correct answer to your question because he, too, is a chief who ultimately is forced to give up his people's lands. Unlike Crazy Horse, Chief Joseph is not interested in fighting, but eventually the Nez Perce are forced into battle with the military because of a broken treaty. No matter how often Chief Joseph attempts to prevent his people from being drawn into battle with the white man, he is unsuccessful. He tries to flee to Canada and avoids U.S. troops for miles but is forced to stop because of exhaustion and starvation. Eventually, Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce are forced onto the reservation where Chief Joseph later dies. In his notable speech of surrender to General Miles, Chief Joseph epitomizes the Native American angst when he states,

"Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."

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