The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America
by James Wilson
Grove Press | 466 pp | $11.44
Much like the video series produced by Turner Broadcasting, “How the West Was Lost,” British author James Wilson uses testimony from American Indians to present a more balanced approach to American history that was far from pretty in “The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America.”
Even still, “The Earth Shall Weep” is difficult reading. The title of the book is taken from John Hollow Horn, Oglala Lakota, who writes: “Some day the earth shall weep, she will beg for her life, she will cry with tears of blood … “
Wilson has worked among American Indians for over 25 years and is a member of the executive committee of Survival, an international organization campaigning for the rights of Indigenous peoples worldwide.
In “The Earth Shall Weep,” Wilson takes the reader from pre-Columbian contact through contemporary times.
Wilson breaks the book into different sections of the country to discuss how American Indians ultimately lost much of their land. The locale mattered little, in each geographical region of the country, the methodology to take the land was virtually the same.
Wilson advances four devices of genocide, first used by early settlers, then by the US government, to obtain the land: diseases, violent wars, religion and treaties.
Long past the days when Christian scholars argued that what happened to North America’s indigenous people was a God-given duty by Europeans through the Manifest Destiny, Wilson argues that zealous Christians abused their religion, corrupting their faith into the means for obtaining the land.
Unfortunately, the same religion which on occasion preserved American Indian culture was also used as a means to destroy it.
Diseases, such as smallpox and cholera in epidemic proportions, wiped out whole Indian tribes. The record of violence committed against American Indians is well-known-whether on a small scale of a single Indian family that was killed for their land, or the massacres that were part of the Indian Wars.
The sorry saga of treaties only added to the injury. Few tribes escaped the treaty-sanctioned, forced removal from whole sections of land. Wilson notes that not one treaty has ever been fulfilled by the US government.
While Wilson touches on the “vanishing Indian” concept, he is careful to assert that American Indians are still with us in contemporary times.
The book goes beyond what is presented in most United States histories, where American Indians tend to fall off the timeline at the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890. Wilson tells the story of contemporary American Indians who suffer from bureaucratic genocide as the result of actions by the federal policies of its government.
He tells the accurate story of massive unemployment and poverty among American Indians despite gains by a limited number of Indian tribes who have gaming casinos on their reservations.
“The Earth Shall Weep” will make some highly uncomfortable and, some even may even weep, as they read of the atrocities committed against American Indians.