• An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

  • Revisioning American History
  • By: Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
  • Narrated by: Laural Merlington
  • Length: 10 hrs and 18 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (1,951 ratings)

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An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

By: Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Narrated by: Laural Merlington
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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

Critic Reviews

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

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What listeners say about An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

192 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

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.

137 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Need to Clarify What the Book Is

This book is very focused on portraying how Indigenous People view the US especially its military. The book is not a history of Indigenous peoples, their customs, languages, etc. Pay attention to that when buying

59 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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A Vitriolic Telling of Parts of History

I came to this book looking for deeper understanding and a broadening of perspective of the story of indigenous peoples in the U.S. Instead the book spews a historical timeline of atrocities, wrongs, and injustices against native peoples in the U.S. I'm not interested in disputing the facts listed in the book. There are many and the author has done her research well, I presume. I don't take issue with the facts stated. I take issue with the facts omitted.

The omissions in this book are cosmic in size and harmful in effect. There is no telling of the indigenous history of language, culture, music, food, gender roles and evolution, technology, politics and succession of leaders, educational practices, traditions, religion, spirituality, or achievements. Is the story of indigenous peoples merely the story of the wrongs committed against them? Are people only the harm they have suffered? Is this all there is to the Native American story? That is neither my experience nor my belief. It is, however, the very narrow and two dimensional picture of this book. Certainly the tone and selective reporting of history will be cathartic for those justly angered by the many wrongs and the genocidal policies of the U.S. But this book fails on the whole. It is unhelpful and unenlightening for those looking for an accurate, broader, and multifaceted understanding of U.S. indigenous history.

56 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

31 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

21 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

A screed on the evils of "colonialism" - too bad

What disappointed you about An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States?

After two chapters of monotonis, politically correct screed on the evils of colonialism - i quit. Just couldn't take it. Never got to the story I hoped to hear. Monnotone, flat naration. Looked interesting, but you can't judge an (audible) book by its cover.

Would you ever listen to anything by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz again?

NO!

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Laural Merlington?

Ward Churchill

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Primarily disappointment. I was hoping for much more.

Any additional comments?

Dear Roxanne: The Romans did it to the Jews; the English did it to the Irish; the Turks did it to the Armenians; the Germans did it to the Jews (again!). We are not a nice species! Get some perspective and get over yourself!! In the end, as I understand, the Indians were not really all that nice to each other. Your moralizing screed was boring, repetative and myopic. I'm very aware of the injustice done to the American Indian. And, yes, its a tragedy and a national disgrace. But I hoped to hear some objective history, not a parochial rant.

18 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

An Indigenous People History of the United States

I knew the basics on treatment of native Americans and very much looking forward to listening to this book. It starts out with interesting information, falls apart in the middle, and the end is exciting because you are almost done. The Author repeated the same paragraph word for word on 3 separate parts. Also goes to far into examples of other Holocaust, thought I was supposed to be learning about America. The 10 hour book could easily fit into 3 hrs. The Author also jumps around so much you find yourself confused. Listen to beginning and go no further.

16 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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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

15 people found this helpful