Saturday, December 14, 2002

Author of "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," dead at 94

Dee Brown, author of "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” dies at age 94

by Terri Crawford Hansen
News from Indian Country

Little Rock, Ark. - Novelist and historian Dee Alexander Brown died Dec. 12, 2002. He had been suffering from heart disease and was living in a hospice at the time of his death.

Born in 1908 in Alberta, Louisiana, Brown lived in Arkansas for a number of years following the death of his father when Brown was four. His writing career was centered there.

He graduated from Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. At age 17 he published a magazine story for which he was paid one hundred dollars.
He received his bachelor's degree from George Washington University in 1937, and his master's degree from the University of Illinois in 1952.

He is best remembered for writing the best selling book on the West, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” By his own account, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" was an eloquent, fully documented account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the 19th century. When first published in 1971, both reviewers and readers responded first with shock, then a deep sense of shame, calling it "shattering" (Washington Post), and "heartbreaking" (The New York Times).

It went on to sell over a million copies in hardback and four million copies in paperback, and was translated into 15 languages around the world.

Just one example of the many readers’ comments states, "Every member of Congress and every politician who is tempted to criticize American Indian Nations for such things as gambling or fishing rights should read this book. This powerful and comprehensive narrative is only the beginning of what was done in the name of Christian Manifest Destiny and war profiteering.”

Another: “The book reads like a fast paced novel hard to put down. The eloquence of this writer brings to crystal clarity the shame of much of our past and what reparations we owe the American Indian tribes.

"Humanity does not seem to learn from its lessons. That's why this book, which contains dramatic stories enough to create a hundred great motion pictures, should be read by everyone so we may remember."

Brown wrote 29 books, and 36 folklore stories which, according to Book News, Inc., drew on the oral traditions of a variety of different tribes.

He used a manual typewriter throughout his life. He especially liked to write nonfiction, and preferred to write about the past. He won the Clarence Day Award from the American Library Association in 1971.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Sara Baird Stroud Brown. He is survived by two children, James Mitchell Brown and Linda Brown.