Bury My Heart


In 1970 a book written by author Dee Brown was published called “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” The book was about the plight of the American Indians in the 19th century and the injustices that the author perceived they had received at the hands of the federal government. The culmination of which was a massacre of between 150 to 300 defenseless Native Americans at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota. It has now become a fairly famous book and a 2007 HBO Mini-series was later made of it’s content. Since it’s original writing the author has come under some criticism for being one sided and not presenting all the facts in context with the times. But no one can question that conflict is inevitable when two different cultures collide. In the end, one culture will usually dominate the other till one is extinct, or at least conquered. For the writer Dee Brown, the massacre at Wounded Knee Creek signaled the end of the road for American Indian. Although Dee Brown was not of Indian heritage, at a young age he came to know a couple of Indians who he admired and so he rejected the stereotype of the day, which painted them as violent, unprincipled and backwards. It’s interesting how an open mind on the part of one, and the good example on the part of another, can overcome bigotry in it’s most ugly forms.

These past few years our church has been thrust in the public area due to the emergence of several members who are politically connected. In addition some important social issues have required the church to take a public position. I have been surprised at the lack of understanding of the general public regarding who we are and what we believe as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Still, after more than a century, we as a people are often misunderstood and I am want to exclaim, “Bury my heart at Hahn’s Mill.” Anyone familiar with church history is aware of the massacre of innocent Mormons that occurred at the mill in 1838. A unruly mob descended on the mill and reportedly wounded or killed up to thirty defenseless people as well as assaulting or raping fleeing women. No one was ever brought to justice over the events of that day. It is the “wounded knee” of our people.

While violence is not the “way” of today, the oft quoted line from English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton is brought to my mind that “the pen is mightier than the sword. (From the play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy, 1839). As so often is the case, half truths and lies repeated over and over on television and written in papers, can often become the “truth” to the masses. I am left to ponder, as did Pilate, when he asked Jesus “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Often over the past few years I have not recognized the portrayal of the church to which I belong. But, the lesson to be learned from the past couple of years, to me, is that, even in a day of “enlightenment”; a day in which you can keep in touch with anyone and everyone around the entire globe 24/7, the truth can be hard to find. I’ve been reminded that if people can misunderstand who we are, than perhaps I can be guilty of the same thing.

As we go forward in life, it is important that we take the time to find out who our neighbors are, what they really believe and then show respect for their beliefs, even if we don’t agree. It is equally important to live exemplary lives so that we can have the same positive impact on those that don’t know much about us. Perhaps we can have the kind of influence that change how they look at us. Perhaps we can inspire them to be as passionate as Dee Brown became after meeting Indians that didn’t fit the stereotype. May we afford the same respect to others!

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