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American Holocaust

In the good ol’ US of A, Thanksgiving gives many people a warm fuzzy feeling—good food, good company (usually), good memories. But Thanksgiving doesn’t evoke good memories for the indigenous peoples who faced massive slaughter following European contact with the Americas. David Stannard documents the destruction in this book, which makes a much more enlightening alternative to watching football this November 28.

I normally use shorter quotes, but I do hope you will take the time to read this longer one, as it is well worth it:

To put this in a contemporary context, the ratio of native survivorship in the Americas following European contact was less than half of what the human survivorship ratio would be in the United States today if every single white person and every single black person died. The destruction of the Indians of the Americas was, far and away, the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world. That is why, as one historian aptly has said, far from the heroic and romantic heraldry that customarily is used to symbolize the European settlement of the Americas, the emblem most congruent with reality would be a pyramid of skulls.

David Stannard, Prologue

Stannard, David. (1992). American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

American Holocaust is such a great book—it is the American history book I wish I would have had in school, because it tells American history the way it really happened, in all its uncomfortable, gory detail. It’s not the whitewashed, glorified, “winner writes the history books” fairytales with the first Thanksgiving and “friendly” and “unfriendly” Native Americans who exist like video game NPCs to be used and abused at will. The arrival of Columbus did not herald an era of discovery and enlightenment, but an era of pain and suffering, the shameless theft of native lands, and the unfeeling slaughter of entire nations of men, women, and children. It’s about time the history books started acknowledging that.

How it got published: A sorely-needed contribution to the literature
Rating: Timeless classic

Read more about National Day of Mourning at United American Indians of New England (

Review finished: 11.27.19
Review posted: 11.28.19

*In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that I, the author of this review, am a white person, not native or of native descent.

Published inNonfiction

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