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Explores how a pivotal event in U.S. historythe killing of nearly 300 Shoshoni men, women, and children in 1863has been contested, forgotten, and remembered.
At dawn on January 29, 1863, Union-affiliated troops under the command of Col. Patrick Connor were brought by Mormon guides to the banks of the Bear River, where, with the tacit approval of Abraham Lincoln, they attacked and slaughtered nearly three hundred Northwestern Shoshoni men, women, and children. Evidence suggests that, in the hours after the attack, the troops raped the surviving womenan act still denied by some historians and Shoshoni elders. In exploring why a seminal act of genocide is still virtually unknown to the U.S. public, Kass Fleisher chronicles the massacre itself, and investigates the National Park Service's proposal to create a National Historic Site to commemorate the massacrebut not the rape. When she finds herself arguing with a Shoshoni woman elder about whether the rape actually occurred, Fleisher is forced to confront her own role as a maker of this conflicted history, and to examine the legacy of white women "busybodies."
“…can teach much to readers interested in the politics of history and historical commemoration … [Fleisher’s] text provokes and cajoles readers in an attempt to offer a ‘more self-reflexive narrative.’” — Law and History Review
“This is a very troubling book. As the author intended it to be. As it should be … [Fleisher] lures the reader into her spiraling meditation on the relativity of ‘truth,’ history, feminism, and—most important of all—storytelling itself.” — Southern Humanities Review
“The Bear River Massacre and the Making of History does raise important questions that historians need to address. Kass Fleisher reminds us that forgetting Bear River is, perhaps, as much of a tragedy as the massacre itself.” — Western Historical Quarterly
"Fleisher's background as a novelist situates her outside of the academic coterie that writes and validates history. She is what Anishinaabe writer Gerald Vizenor might call a storier, and she puts her skills to work by crafting a book that integrates elements of journalism, historical scholarship, memoir, and feminist criticism." Rain Taxi
"In this remarkable book, Fleisher exposes and analyzes perhaps the best concealed mass rape in the U.S. experience. Her probing analysis forces us to consider how racism and sexism have converged to silence victims, protect abusers of power, and advance the interests of colonialism." Maria Bevacqua, author of Rape on the Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics of Sexual Assault
"This is a troubling book in the way that any stirring-up troubles surfaces, whether surface understandings, feelings, memories, or the wounds that mark the white space of conventional history like strangled words. These are stories you feel, which Fleisher has felt, stirrings and troublings that flow from the wounds of the raped and dead, over space and time, eventually becoming a dark blanket from which, again and again, a dreamer awakens and walks forth. We are the dreamer awakening, we are the massacred, ours are these stirring stories." Michael Joyce, author of Moral Tales and Meditations: Technological Parables and Refractions
"The most intriguing dimension is the thrust, from a fascinating variety of viewpoints, to achieve redemptiona great and signal effort encompassing and, however awkwardly, transcending race and ethnicity, religion and non-religion, tribal generations and tribal factions and, very basically, the skeletal hand of History." Hunter Gray, activist and author (as John R. Salter Jr.) of Jackson, Mississippi
Kass Fleisher is an Assistant Professor of English at Illinois State University.