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Open Wounds – A Native American Heritage – Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm

August 31st, 2009

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Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm’s  book portrays the current status and outlook of the American Indians. Resulting from 10 years of research and visits to Indian lands, the book was inspired by the writer’s great uncle Korczak Ziolkowski , sculptor of the Crazy Horse mountain carving  in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
The author provides a broad spectrum of Indian history, culture, traditions, subjugation, suffering, reservation poverty, failed government policies, education, emergence and the portent of a future of well-deserved dignity, respect and beginning signs of success. Personal interviews with members of the Apache, Chickasaw, Kiowa and Northern Cheyenne Nations add a potent insight into Indian feelings and opinions. Clearly evident throughout the book is Ziolkowska-Boehm’s admiration and esteem for American Indians, particularly for the pride they exhibit after suffering a “heritage of open wounds” over many years.

The publisher and author wish to acknowledge with thanks the support of Homer Flute – member of the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Chief Executive Officer/Trustee of the SCMD Trust, a Native American nonprofit organization.

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  • John R. Alley, PhD, Utah State University says on: September 26, 2009 at 3:46 pm

     

    I was intrigued by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm’s observations of American history, Native Americans, and Indian country. The fact that they are the views of a well-educated European with a well-developed interest in such subjects, rather than of a scholarly expert or an American insider, Indian or not, adds another dimension of interest to them.

  • Bruce E. Johansen, PhD, University of Nebraska says on: September 26, 2009 at 3:48 pm

     

    Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm takes us across the United States, visiting Indian Country, with insight and compassion, raising many issues along the way with the eye of a traveler from overseas (the book first appeared in Poland). Few people in this country know that the first craftsmen at Jamestown were from Poland, or that the family of Polish ancestry (relatives of hers) are carving a huge memorial to Crazy Horse in South Dakota. The book includes a number of wide-ranging interviews with people who are well known in Indian Country. This book provides fascinating reading from fresh perspectives. The interview with Rod Trahan is one of the most enlightening slices of reservation reality I have read in a long time.

  • Wydawnictwo DEBIT, Bielsko Biala, Poland says on: September 26, 2009 at 3:50 pm

     

    Good reading not only for lovers of books on Indians. It describes the history and rich culture of the indigenous peoples of America against their current situation in American society. The author tries to eradicate stereotypes, makes readers aware of Indian contributions to the history of the United States and, at the same time, emphasizes difficulties they are forced to cope with in order to preserve their autonomy and cultivate old traditions. What plays a significant role is the autobiographical aspect which explains the author’s personal commitment in Indians lives.

  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, PhD, Author, National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter says on: September 26, 2009 at 3:51 pm

     

    As always, it is very well written.

  • Radoslaw Palonka, PhD, Jagiellonian University, Krakow says on: September 26, 2009 at 3:52 pm

     

    The book is the result of curiosity of the Indian world, and a try to understand the problems that are facing modern Indians. The author does not stop with a critique of the current situation but tries to look for the recipe for resolution and salvation. Her attempts are shown in the second part of the book by interviews with authors who know about Indians, as well as with Indians of several Nations. Giving voice to the Indians is for sure a great attribute of her book. Not minimized is the negative involvement of the American government and its policies whom the author blames for the current situation. Also, she blames the often mistaken writing/reporting by American writers.

  • Angelia Baldwin says on: September 26, 2009 at 7:44 pm

     

    Spending part of my life growing up on the Cass Lake Indian reservation and being of Cree decent, I can appreciate the message and the plight of our people contained in this book. My grandmother who was a Native Medicine Woman taught me many things growing up. Many things have been lost in our culture, which I have tried to teach my grandchildren, but I am also painfully aware of the stigma that goes along with claiming our heritage. My hope is that one day books like this will assist in peoples understanding of the hardships that the Indian people have faced in the past as well as present day, so that we many all live together with compassion towards one another.

  • Audrey Ronning Topping, Photojournalist, author of books about China and Tibet says on: December 6, 2009 at 7:32 pm

     

    I found the book really beautifully written, touching, absorbing and scholarly. The personal connection made it even more interesting.

  • Wash Gjebre says on: December 9, 2009 at 5:14 pm

     

    Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm has done a thorough job of sharply focusing on the plight of the Native American in the U.S. and, indeed, it is a sad state of affairs.

    Wash Gjebre, retired “Post-Gazette” staff writer, Greensburg, Pennsylvania

  • Stanley Weintraub, professor, author, biographer & historian says on: December 9, 2009 at 5:17 pm

     

    In a memorable line almost worth the book by itself, Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm has written, “Only in America can a person sculpt a mountain.” Her great-uncle, Korczak Ziolkowski, “a Polish orphan from Boston,” began the colossal memorial to near-legendary Sioux chieftain Crazy Horse in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Ziolkowski had a more famous predecessor. Also in the craggy Black Hills, Gutzon Borglum, an Idaho sculptor of Danish descent, carved into Mount Rushmore the images of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt; and earlier, on Stone Mountain in Georgia, the marching figures of Robert E. Lee and his Confederates. For Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm, however, the enormous sculpture of Crazy Horse is the starting point for a moving lament, framed by human faces from the land, about the conditions under which Native Americans, whose cultural and tribal lands were ravaged by settlers from abroad. Europeans, she observes strikingly, nevertheless adopted into their own culture some tribal laws and traditions from “Indians” who now live theoretically autonomous lives but in reality are wards of their conquerors–the most open of wounds.

  • Robert Ackerman, Forest Conservationist, New Alexandria, Pennsylvania says on: December 12, 2009 at 10:50 pm

     

    It’s sad but true that our society hasn’t even begun to realize what harm has been done to the Native Americans starting at the beginning of the European colonization here. Aleksandra’s book will be a big help, I think, for educating the American public.

  • Homer Flute, Apache, Trustee/CEO Sand Creek Massacre Descendants Trust, Anandarko, Oklahoma says on: December 16, 2009 at 7:58 pm

     

    The book „Open Wounds” depicts many of the past and present problems facing Native Americans as minorities in their own country, where bias, envy and jealousies are still strong influences among the Indian people, as portrayed in the author’s story about Crazy Horse being betrayed by his own people. This still happens today. Many non-Indians are misinformed about Indians and reservations because their only source of information comes from fictional movies and books. This leads to false perceptions that stereotype Indians reservations as the typical Indian camp with teepees and the Indians as the typical “hang around the fort Indian” waiting for the handout from government. These fictional movies and books do more harm to the Indian’s dignity by categorizing him as a lazy alcoholic with no ambition. In reality, all nationalities have a percentage of their people that fit in this particular category. Government run Indian schools have been both positive and negative the positive is that the schools have educated many of our Indian youth and gave them hope for a future, but the negative aspect is that the government run Indian schools deprived the Indian youths of their cultural heritage and ancestral language. This book outlines the tragic obstacles encountered by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski while carving the statue of the Lakota Sioux war chief Crazy Horse. The sculptor experienced many similar situations that parallel the Indians’ situation.

  • reviewed by Florence Waszkelewicz Clowes, MLIS says on: April 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm

     

    This is a complex history of the treatment and lives of Native Americans ever since the land was discovered. It contains a wealth of information the author and her husband gathered over many years from interviews, research, histories, and interviews with Native Americans or those who worked closely with them while traveling about the country.

    The plight of the Indians was caused by the American government in their treatment and disregard for their culture. People were routed to the wastelands of the continent; given reservations which the Government would withdraw if they wanted that piece of land. These reservations are usually remote areas, where the Indians received little support for housing, education or work. Consequently, many resorted to liquor or drugs. Today, there is hope for some tribes, with their casinos bringing in much-needed money. But not all tribes are so lucky. They still live without hope or inspiration.

    From the early 1900s children were taken from their parents and schooled in American school, forcing them to speak English and punished for any Indian rituals the children would observe. Many of these children ran away, wishing to retain their heritage. Others assimilated, went to college and returned to the reservation, with plans of improving the health and education of the reservation Indians. Some of course, disclaimed their heritage and joined the American society. Today these schools still exist, but more emphasis is now on retaining their language and culture.

    The personal adventures of the Boehms bring life to this history. Korczak Ziolkowski is a relative of Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehms and she provides a history of that undertaking. The sculpture of Crazy Horse in the Black Hills of South Dakota will be ten times larger than the presidents’ heads on Mt. Rushmore. Today, the construction continues, under the supervision of Korczak’s wife, Ruth and her children. No government funds are provided, rather, funding comes from the small gift shop in the shape of an Indian Hogan.

    A chapter is dedicated to the Indian Code Talkers during World War II. They developed codes from the Indian language that were used in Europe and the Pacific. The code was the brainstorm of Philip Johnson, the son of Protestant missionaries, who grew up on the Navaho reservation. He approached General Vogel with the idea of the Navaho language code. With twenty-nine Indians. they began to create a code, successfully used in war areas.

    The efforts of Ziolkowska-Boehm in compiling this information is to be highly commended.

  • Larry Cunningham, Open Wounds, THE MORNING STAR, April 2010 says on: April 23, 2010 at 5:29 pm

     

    “Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm, author of Open Wounds reveals her perspective on Native Americans and Indian Reservations in this potpourri of stories, interviews and observations. The fact that she is a Native of Poland and received her Ph.D. from Warsaw University makes the book in the words of John R. Alley of Utah State University ring true (…) Dr. Ziolkowska writes with compassion and passion when it comes to Native American issues. That developed in part because it was her great-uncle, Korczak Ziolkowski, who began the monumental sculpture of Crazy Horse in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
    Whether reading about her great uncle’s lifelong desire to honor Crazy Horse, or learning about the Code Talkers of World War ll, you will find Dr. Ziolkowska’s book informative, lively and packed full of interesting information.
    Finally you will find her chapter on St. Labre Indian School to be informative and reflective of her unique perspective. Several of her interviews in the book are with people either formerly or currently affiliated with St. Labre”.

  • E.T. says on: April 23, 2010 at 5:33 pm

     

    “Ziolkowska-Boehm is a popular Polish writer with a gift for empathy and praiseworthy industriousness. Her books are numerous. By an accident of life she encountered American Indians and decided to dig deeper. The result is a very readable account of their plight and tragedy. While the tragedy is irreversible; it is good to see a book that gently lectures the winners. Ziolkowska-Boehm’s book makes us reflect on the injustices of life and fate, perhaps prompting us to do a few things to remedy them”.
    SARMATIAN REVIEW, April 2010

  • Michal Sikorski, former editor-in-chief of "International Relations" Monthly (Poland) says on: December 27, 2010 at 8:20 pm

     

    I am not sure if there is any other country in Europe, where Indians are hold in a such unique esteem as in Poland. And when we add family connections with Korczak Ziołkowski, there is no surprise that Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm has decided to bring up that topic. This is not only great piece of Indians’ story, this is a great piece of literature.

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