A Century of Dishonor

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A Century of Dishonor
Author Helen Hunt Jackson
Country United States
Language English
Subject Injustices to the Native Americans in the United States.
Genre Non-fiction
Published 1881 (publication year)
Media type Print (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-4209-4438-9

A Century of Dishonor is a non-fiction book by Helen Hunt Jackson first published in 1881 that chronicled the experiences of Native Americans in the United States, focusing on injustices.

Jackson wrote A Century of Dishonor in an attempt to change government ideas/policy toward Native Americans at a time when effects of the 1871 Indian Appropriations Act (making the entire Native American population wards of the nation) had begun to draw the attention of the public. Jackson attended a meeting in Boston in 1879 at which Standing Bear, a Ponca, told how the federal government forcibly removed his tribe from its ancestral homeland in the wake of the creation of the Great Sioux Reservation. After meeting Standing Bear, she conducted research at the Astor Library in New York and was shocked by the story of government mistreatment that she found.[1] She wrote in a letter, "I shall be found with 'Indians' engraved on my brain when I am dead.—A fire has been kindled within me which will never go out."[2]

Jackson sent a copy of her book to every member of Congress, at her own expense. She hoped to awaken the conscience of the American people, and their representatives, to the flagrant wrongs that had been done to the American Indians, and persuade them "to redeem the name of the United States from the stain of a century of dishonor".[3]

The book consists primarily of the tribal histories of seven different tribes. Among the incidents it depicts is the eradication of Praying Town Indians in the colonial period, despite their recent conversion to Christianity, because it was assumed that all Indians were the same. Her book brought to light the moral injustices enacted upon the Native Americans as it chronicled the ruthlessness of white settlers in their greed for land, wealth, and power.

Upon its publication, A Century of Dishonor received some adverse criticism and was dismissed as "sentimental". But it had some effect in shaking the moral senses of America, and in 1881 Congress acted to remedy, in part, the situation of the Ponca people.[1] However, it did not have quite the impact that Jackson wanted, which spurred her to write an emotional appeal to action in Ramona.[4]

Long out of print, A Century of Dishonor was first reprinted in 1964 by Ross & Haines of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in a limited printing of 2,000 copies.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Falk, Julia S. (1999). Women, Language and Linguistics: Three American Stories from the First Half of the Twentieth Century, pp. 95-98. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-13315-7.
  2. ^ Schmitz, Neil (2001). White Robe's Dilemma: Tribal History in American Literature, p. 88. University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 1-55849-291-7.
  3. ^ Prucha, Francis Paul (1986). The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians, p. 208. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-8712-7.
  4. ^ Davis, Carlyle Channing; Alderson, William A. (1914). "CHAPTER V: WHERE RAMONA WAS WRITTEN". The True Story of "Ramona". Dodge Publishing Co. Retrieved 2007-05-19.