Dee Brown, 94, a university librarian who surged to international attention for his nonfictional account of the government's treatment of Native Americans in "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," died Dec. 12 at his home in Little Rock. He had heart disease.
Mr. Brown, who spent most of his career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said watching movie Westerns and meeting Native Americans while growing up in Arkansas prompted him to question why much of popular culture portrayed them as devils.
He wrote about 30 fiction and nonfiction books based on his knowledge of the Old West, but none captivated readers and set historical standards more than "Bury My Heart" (1971), which sold more than 5 million copies and was translated into 15 languages.
His description of the settling of the American West from the Indians' perspective challenged Western legends, including the prevailing view of Indians as savages and villains.
The book included Indian eyewitness accounts and quotes to construct a history from the indigenous point of view. More than an unquestioned history from Indian word of mouth, the book offered detailed documentation of tribal meetings and other sources to show a sophisticated culture acutely aware of the goals of Manifest Destiny, the U.S. expansionist policy toward the West.
The book brought the reader into the Indian inner circle by calling Gen. George A. Custer -- killed in the Battle of Little Big Horn -- by his Native American name, "Hard Backsides." Reviewers noted that the device was an effective way of promoting the Indian perspective.
Mr. Brown said he told himself nightly before writing: " 'I'm a very, very old Indian, and I'm remembering the past. And I'm looking toward the Atlantic Ocean.' . . . That's all I did."
Filmmakers and writers often consulted him as an expert on Native American history.
Dee Alexander Brown was born in Alberta, La., and grew up in Little Rock after his father died. He was a library science graduate of George Washington University and received a master's degree in library science from the University of Illinois.
He was a librarian for the Agriculture Department from 1934 to 1942 and for the War Department after Army service in World War II. From 1948 to 1972, he was an agriculture librarian at Illinois.
After placing third in a short story contest in the late 1930s, he wrote a satiric novel about Washington, which was accepted for publication but then dropped as the United States entered World War II. He instead turned around in two months a patriotic book about Davy Crockett, "Wave High the Banner" (1942).
The Washington satire was released to mixed reviews as "They Went Thataway" (1960) and republished as "Pardon My Pandemonium" (1984). The plot had a doctorate student trying to clear the name of fictional Gen. Charles Crawford Comstock ("Old Lightning and Grit"), whose missteps led to his troops' death in an Indian war. Government agents and foreign spies take notice because of a secret plot codenamed "Comstock."
His other works included "The Gentle Tamers: Women of the Old Wild West" (1958) and "Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow" (1977), which concluded that the transcontinental railroads "were built mainly for the purpose of financial exploitation."
Union Pacific executives, who called the book "sensationalized" and "intentionally distorted," denied him access to their company library for further research.
Survivors include two children.