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November 20, 2005

Vine Deloria, Jr., 1933-2005

v_deloria.jpg "Western civilization, unfortunately, does not link knowledge and morality but rather, it connects knowledge and power and makes them equivalent." — Vine Deloria, Jr.

One of the first writers who truly inspired me is gone, a week ago. From the obituary in Indian Country Today:

"Deloria, the world-renown Dakota author and scholar from the Standing Rock Reservation, made a huge contribution to the Native peoples of North America and the world. His intellectual output, at once free-ranging with creativity and yet tight with academic rigor, pinned down the legal and historical bases desperately needed by the national Indian discourse. He provided a great piece of the intellectual locomotion upon which a moving platform of American Indian/Native studies research, publishing, production and teaching has been constituted.

"His writing is legendary, launched by the 1969 classic Custer Died For Your Sins, which plugged directly into the common imagination of the American Indian Movement in the 1960s and early 1970s. Along with We Talk, You Listen and Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties, these early Deloria works informed, during those crucial years, the widest cross-section of activists, students and older community leaders and traditional authorities.

"For a movement that had disparate and very independent bases in Indian country, where political persuasions ran the full spectrum of left to right and front to back, Deloria's deliberate, well-reasoned tone, backed by acerbic wit and genuine self-effacement, hit the formative chord."

Posted by Chris Clarke at November 20, 2005 05:52 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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"But Indians have been cursed above all other people in history. Indians have anthropologists." (from Custer Died..., 1969, p. 83) That one always stung a little, but I understood what he was saying. Nevertheless, had it not been for the dreaded anthropologist, much of what is now revered as Native American culture would not have been preserved.

I spent time with old women who told me their children and grandchildren didn't care (about "those old things"), but now those same children and grandchildren are glad I recorded the old things.

They do not consider anthropologists to be a "curse."

Posted by: Miguel Alondra at November 20, 2005 06:44 PM
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i first encountered deloria through a quote, which i don't recall. what i do recall is the brilliance of his words. there was no indication of his ethnicity or his backround, i learned that later.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at November 20, 2005 06:45 PM
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Thank you Chris for honoring this fine author and academic. Deloria's efforts to "tell" a different story, than the "offical" doctrine of US history, informed and inspired my own efforts in studying, and teaching, ethnohistory and the history of american indian religions. When i was engaged in my fieldwork in the Dakotas in the early 70's, i found his support invaluable: an introductory letter from him opened a great many invaluable conversations. He was deeply and passionately respected by tribal leaders and other american indian social justice activists, as well as by the emerging american indian studies scholars at universities and colleges around the U.S.

Posted by: spyder at November 21, 2005 12:40 PM
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