Deloria, Vine, Jr. Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Vine Deloria, Jr. 1933–

American Indian young adult and adult nonfiction writer and editor.

Deloria is representative of a new breed of American Indian: well-educated and concerned for the plight of the Indian forced to live in a white man's system. In his writings, Deloria argues for the return of sacred grounds and an isolationist policy that would enable his people to function as a separate nation within the United States. A Standing Rock Sioux born and raised on a reservation, Deloria is particularly qualified to enlighten the public on the Indian's present status in our society. Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Deloria trained for a career as a minister. After receiving his degree in divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology, however, he realized a more effective means of serving the Indian's cause was through the legal system, and consequently earned a law degree from the University of Colorado. As executive director of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C., Deloria turned that nearly defuct organization into a forceful voice for the Indian tribes.

Deloria has stated that his exposure to Western culture has served to reaffirm his childhood commitment to the traditional Indian way of life. The main premise of his writings is the need for an Indian cultural nationalism, as opposed to the intellectual assimilation of minorities advocated by the white establishment. Deloria approaches the issues from a religious and legal standpoint. He believes that Christianity is no longer practical, with its promise of heaven so remote from everyday life in an industrial society, and that the naturalism of Indian religion is the only hope for Western civilization. Deloria also believes the government should honor the various treaties made with the Indians concerning their lands. Despite the seriousness of his subjects, Deloria's writing is informal and often wryly humorous, making it accessible to any reader interested in the modern Indian. Although many people do not agree with his ideas, Deloria is nevertheless respected for the sincerity and integrity of his works. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 53-56.)