Deloria, Vine, Jr. James A. Phillips - Essay

James A. Phillips

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

If ["Custer Died for your Sins: an Indian Manifesto"] is indicative of Deloria's methods, he's more interested in results than in being tactful.

Nauseated by the traditional Indian image, he asserts the worth if not the dignity of the redman and blasts the political, social, and religious forces that perpetuate the Little Big Horn and wigwam stereotyping of his people. Admittedly and intentionally he offends the people from whom help might come—Congress, anthropologists, and churches. When he's not specifically attacking these groups, he's vituperative about the general society that allows other groups to have predicaments, problems, or troubles, but insists that Indians have a "plight."… The threat of Indian insurrection is more latent than tacit, and understandably so if we can believe his lengthy discussion of how Indians have been neglected, cheated, and starved in a society so concerned with improving the lot of minority groups such as the Blacks….

Although Deloria's subject is serious, he approaches it nonformally. In fact, he devotes a chapter to Indian humor in addition to generously sprinkling anecdotes and one-liners into his commentary….

The plea of this book is retribalization of the people and recolonization of unsettled areas of the nation while Indians fear-fully note the ever-present dangers of reservation entanglements and the black power movement. Indians must learn to employ unity as a weapon, something they have hitherto feared for minor, selfish reasons. If more voices as strong as Deloria's are heard, there may yet be a place in America for Indians. (p. 270)

James A. Phillips, "'Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto'," in Best Sellers (copyright 1969, by the University of Scranton), Vol. 29, No. 14, October 15, 1969, pp. 270-71.