Deloria, Vine, Jr. Jean K. Boek - Essay

Jean K. Boek

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[We Talk, You Listen: New Tribes, New Turf] is another product of an era in which advocates are being heard for black power, women's lib, senior power, unionization of teachers, gay liberation, consumer's rights, and unification of higher education. It is also observable that some of these advocates wish their audience simply to accept their version of the situation without being given the opportunity of examining it further. In common with these, Vine Deloria, Jr. gives the reader a view of Indian problems without providing independent means of assessing this information. Hence, as he hops from one topic to the next under the rubrics of the communications gap, stereotyping, black power, and the artificial universe, among others, he provides few clues as to the basics of who, when, where and what. Because of this, it is difficult to learn much from the examples cited, or, indeed, to be very certain of the accuracy of their reporting.

These difficulties are further compounded by his occasional use of sarcasm…. Moreover, his polarization and simplification of events becomes perhaps more entertaining than enlightening….

Even when he discusses various programs aimed to ameliorate problems, one is not told his sources of information in order to follow up on these….

If a person is not bothered by the feeling that he is being toyed with and largely left in the dark, he might be able to read to the end of Chapter 11 where he is told that,

The ultimate conclusion of American society will be that even with respect to personal safety it was much safer and more humane when Indians controlled the whole continent. The only answer will be to adopt Indian ways to survive. For the white man even to exist, he must adopt a total Indian way of life….

If taken seriously, one can begin by assaying the pre-Columbian commonalities between Aztecs and Athabaskans as well as of inhabitants of the palisaded villages that lay between.

Jean K. Boek, "Ethnology: 'We Talk, You Listen: New Tribes, New Turf'," in American Anthropologist (copyright 1975 by the American Anthropological Association; reproduced by permission of the American Anthropological Association), Vol. 77, No. 1, 1975, p. 109.