When Ella Deloria was born in 1888 on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, the Sioux population was nearing its nadir. (The Wounded Knee Massacre in South Dakota occurred the following year.) Deloria’s parents were determined that the Sioux culture would thrive in their household. Deloria’s mother, Mary (Sully Bordeaux), reared the family in the tribal traditions and language even though she was only one-quarter Sioux. These Dakota views, along with Christian beliefs (Deloria’s father was an Episcopalian minister), strongly influenced Deloria’s life.
The year following her birth, Deloria’s father transferred to St. Elizabeth’s Church on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. There Deloria attended St. Elizabeth’s School until 1902, when she transferred to All Saints Boarding School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Graduating in 1910, Deloria then studied at Oberlin College in Ohio, the University of Chicago, Illinois, and Columbia Teachers College in New York.
Awarded a bachelor’s degree in 1915, Deloria returned to All Saints Boarding School to teach. Four years later, she moved to New York City to work for the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) as its health education secretary for native schools, a position that afforded Deloria exposure to several western reservations. In 1923, Haskell Indian School in Lawrence, Kansas, offered Deloria a teaching job in an experimental program designed to...
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