Vine Deloria, Jr. Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Vine Victor Deloria, Jr. (duh-LAWR-ee-uh), was born in 1933 on the edge of the Pine Ridge Reservation in Martin, South Dakota. He was a Standing Rock Sioux, and his father was a minister with the Episcopalian church. Deloria’s education was varied, and he proved to be one of America’s outstanding intellectuals. He attended a preparatory school in Connecticut for the last two years of high school. In 1951 he and his family moved from the reservation in South Dakota to Iowa, where he later graduated from Iowa State University. He served in the United States Marine Corps and later attended the Lutheran College of Theology. Deloria also attended the University of Colorado School of Law. Many of his ideas were strengthened during his college career. His impression of the European American Christian culture was that it did not truly relate to the everyday lives of American Indian people, even though most had been persuaded, if not forced, to convert to Christianity.

Deloria disputed commonly held beliefs about American Indian cultures. He challenged others, both Indian and non-Indian, to question stereotypes about “Indian-ness” as he does. He was a member of many Indian organizations. In 1963 Deloria was part of the United Scholarship Service, which assisted American Indian and Chicano students in attending Eastern preparatory schools. In 1966 he became the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, working with individual tribes on legislation. It was also in this year that the Red Power movement began. The political climate in the United States fostered change, and many Native American communities and organizations took advantage. Deloria was a long time supporter of activist groups and was often referred to as a spokesperson for American Indians.

Custer Died for Your Sins was Deloria’s first book. He examines the roles of missionaries, anthropologists, and government agents in shaping ideas about “Indian-ness.” Deloria argues that these ideas are false and challenges his readers to think about their own origins. The goal of the missionaries was to “save” the individual through...

(The entire section is 880 words.)