Edward Abbey (review date 9 November 1969)
SOURCE: A review of Custer Died For Your Sins, in New York Times Book Review, November 9, 1969, p. 46.
[In the following review, Abbey asserts that in Custer Died For Your Sins, Deloria "writes with much humor and even sympathy for what he believes to be the white Americans' pathetic inability to feel and understand the true nature of the situation we are living in."]
Even our Indians are turning against us now. Red Power. All the chickens coming home to roost. In Custer Died For Your Sins the author reminds us—and Vine Deloria, former executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, is himself an Indian—that America was discovered not by Columbus, not by Leif Ericson, but by the Indians—over 20,000 years ago. This simple fact has somehow eluded the rest of us, perhaps because the original discoverers of this continent were regarded by the English settlers not as people or human beings but simply as part of the wild life, i.e., as animals.
"They used to shoot us for our feathers," Mr. Deloria complains, going on to point out that the practice of scalping, for instance, was invented in New England by white men. Why? For the same reason that mountain-lion trappers in Arizona nowadays remove the scalps of their victims, as proof of kill, in order to collect the bounty.
Details such as these were never mentioned in our public-school history classes. Why not? The word "genocide" is used a little too easily and carelessly these days (it flows trippingly on the tongue); but in the case of the American Indians, particularly those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the path of our Pilgrim and Puritan forefathers, the term may not be inapplicable. How many Indians are left in New England? Along the Eastern seaboard?
The many parallels between the war in Vietnam and the war against the American...
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