Author Vine Deloria Dies
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
One of the nation's most prominent Native Americans has died. The writings of Vine Deloria Jr. are credited with galvanizing a generation of American Indian activists and rallying non-Indians to Native causes. NPR's Howard Berkes has this look at Vine Deloria's life.
HOWARD BERKES reporting:
Vine Deloria Jr. had a lot of labels: Standing Rock Sioux, lawyer, theologian, scholar, activist, historian. He wrote more books than some people read, but his best-known work may be "Custer Died for Your Sins," written just before the turbulent era of Indian activism of the 1970s. Norbert Hill is a member of the Oneida Tribe and directs the American Indian Graduate Center in Albuquerque.
Mr. NORBERT HILL (American Indian Graduate Center): He helped us wake up from a great nap of oppression and I think he made us think about who we were as Indian people, that we could become educated, be part of the mainstream without giving up being Indians.
BERKES: Hill also credits Deloria with getting some non-Indians to look beyond stereotypes.
Mr. HILL: ...as well as educating mainstream people that we had something to say that was valid.
BERKES: Deloria served as executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. He's also remembered for an acerbic wit. He once dismissed government Indian policy-makers as history buffs, hobbyists and church representatives. `Indians,' he once wrote, `have been cursed above all other people because they have anthropologists focused on them.' Deloria was also direct. Here's a brief excerpt from a 1993 NPR documentary.
Mr. VINE DELORIA Jr.: If you would take the basic settler attitude in the Great Plains, it was total exploitation.
BERKES: Vine Deloria Jr. died at age 72 in Colorado Sunday after complications from surgery. Howard Berkes, NPR News.
MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.