Author Vine Deloria Dies

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Prominent Native American author Vine Deloria, Jr., who wrote Custer Died for Your Sins and many other books, died Sunday. Deloria's works are credited with galvanizing a generation of American Indian activists and rallying non-Indians to native causes.

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.

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