vine deloria jr

Vine Deloria, Jr.


Vine Deloria, Jr. (March 26, 1933November 13, 2005) was an American Indian author, theologian, historian, and activist.

Biography and writing

Deloria was the grandson of Tipi Sapa (Black Lodge) aka Rev. Philip Joseph Deloria, an Episcopal priest and a leader of the Yankton band of the Nakota Nation. Vine Jr. was born in Martin, South Dakota, near the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Indian Reservation, and was first educated at reservation schools. Deloria's father, Vine Sr., studied English and Christian theology, became an Episcopal archdeacon and missionary on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, to which he transferred the family's tribal citizenship. Deloria Jr. originally sought to be a minister, like his father, and in 1963 received a theology degree from the Lutheran School of Theology in Rock Island, Illinois. (He had first graduated from Iowa State University in 1958.) His aunt was the anthropologist Ella Deloria. Deloria earned a law degree from the University of Colorado in 1970. From 1964 to 1967, Deloria was Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians. His son, Philip Deloria is also a respected historian.

In 1969, Deloria published his first of more than twenty books, entitled Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. This book became one of Deloria's most famous works. In it, Deloria addressed Indian stereotypes and challenged white audiences to take a new look at the history of American western expansionism. The American Anthropological Association sponsored a panel in response to Custer Died for Your Sins.

In 1999, Deloria argued in his book Red Earth, White Lies, that rather than entering the Americas via the Bering Strait, Native Americans, as some of their creation stories suggested, originated in the Americas (he also takes a Young Earth stance on the time span of human origins).

Deloria wrote and edited many subsequent books, focusing on many issues as they relate to Native Americans, such as education and religion. He was involved with many Native American organizations, and was a board member of the National Museum of the American Indian beginning in 1977. Deloria taught at the University of Arizona from 1978 to 1990, and then taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In 1999, he received the Wordcraft Circle Writer of the Year Award in the category of prose and personal/critical essays for his work Spirit and Reason. He was honorably mentioned on October 12, 2002 at the 2002 National Book Festival and also received the Wallace Stegner award from the Center of the American West in Boulder on October 23, 2002. He was the winner of the 2003 American Indian Festival of Words Author Award.

After Deloria retired in May 2000, he continued to write and lecture until he died on November 13, 2005.


Deloria was criticized for his embrace of American Indian creationism. Deloria often cited Christian creationist authors in support of his views relating to science. Deloria also relied on Hindu creationists such as Michael Cremo. Deloria was further criticized for his reliance on authors of pseudoscience such as Zecharia Sitchin and Immanuel Velikovsky. Deloria cited Sitchin to argue that white people were created by space aliens. Deloria also believed that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time, and that the stegosaurus still existed in the 19th century..

The Rocky Mountain News berated Deloria for "the utterly wacky nature of some of his views,” and “his contempt for much science. John Whittaker referred to Deloria's "Red Earth White Lies" as "a wretched piece of Native American creationist claptrap that has all the flaws of the Biblical creationists he disdains...Deloria's style is drearily familiar to anyone who has read the Biblical creationist literature...At the core is a wishful attempt to discredit all science because some facts clash with belief systems. A few points will suffice to show how similar Deloria is to outspoken creationist author Duane Gish or any of his ilk.


  • "The twentieth century has produced a world of conflicting visions, intense emotions, and unpredictable events, and the opportunities for grasping the substance of life have faded as the pace of activity has increased." -from the intro to Neihardt's Black Elk Speaks.
  • "The massive amount of useless knowledge produced by anthropologists attempting to capture real Indians in a network of theories has contributed substantially to the invisibility of Indian people today." -paragraph 22 of chapter 4, titled "Anthropologists and Other Friends" from Custer Died for Your Sins.
  • "Scientists, and I use the word as loosely as possible, are committed to the view that Indians migrated to this country over an imaginary Bering Straits bridge, which comes and goes at the convenience of the scholar requiring it to complete his or her theory. Initially, at least, Indians are homogenous. But there are also eight major language families within the Western Hemisphere, indicating to some scholars that if Indians followed the trend that can be identified in other continents, then the migration went from east to west; tourists along the Bering straits were going TO Asia, not migrating FROM it."
  • "It is becoming increasingly apparent that we shall not have the benefits of this world for much longer. The imminent and expected destruction of the life cycle of world ecology can only be prevented by a radical shift in outlook from our present naive conception of this world as a testing ground to a more mature view of the universe as a comprehensive matrix of life forms. Making this shift in viewpoint is essentially religious, not economic or political.."


Secondary Literature

  • DeMallie, Raymond J. (2006) "Vine Deloria Jr. (1933-2005)." American Anthropologist, Vol. 108, No. 4: 932-935.
  • Indians and Anthropologists: Vine Deloria, Jr., and the Critique of Anthropology, ed. by Thomas Biolsi, Larry J. Zimmerman, University of Arizona Press 1997, ISBN 0816516073
  • Destroying Dogma: Vine Deloria, Jr. and His Influence on American Society, ed. by Steve Pavlik, Daniel R. Wildcat, Fulcrum Publishing 2006, ISBN 1555915191

See also


External links

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