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Tribal leaders recall Deloria as powerful advocate


Tribal and Indian leaders recalled Vine Deloria Jr. as one of the most powerful advocates for Indian rights.

"Vine Deloria will always be remembered as one of the superb tribal leaders of our time and one of the most effective executive directors of the National Congress of American Indians," said Joe Garcia, the newly elected president of NCAI. "His efforts and accomplishments at NCAI and throughout Indian Country are the reason we are still around today. When you add up all of Vine's achievements on behalf of the betterment of Indian tribes and their people, it is almost impossible to grasp. He will truly be missed."

Deloria brought credibility to Native knowledge, says Dr. Rosita Worl, the co-chair of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Commission, a federal panel. "He made Native knowledge and understanding something to be accepted -- he made it more than a fairy tale," said Worl. "Our knowledge now has standing in the same way that science has standing. He was such an intellectual force in bringing native knowledge to the forefront."

Deloria's work extended into Indian education, where he left an indelible mark, said Ryan Wilson, the president of the National Indian Education Association. "Thousands of Indian students have been, or will be, touched and inspired by his work," Wilson said. "He is the first Indian scholar who transcended race and penetrated the elite academic circles in higher education. His work breached the segregated walls of Indian studies and used throughout many academic fields, forever raising the bar for present and future Indian scholars."

Jackie Johnson, the current executive director of NCAI, said she was "more than humbled to follow in the footsteps of such a great leader and want to extend NCAI's deepest sympathy to Vine's family at this time." She added: "While we mourn his passing, it is also appropriate to celebrate his life, his love for Indian people and his sharp wit, which led to profound change for Indians in the 20th Century. We will tirelessly continue his hard work."

Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also paid tribute. "With the death this week of Vine Deloria, Jr., the Native American community has lost one of its most passionate and articulate voices. By standing up against centuries of stereotypes about American Indians, Deloria helped shed the cloak of misunderstanding and bigotry that for too long kept the light of equality and opportunity from shining on American Indians. In doing so, Deloria helped improve the lives of countless Native Americans throughout this country, and helped advance a vision of an America in which all of our people can live together in harmony and understanding. Today, I join Native Americans across the country in mourning his passing," he said.

Vine Deloria's life will be celebrated at 3:30pm Friday, November 18, at the Mount Vernon Event Center in Golden, Colorado. (17173 Mount Vernon Road, 303.467.2680).

Contributions, in lieu of flowers, are suggested to the Vine Deloria Scholarship Fund, c/o The American Indian Scholarship Fund, Attn: Rick Williams, 8333 Greenwood Blvd., Denver, CO 80221.

Indian Country Today Articles from January 10, 2005:
Wilma Mankiller: An original thinker with a warrior's spirit
Suzan Shown Harjo: Selective memories of Vine Deloria Jr.
Faith Spotted Eagle: Deksi (Uncle) Vine
Charlie Wilkins: Visionary thinker and wordsmith par excellence
Hank Adams: A Vine Deloria Jr. collaboration: The first decade
John Mohawk: Vine Deloria Jr.'s unfolding legacy
Philip Deloria: Tales of a remarkable father
Norbert Hill: A hero to many

Related Stories:
Rick Williams: On the passing of Vine Deloria Jr. (11/16)
Editorial: Deloria changed how America views Indians (11/16)
Art Coulson: Safe journey for Vine Deloria Jr. (11/16)
Appreciation: Deloria an influential American (11/16)
Indian Country: In memoriam Vine Deloria Jr. (11/16)
Editorial: Deloria contributed to all Americans (11/16)
Vine DeLoria: Spoke for a nation of Natives (11/15)
Deloria hailed as 'visionary' for role in Indian affairs (03/11)
Jodi Rave: Deloria unknown because he's Indian (01/24)
Vine Deloria is ICT's American Indian Visionary (01/10)
Column: Vine Deloria refuses honorary degree (05/25)