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Opinion: Deloria introduced us to Indian Country

"At a time when Americans could use a few laughs to help a lot of bad medicine go down, we have lost one of our wisest wits.

Vine Deloria Jr., a Standing Rock Sioux who authored more than 20 books about the Native American experience, died Sunday in Golden, Colo. He was 72 and had recently been hospitalized with an aortic aneurysm.

If his name does not spring quickly out of your memory, maybe you have heard of his most famous book, "Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto." Oh, yeah. That guy.

Published in 1969, "Custer" was a milestone, adding a rare and powerful Indian voice to the rising chorus of group empowerment (black, Hispanic, feminist, etc.) at the tail end of a turbulent decade.

After centuries of fending off physical and cultural genocide, full-blooded, tribally registered Native American writers were about as rare as white running backs in today's National Football League.

Deloria offered the descendants of the continent's original residents a new way to think of themselves on their own terms, divorced from melting-pot mythologies or the "redskin" stereotypes still embodied in the nicknames of certain sports teams.

He also introduced the rest of us to a people we hardly knew, despite years of all-American affection for Tonto, Pocahontas, Sitting Bull and other Indian heroes, real or imagined."

Get the Story:
Clarence Page: Vine Deloria Jr.'s wise, witty voice opened our eyes (Tribune Media Services 11/17)

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)