Haskell Prof: Deloria unrecognized for work

"I am saddened by the death of Vine Deloria Jr. This sadness is compounded by the fact that outside of the indigenous communities, institutions and nations of North America, too few Americans really know what Deloria accomplished. Consequently, the general public cannot really appreciate what his passing represents, and this is a tragedy. I lost a friend and mentor, but the world lost one of the most important voices of the 20th century.

Deloria never called attention to himself - it was unnecessary. His words and ideas demanded the attention of anyone who came into contact with his intellectual energy, virtuosity and activism. Through five decades, Deloria articulated through his books and teachings the importance of tribal knowledge - wisdom, really. He called attention to American Indian ways of knowing and the knowledge produced not as museum or historical artifact, but as practical knowledge conducive to living well in this world.

Deloria encouraged several generations of indigenous scholars to take seriously their tribal traditions and reject the still-prevailing notion that success meant complete adoption of the culture of the dominant non-Native society. It would be impossible to list all the areas of American Indian affairs Deloria influenced, but a short list would include the American Indian Policy Review Commission (1975 - '77), the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978), the Indian Self-Governance Act (1988) and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990).

So why is one of the most important intellects and social justice activists of the last century, known and respected so widely among indigenous peoples of North America, still unrecognized - to a shameful extent - by the larger society? Think about it. It is a sign of how much popular stereotypes and thinking about the people of the first nations of America still needs to change. Rosa Parks received the nationwide attention her life and death deserved; the absence of a similar response for Deloria's life and death is telling. Almost 40 years after Deloria captured the attention of the general public with his wit and keen insights in the now classic ''Custer Died For Your Sins'' and his follow-up work ''We Talk, You Listen,'' it appears far too few are listening."

Get the Story:
Daniel Wildcat: The legacy of an indigenous intellectual (Indian Country Today 12/1)

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:
Vine Deloria Jr. remembered at Haskell forum (12/1)
Opinion: Deloria was passionate advocate (11/28)
Harjo: My photo album of Vine Deloria Jr. (11/24)
Billy Frank: Keeping Vine Deloria's fire alive (11/24)
Philip Deloria: Nasty pokes in column about father (11/23)
Tim Giago: Deloria gave Indian people a voice (11/22)
Mark Trahant: Few writers as powerful as Deloria (11/21)
Deloria celebration scheduled in Rapid City (11/18)
Opinion: Deloria was always ahead of the curve (11/18)
Column: Deloria advanced some wacky views (11/18)
Vine Deloria funeral set for Friday in Colorado (11/17)
Tribal leaders recall Deloria as powerful advocate (11/17)
Opinion: Deloria introduced us to Indian Country (11/17)
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)