Vine Deloria, Jr.

Leading Standing Rock Sioux scholar, writer and activist
Born: March 26, 1933
Birthplace: Martin, S.D

Deloria, of Standing Rock Sioux origin, was born in South Dakota near the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Indian Reservation. He was educated at reservation schools, graduated from Iowa State University in 1958, received a master's degree in theology in 1963 from the Lutheran School of Theology in Illinois, and a law degree at the University of Colorado in 1970.

He began his career as an eloquent, and often highly provocative spokesperson for Indian identity and social change while working at the National Conference of American Indians in Washington from 1964 to 1967. In 1969 he published the first of more than 20 books, Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. His most famous book, Custer shattered Indian stereotypes and challenged white audiences to take a hard look at brutal history of American expansionism across the west. His prose and ideas were charged with biting wit (“When asked by an anthropologist what the Indians called America before the white man came, an Indian said simply, ‘Ours.’ ”) and incendiary statements meant to shock audiences out of their complacency (Custer, he said, was “the Adolf Eichmann of the Plains.”)

Among his other books are We Talk, You Listen (1970), Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties: An Indian Declaration of Independence (1974), God Is Red: A Native View of Religion (1994), and a variety of works on history, theology, and contemporary Indian life.

He taught at the University of Arizona from 1978 to 1990, and then at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He retired in 2000 but continued to write and lecture until his death.

Died: Nov. 13, 2005
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