Deloria, Vine Victor Jr.

Deloria, Vine, Jr., 1933–2005, American author, theologian, historian, and activist, b. Marin, S.Dak. Considered by some to be the leading intellectual on American and Indigenous philosophy and politics from the second half of the 20th century, Vine Deloria was a lawyer, theologian, and popular writer. A member of the Standing Rock Sioux (Lakota) nation, he was born near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. After serving in the Marines, he graduated from Iowa State University in 1958. He would go on to earn a master’s degree in theology from Lutheran School of Theology in 1963 and a JD from Colorado Law in 1970. Deloria served as a tenured professor of political science at the University of Arizona from 1978 to 1990, where he established the first master’s degree program in American Indian Studies. In 1990 he joined the faculty at the University of Colorado, where he taught until he retired in 2000.

Deloria was deeply involved in American Indian policy and activism, and he was credited with coining the term "Red Power," referring to the civil rights activist movement of Native Americans in the late 1960s and 1970s. From 1964 to 1967, he served as the executive director for the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). Deloria also served on the founding board of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). In 1969, Deloria published his most well-known book, Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto, considered one of the most prominent works written on American Indian affairs. The book was published just prior to the takeover of Alcatraz and the Wounded Knee occupation of 1973 by members and supporters of the American Indian Movement (AIM). By articulating the basis for American Indian protest movements that were mobilizing across the United States and Canada during that time, the book helped bring national attention to Native American issues. Throughout his career, Deloria was critical of the discipline of anthropology due to what he saw as the field’s paternalistic approach to Native American culture and traditions.

Deloria published several books on the topics of law, education, philosophy, and religion, including: The Red Man in the New World Drama (1971), God Is Red (1973), American Indians, American Justice (1983), The Nations Within (1984), American Indian Policy In The Twentieth Century (1985), Red Earth, White Lies (1995), and Evolution, Creationism, and Other Modern Myths (2002). Deloria received numerous accolades and awards throughout his lifetime and posthumously, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas, the Wallace Stegner Award from the University of Colorado's Center for the American West, and an induction into the National Native American Hall of Fame. He was named "one of the 11 great religious thinkers of the twentieth century" by Time magazine.

See T. Biolsi and L. J. Zimmerman, eds., Indians and Anthropologists: Vine Deloria, Jr., and the Critique of Anthropology (1997); D. M. Cobb, Native Activism in Cold War America: The Struggle for Sovereignty (2008); D. E. Wilkins, Red Prophet: The Punishing Intellectualism of Vine Deloria, Jr. (2018); D. Martínez, Life of the Indigenous Mind: Vine Deloria Jr. and the Birth of the Red Power Movement (2019); K. Jarratt-Snider and M. O. Nielsen, eds., Indigenous Environmental Justice (2020).

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