Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Vine Deloria Jr.

Author and Native American Vine Deloria Jr. died of complications from an aortic aneurysm Sunday. He was 72. He is arguarly the best known Native american author and scholar. He was the author of Custer Died for Your Sins, God is Red, and many other books. In all, he wrote over 20.

Deloria was born in Martin, South Dakota. He served in the United States Marine Corp. He also received three degrees--a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University, a Master's Degree in Theology from the Lutheran School of Theology, and a law degree from the Univesity of Colorado. He was a professor at the Univesity of Arizona and later the University of Colorado. He served as Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians from 1964 to 1967.

Deloria has been called the "Martin Luther King Jr. of Native Americans," and with good reason. He built the organisation into a force with which to be reckoned. In 1965 he wrote the editorial "Now is the Time," helping to galvanise the Native American movement.

It was in 1969 with the publication of Custer Died For Your Sins, however, that brought him fame. The book was essentially an attack on the stereotyping of Native American peoples perpetuated over the years. It established Deloria as both a voice for Native Americans and a successful author. He would go onto write over 20 more books. Deloria would also collect several awards, among them the the 2005 American Indian Visionary Award, the American Indian Festival of Words Author Award, the Circle Lifetime Achievement Award, 1996 Native American Writers Award, and the 1999 Wordcraft Circle Writer of the Year Award.

Among other things, the publication of Custer Died For Your Sins resulted in the first ethic panel on artefacts and tribes held by the American Anthropological Association.

I have always admired Vine Deloria Jr., even when I have disagreed with some of his views. Arguably, he has done more for Native American rights and for the recognition of Native Americans than any other person currently living. Even when I disagreed with his views, I could not argue that his points were not well thought out and well written. Indeed, I must say that God is Red has had a lasting effect on my life. I am truly saddened by his death.

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