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Vine Deloria Jr. & Clifford Lytle, The Nations Within

Vine Deloria, Jr. Red Earth, White Lies, Scribner, 1995

Vine Deloria, Jr. : Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. Bantam Doubleday, 1997.


From Subject
"Erik Johnson" <eejohns@ilstu.edu> Review of THE NATIONS WITHIN by Vine Deloria and Clifford Lyte
"nicole besse" <nlbesse@ilstu.edu> Review: The Nations Within(Besse)
hobbes2@ice.net Red Earth, Killing the White Man's Indian (Ashworth)
marshall plumley <mbpluml@ilstu.edu> RED EARTH WHITE LIES (Marshall Plumley)
bina patel <bmpatel@ilstu.edu> Re:marshalls' review
"Patrick Z. Carlson" <pzcarls@ilstu.edu> Marshall's review
"Michael A. Schoenfield" <maschoen@execpc.com> Re: Marshall's review
marshall plumley <mbpluml@ilstu.edu> RED EARTH WHITE LIES \ Black Feminist.. (Plumley)
Timothy Alan Clark <taclark@ILSTU.EDU> Review of Custer Died for Your Sins
"Eric T. Knepper" <eknepp@ILSTU.EDU> Re: Review of Custer Died for Your Sins
Tony Lenn Heiserman Review: Custer Died For Your Sins (Heiserman)
Brian L Kelly <blkelly@ILSTU.EDU> Review "Custer Died for Your Sins" Vine Deloria Jr.
Edmund Stuhr <epstuhr@YAHOO.COM> Response "Custer Died for Your Sins"(Stuhr)
john kropke <jrkrop2@ilstu.edu> Deloria, Custer Died for your Sins: John Kropke review
Matthew Schueman <mrschue@ilstu.edu> Custer Died for Your Sins (Matthew Schueman)
Matthew Schueman <mrschue@ilstu.edu> Re: Custer Died for Your Sins (Matthew Schueman)
Scott Berends <swberen@ilstu.edu> Re: Custer Died for Your Sins (Matthew Schueman)
Adam E Sebastian <aeseba0@ilstu.edu> Re: Custer Died for Your Sins (Matthew Schueman)

Date: Tue, 7 Mar 1995 20:52:28 -0600
From: "Erik Johnson" <eejohns@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Review of THE NATIONS WITHIN by Vine Deloria and Clifford Lyte

The Divisions Within

The rate of change in public policy in america is often times
painfully slow. This slow rate of change is a result of the fragmentation of
American society. Competing interest groups all want their say in a
particular issue. They have much too gain or lose by change. Consequently,
changes in public policy is rarely a fast occurance. Too often, politics is
viewed as a zero sum game. If one interest wins, then another must lose. The
end result is that attempts at "reform" wind up becoming new versions of the
status quo.

An example of how the fragmentation of a society can kill reform can
be seen in our policies towards Native Americans. THE NATIONS WITHIN follows
the struggle between activists in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, tribal
leaders, Indian traditionalists, and Congress to "reform" Native American
policy. The loser during this struggle has often been the American Indian.
THE NATIONS WITHIN is mainly a historical account of the United
States government attempt to deal with the American Indian "problem" from
1870 to the present. The authors assert that, contrary to popular belief,
that government policy was not intended to eliminate Native Americans. In
fact, their goal was to help them. However, government attempts at "helping"
the Indians were in fact helping to kill them. The pre-1933 government
policy of assimilation was designed to help Native Americans fit into the
white man's way of life by educating them, teaching them vocational skills,
dressing them like the white man, and treating them like the white man in
the hopes that they would become like the white man.

Tragically , the government did not realize that many Native Americans
would rather die than live like the white man. Many tribes could not live a
life that resolved around private property, agriculture, or taking orders
from another. By the beginning of the 20th century the Native American
population had sunk to one million, while most of this million lived in

Native Americans were burdened by well meaning, but ill-conceived
attempts by federal government to "help" the American Indian. If Newt
Gingrich and his ilk ever needed an example of a social welfare program that
wound up hurting the people they were trying to help. They should use the
United States' policies towards Native Americans from 1870 to 1932. Despite
their best efforts at mananging Native Americans, conditions only

Like many other aspects of American life, American Indian policy was
forever changed by the New Deal. However, unlike the rest of the New Deal,
Native American policy was drastically changed by reduced scope of the
federal government.

Under the guidance of Bureau of Indian Affirs commissioner, John
Collier, the federal government began a policy of sovereignty, aimed at
letting Native Americans run their own affairs. This was a sharp reversal of
the previous policy of assimilation and only became policy through the
skillful administration of Collier and the creative interpretation of rules
by the BIA. During Collier's tenure, Native Americans began a slight
resurgence. It was clear that Native Americans knew how to run their affairs
better then the federal government.

However, since Collier left office in 1945, Native American policy has
been plagued by the divisions between the tribal leaders and the tribal
traditionalists. The tribal leaders see the way to reform through
conventional methods such as voting, litigation, and protest. The
traditionalists view actions such as these actions as pointless because
conventional methods of reform are the white man's methods and would mark a
loss of Indian identity.

The tribal leaders may have the right tactics, but lack the popular
support of their tribes to carry them out. Their supporters are the ones who
often leave the reservations in search of a better life. The reservations
are comprised mainly of traditionalists who have popular support , but
their tactics are too unorthodox to be successful. Add this to the fact that
there are over 200 seperate tribes in our country with many of whom do not
agree with each other and it easy to see how seriously divided the Native
American community is.

The policy of self government has been a mixed success. On one hand
the population of Native Americans has increased over three fold since 1933.
However, the problem of incredible poverty on the reservations still
remains. Native Americans can never truly become self reliant until they can
generate a study source of income. They cannot do that until they heal the
divisions within the tribes. Until then , it is unlikely that the conditions
of Native Americans will improve.

--Erik Johnson

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Date: Wed, 22 Mar 1995 14:33:00 -0600
From: "nicole besse" <nlbesse@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Review: The Nations Within(Besse)

Review of Vine Deloria Jr. & Clifford Lytle
Reviewed by Nicole Besse
Illinois State University
March 20, 1995

What is a native American? Unlike most other racial and
ethnic minority groups, native Americans are difficult to identify
by a certain characteristic or group of characteristics. And like
other racial and ethnic minority groups, native Americans have
difficulty with discrimination and racism. Most Americans do not understand
the complexity of the problems of native Americans, and are
convinced that all native Americans are similar, if not completely
the same as the actors in DANCES WITH WOLVES and THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS.
I too was convinced that native American life was glamorous and exciting
just like it was portrayed in Hollywood. After reading THE NATIONS WITHIN
by Vine Deloria Jr. and Clifford Lytle, I realized how wrong I was. THE
NATIONS WITHIN is basically a historical account of federal government
policy toward the American Indian from 1870 to the present. Deloria and
Lytle contend that most policies by the federal government toward the
native American people were not designed to hurt them, but most did.
After reading the book, I saw that years of confusing governemnet policy
toward native Americans has left their future uncertain. Throughout the
book, it was difficult to distinguish what type of policy the federal
government wanted for native Americans. Some years the policies leaned
toward assimilation of Indian nations into mainstream society, while other
years of policy stressed the need for Indians to remain as sovereign
nations. The problem of this discrepancy in policy toward native Americans
has left Indians widely divided. Some native Americans continue as
traditionalists, while others want change from the traditional ways. This
fight between traditional Indians and assimilated Indians complicates the
problems of the native Americans even further.

Although there is division between native Americans, most Indians wish
to remain autonomous. Most "will not abandon the idea of governing
themselves in communities of their choosing"(244). According to Deloria
and Lytle, many changes in federal government policy need to be made to help
native Americans re-establish themselves. The four main changes Deloria
and Lytle outline to help native Americans are as follows: 1. A
structural reform of tribal governments 2. A cultural renewal of Indian
identity 3. Establish economic stability 4. Establish relations between
tribal governments and federal and state governments
Deloria and Lytle make suggestions to help the predicament of the
American Indian. They realize that most of the problems of native
Americans are partially correctable if certain measures are taken
to help them.

Native Americans are very economically unstable. Most of
their land allotments are scattered; land consolidation is the
number one unsolved economic problem for native Americans.
Indians can't make use of their resources properly because of this
scattering. In turn, land is being exploited by large companies;
"the reservation has become a resource to be used and discarded,
not a homeland for the tribe"(257). Most native American economies
only survive with outside money from the federal government. When
budget cuts are made, it is usually the native Americans who suffer
the most. An economy totally dependent on funds from the
government and land that is being exploited to the point that it
can't be lived on is obviously a bad situation. This is the
situation that almost all native Americans live and breath every
day of their lives. Deloria and Lytle suggest that the government
educate Indians so that they can obtain "real" jobs, and that they
refuse to allow the exploitation of their lands beyond repair.
Although native Americans have more than just economic
problems, they can't fix anything until their economy is able to
support them as a people. The federal government has taken native
American's land, put them on reservations, confused them with
unclear policies and now refuses to do anything to repair the
damage it has done. Native Americans have been raped by the
federal government since it's creation over 200 years ago. Native
Americans now have a sad and insecure present and absolutely no
future. !

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Date: Mon, 21 Apr 1997 15:32:10 -0500
From: hobbes2@ice.net
Subject: Red Earth, Killing (Ashworth)

Vine Deloria, Jr. (RED EARTH, WHITE LIES), Scribner, 1995, and Fergus M.
Bordewich, (KILLING THE WHITE MAN'S INDIAN), Doubleday, 1996.
Review by Pam Ashworth

Descriptions of the American Indian today range from victim to
environmentalist to "Noble Savage" to simply, Native American. These,
however, do no come close to appreciating the complexity of Indian life.
Native Americans are much more than what contemporary American society seems
to think.

The study of Native Americans lends itself to numerous approaches. Vine
Deloria, Jr., a Sioux Indian himself, engulfs American Indians in a cloak of
mysticism while attempting to dispel any notion that Native Americans are at
all responsible for environmental degradation. Fergus Bordewich, however,
views such works as unrealistic portrayals of Native Americans as "Noble
Savages"- an inauthentic account created by Westerners that depicts Native
Americans as the supreme defenders of the earth and its life forms. In
addition, Bordewich moves beyond these questions of Indian identity to
address the complex issues affecting today's Native Americans.

For Deloria, much of the current scientific doctrine regarding Native
Americans is unsubstantiated, at best, and mythical, at worst. False
theories are allowed to persist due to a reluctance among scientists and
academics to contradict previous finding by colleagues. Furthermore,
centuries-old, tribal oral traditions are dismissed by the scientific
community as senseless folklore unworthy of any attention. As a result,
Americans are left with an inadequate knowledge of Indians, their histories,
and their relationship to the environment.

Despite the acclaim and status the general population thrusts upon
scientists, scholars, for Deloria, are by no means deserving of such high
praise. For instance, these professionals "lie and fudge their conclusions
as much as the most distrusted professions in our society- lawyers and car
dealers"(p. 40). By distorting their findings to conform with established
precedent, academics will not risk ridicule by others in their field. In
effect, questionable observations, particularly in the areas of geology and
anthropology, continue to exist at the detriment of Native Americans. An
important example involves the seldom disputed theories of evolution. The
scientist, Stephen Jay Gould, apparently uncovered evidence which "reverses
Darwin's original ideas completely"(p. 39). Gould theorized that the
absence of transitional fossils signaled periods of rapid evolutionary
change as opposed to tradition theories of a slow process of evolution.
Deloria views Gould's work as significant enough to undermine all theories
of Darwinism. The scientific community, however, rejected Gould's research
and its implication for Indian history.

The origin of American Indians is of great concern to Deloria. In its
simplest form, Western science purports that Cro-Magnon man evolved from
Neanderthal man. Yet, Native Americans must be relatively new arrivals to
the Western Hemisphere due to a lack of skeletal remains of Cro-Magnon and
Neanderthal man here. American Indians, therefore, "had to wait...for a
convenient ice age when the North American continent could be linked with
Asia"(p. 69). For Deloria, these explanations of Indian occupation of the
hemisphere are easily refuted. For example, William Laughlin, an
acknowledged expert on the Bering Strait land-bridge theory, can not offer
convincing evidence of mass migration to North America. Although the
land-bridge theory is essential to placing Native Americans as late-comers
to the continent, Laughlin describes the bridge as swampy, boggy, frozen,
severe, and devoid of substance- conditions "not conducive to human
migration"(p. 86). Thus, Native Americans, according to Deloria, may indeed
have inhabited North America for thousands of years longer than scientists
would like to think. However, if scholars recognize an extensive time-frame
for Indian presence, Native American claims to land become justified- an
unacceptable development and an insurmountable obstacle to adjusting current
scientific doctrine.

If today's scientists and academics were committed to truly scholarly
research, Deloria suggests that they would be well served by studying the
oral traditions of American Indians. Oral traditions have survived
countless generations as they have been recounted by prominent tribal
members. These traditions have also remained essentially true to their
original forms, for they have been altered only for purposes of
entertainment for fellow tribal members. More importantly, oral traditions
hold important keys to understanding the history of the earth and the
Indian's place in that history. For example, a number of tribes located in
the Pacific Northwest hold traditions that describe the Columbia River as
once flowing beneath the Cascade Mountains and later reemerging at the
Pacific coast. A woman of the Wishram tribe further elaborates that the
underground river was used as a detour to bypass the Cascades. Although
geologists claim that if this landscape actually did exist, it would have
been thousands, if not millions, of years ago, Deloria cites it as evidence
of the Native American people's long history on the continent. Moreover,
the author finds the traditions quite plausible, "since the Humboldt River
sinks in several places in Nevada" today(p. 189). Scientists, however,
argue that traditional peoples were frightened of nature and merely created
fictional accounts to ease their fears. Furthermore, the frequent use of
supernatural events in oral traditions precludes scientists from giving any
serious consideration to these ancient tales.

Deloria's greatest attack on Western science is its assumption that
Paleo-Indians, the ancestors of today's Native Americans, are responsible
for the extinction of a large number of Pleistocene-era animals,
particularly the megafauna. Megafauna include large species of bison,
mammoth, mastodon, and others and are widely believed to have been hunted to
depletion by Paleo-Indians who crossed the Bering Strait land-bridge.
Deloria rejects this account in part due to its reliance on the defunct
land-bridge theory and in part due to its neglect of so-called common sense.
For example, the author believes that today's game animals, such as
buffalo and deer, were present at the time of the megafauna's extinction.
Why then, Deloria asks, would the Paleo-Indian kill the megafauna as opposed
to the smaller, easier to kill, and less dangerous game animals?
Furthermore, scientists have no accurate account of the weapons that would
have been required to kill such a large number of species. Instead,
Paleo-hunters have only been found to have used small stone tools. While
Deloria compiles a long list of grievances against this "overkill" theory,
Western science continues its use as "a good way to support continued
despoliation of the environment by suggesting that at no time were human
beings [American Indians] careful of the lands upon which they lived"(p.
113). The effect is to blame today's Native Americans for the demise of
these creatures.

As appealing as much of Deloria's work is- indeed, it is often
fascinating- it does not lend itself to credible support. A wholesale
condemnation of the scientific community is certainly not warranted. There
are, of course, numerous instances of deceit in scientific research. The
current controversy surrounding tobacco companies and the information that
they withheld from the public is but one timely example. However, science,
like many areas of scholarly inquiry, changes with the times. For example,
medical studies regarding cancer and heart disease once relied solely on
research involving men. Today, studies in women's health receive the
attention that they deserve, partly as a response to the increasing number
of women working in the health sciences. Similarly, it can not be argued
that the condemnation of a few obscure scientists, such as Gould, is an
indication of the academic community's broad distaste for differing
perspectives. Science would never adapt or evolve if all minority
viewpoints were suppressed.

The debate regarding the origins of American Indians are best left to
geologists and anthropologists rather than to political scientists, like
Deloria. In today's environment of renewed respect and admiration for
Native Americans, it is unlikely that a conspiracy is at work to place
Indians as new-comers to North America. Anthropologists, in particular,
increasingly work under pressures to remain sensitive to all cultures and
traditions and to distance themselves from Western preconceptions. The
assertion that scholars deliberately employ false dating techniques to
thwart American Indian land claims is, thus, patently absurd. Deloria can
likely find relief in the growing number of Native Americans acquiring
higher levels of education and entering scientific fields of work. Perhaps
they will seek to answer the interesting questions the author raises and
attempt to use the oral traditions of American Indians in the process.
However, as Deloria himself indicates, oral traditions are as complex and
varied as any geological dating mechanism.

While claims that Native Americans hold a greater respect and appreciation
for the physical environment may find more receptive audiences, Deloria is
not without fault even in this regard. As Bordewich effectively argues,
American Indians, like all peoples, have at times been forced to exploit the
environment for their own ends. Native Americans today are no exception.
For example, the Campo Indians of California are preparing to turn part of
their reservation into a landfill for the city of San Diego. Other tribes
engage in logging and mining- all in the name of economic development.
Moreover, the widely held belief that Native Americans universally revere
the natural world is based on the myth of the "Noble Savage." For instance,
the words of Chief Seattle, which stir the hearts of environmentalists, are
"quite simply, an invention" of a Texas screenwriter(p. 133). Some American
Indians are indeed deeply concerned about the environment. However, as the
economic survival of reservations increasingly becomes tantamount to Indian
survival and autonomy, many tribes are now forced to reassess their
relationship to the earth and its resources.

If Bordewich appears to be in marked contrast to Deloria, he essentially
is. While Deloria analyzes the scientific perceptions of Native Americans,
Bordewich examines the practical and immediate concerns of American Indians
today. Attempting to shatter the often false image of the "Noble Savage,"
Bordewich addresses Indian education, politics, economics, and reservation
life and their implications for the future of Native Americans. Discarding
the new-age mysticism of Deloria, Bordewich approaches the American Indian
as an unbiased scholar.

According to Bordewich, the most hopeful sign for the future of American
Indians is the renewed focus on education. Little Big Horn College, for
example, is administered by the Crow Indians. Operating on a minuscule
budget, the college can boast of success. Its staff has "carried the
concept of self-determination beyond politics and into the lives of ordinary
men and women"(p. 271). The college has not only touched but transformed
the lives of many poor, chronically unemployed, and often alcoholic, Crow
Indians. Like other effective Native American colleges, Little Big Horn has
incorporated studies of tribal traditions with fields essential to the
future employment of reservation members: accounting, nursing, secretarial
studies, business administration, industrial arts, and data processing, for
instance. Moreover, students receiving two-year degrees at Indian colleges
are now appearing in larger numbers at traditional four-year and graduate
universities. Although institutions like Little Big Horn are not found on a
significant number of reservations, they are the key ingredient to the
future economic development of both tribes and individual Native Americans.

If one force exists that can threaten the important contributions of Native
American colleges it is tribal politics. Too often corrupt or self-serving,
many tribal leaders lack the needed leadership skills to manage today's
tribal governments. Frequently receiving millions of federal dollars each
year, funds are seldom used in ways that would truly benefit reservations.
As tribal governments retain sovereign powers, they are free to regulate
membership, tax policies, and even the behavior of non-Indians on non-Indian
land on reservations. The perplexing nature of tribal politics is
inextricably tied to the issue of sovereignty and the complex relationship
between Native Americans and the federal government of the United States.

"Indian Country," as aptly described by Bordewich, is a "confusing snarl of
jurisdictions and conflicting powers that nearly defies human ability to
unravel"(p. 113). Many reservations today consist of tribal land, state or
county land, federal land, private land owned by non-Indians, and land held
in trust by the federal government. To be certain, this pattern of
distribution often leads to conflict. For example, crimes committed on
reservations may fall under the investigative powers of a state government,
the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the FBI, or tribal law enforcement officials.
Furthermore, questions of civil rights may vary according to the
reservation, or part of the reservation, involved. For instance, Pequot
Indians provide no guarantee for the right of trial-by-jury. Also, union
activity is forbidden by the tribe. Since tribal law does not allow for
appeal to state or federal courts, the Pequot tribe essentially acts as
"employer, judge, and jury"(p. 114).

The economic development of Indian reservations is a top priority of
Bordewich, and he holds the Choctaw Nation as a possible model to emulate.
Positioned in one of the most impoverished regions of Mississippi, the tribe
has transformed itself "from a welfare culture into one of the largest
employers in the state"(p. 303). By courting business from Xerox, AT&T,
Navistar, Harley-Davidson, and Chrysler, the Choctaw have dramatically
increased family income; built a hospital and new schools; and opened
numerous businesses, including food stores and a radio and television
station. The reservation's economic progress has helped the Choctaw acquire
control of the administration of federal programs formerly under the
direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. For example, law enforcement,
credit, finance, health care, and social services are now operated by the
tribe's bureaucracy. While Bordewich rightfully acknowledges that such
economic success can not be duplicated by all tribes, it remains a central
approach to addressing the social ills that thrive on many reservations.

Reservation life today is often witness to poor health conditions, high
rates of suicide, teenage pregnancy, single-parent families, soaring
unemployment, extreme poverty, crime, and a sense of desperation and
hopelessness. For Bordewich, these features are too frequently related to
the most striking problem of all: alcoholism. The city of Gallup, New
Mexico, graphically illustrates the destructiveness of alcoholism for Native
Americans. Prohibition remains in force on the Navajo reservation, located
to the north of Gallup. Bootlegging is common, and on weekends, the
population of Gallup soars with an influx on Navajo and Zuni Indians who
bring with them "an often deadly determination to drink"(p. 242). What
follows for the small town of Gallup are rapes, burglaries, robberies,
traffic accidents, assaults, and murder. To make matters worse, tribal
leaders often underestimate the severity of the problem or fail to address
it at all. However, some tribes have adopted a variety of approaches to
combat the ravages of alcoholism, including anything from psychotherapy and
spiritual practices to laws banning the cashing of welfare checks in liquor
stores. If there is any hope of controlling alcoholism among American
Indians, it is in the determined efforts of those few reservations who have
declared war on the disease.

The intriguing and eye-opening account of Native Americans provided by
Bordewich leaves little room for disagreement. For example, a reliance on
education must be at the foundation of Indian life. In addition to fighting
the vast social problems of the reservation, increased Native American
education will be a catalyst for economic advancement. Although Bordewich
opens himself to attack by advocating the teaching of white educational
norms, these criticisms are unfounded. A focus on Western education does
not undermine traditional Indian cultures. For all practical purposes, most
Native American cultures have already been lost. Moreover, the training
Indian colleges do provide on traditional tribal culture allows the youngest
generations to learn of their ancestral roots- information their parents
did not likely possess.

In a similar manner, Bordewich also risks condemnation for his candid
discussion of Native American alcoholism. Critics may suggest that the
author is simply exploiting the stereotype of the "drunken Indian." Others
may view his work as a hindrance to greater understanding and respect for
Indian peoples. As Bordewich convincingly argues, however, alcohol is an
enormous problem facing today's reservations. It simply can not be
overlooked merely because it causes discomfort for some. Furthermore,
alcohol stands in the way of Native American progress. If the American
Indian is to thrive in the future, reservations must pursue economic and
political development, educational achievement, and social advancement.
Alcohol, though, is a real threat to these goals.

The most likely criticism that Bordewich will face is that he is
essentially favoring the assimilation of Native Americans into white
America. Opponents may point to the author's treatment of Western
education, political, and economic systems and conclude that he views future
Indian culture as one in the same as American culture. This is hardly
Bordewich's plan. Instead, he sees the preservation of the Native American
as dependent upon the Indian's ability to adapt to a changing world. An
increasingly global and capitalist economy demands economic development and
the ownership of private property. Economic development, in turn, requires
quality education and a sound government and society. Although traditional
Native American culture is virtually extinct, Bordewich wishes that what
remains of Indian culture be kept intact for later generations. For
example, the distortion of Indian symbols and identity in popular culture,
such as athletic teams with Indian logos, is as offensive to Bordewich as it
surely would be to Deloria. Furthermore, Bordewich stresses that Native
Americans are not a monolithic group. This is evident as the questions of,
who is an Indian, and what constitutes an Indian tribe, become increasingly
relevant. Indeed, the survival of the last traces of truly Native American
culture- not the false "Noble Savage" ideal that many Americans and Indians
have adopted- will depend upon the Indian's ability to operate the
reservation within the Western world.

Although Deloria and Bordewich approach the Native American dilemma with
vastly different perspectives, one important theme is shared by both
authors: the utter devastation Indians experienced with the arrival of
white American settlers. Both give vivid accounts of the destruction of
tribes due to disease, war, and forced exile. Both take note of the U.S.
Constitution's failure to even mention Native Americans. Bordewich recounts
the massacre of entire, unsuspecting tribes by whites, while Deloria speaks
of Indian women suffering reproductive sterilization "at government clinics
without their knowledge or consent"(p. 19). Bordewich describes the
mindless looting of Indian cultural artifacts, and Deloria points to the
killing of American Indians solely for the purpose of experimentation with
Indian bodies. The list of atrocities is enormous, indeed, and demonstrates
white America's attempt to put an end to the "Indian problem" for good.
Both authors agree that this history should never be forgotten.
Pam Ashworth
Illinois State University

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Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997 16:29:03 -0500
From: marshall plumley <mbpluml@ilstu.edu>
Subject: RED EARTH WHITE LIES (Marshall Plumley)

New York: Scribner
Vine Deloria
Reviewed by: Marshall Plumley

Vine Delorias book is a no holds bar attack against what he feels
is the white-euro-centric scientific establishment. In Delorias
view, the western scientific establishment has done nothing but
cover its' own butt for many years over issues of relevance to
Deloria. Deloria looks to native American myth and the oral
tradition as a source of possible explanation for events in human
migratory patterns, geological events, and other events in the
western hemisphere.

In Delorias first chapter "Behind the Buckskin Curtain" the
reader is shocked, at least I was, by the venom spilled out by
the author against just about everything. This anger directed
against western science, Christians-in particular every ones
favorite whipping boy Catholics, the founding fathers, TV, the
Supreme Court, and the list goes on and on. While all are
deserving of this written abuse it does get old fast and serves
little purpose after a while.

Deloria goes on in chapter two to take on scholars and scientists
in general. He argues and makes excellent assumptions about
scientists and their lack of boat rocking vigor. Deloria is
right on target when he attacks scholars for their lack of
initiative when doing research in their fields. When the boat
rockers are allowed to publish they are immediately put to the
test by others of the orthodox line in order to have their non-
conformist notions "quashed" quickly. Deloria pushes forward on
the premise that what scientists really know about mans residence
in the Western Hemisphere is based on scant information. That is
where he proposes the search begin for some real answers about
the origins of man in the Western Hemisphere.

Deloria starts his search for truth with the Bering Strait theory
of migration. Its supporters argue that it was migrant Siberians
searching for food or something that traveled, during an ice-age,
to the northern reaches of the hemisphere across a land bridge.
Why has this theory held sway for so many years in light of
evidence that suggests it is foolishness? Deloria says that it
only through this theory of a relatively young native American
population can white-Europeans deal with their guilt of rape,
theft, and murder. If Indians arrived on this continent
relatively recently then their claim is not quit so strong. This
quit frankly is pushing it. I don't believe white-Europeans are
plagued with guilt requiring scientific BS to make them feel
better. They have been quit proud of their past and the
destruction that accompanied it. Even in a time of political
correctness and moral reflection white-European centered science
has no reason to cover its own ass so to speak. Why, because
their is nothing that can change that past to make things better.
Deloria logically dispels this theory through some common sense
as well as scientific inquiry.

Delorias next scientific target is that of the "Pleistocene
overkill" theory. This theory in summary says that Paleo-Indian
hunters killed off all the big game animals. Deloria takes
offense to having the extinction of some thirty odd species on
the hands of Indians. Citing numerous authors that have advanced
this theory, Deloria takes it apart step by step. He proves not
only that it was unlikely the result of overkill on the part of
Indians but was probably the result of a larger set of geological
and environmental changes. Deloria relates narratives told by
Indians that explain these events and point to a time line
radically different than that accepted by orthodox scientists.
Deloria even brings in stories of mega-humans to accompany these
mega-fauna of the time period. These changes in size among human
can be hypothetically caused by reductions in CO2 levels in the
atmosphere. Deloria draws an excellent conclusion in citing the
increase in average human size since the beginning of the
Industrial Revolution.

Of particular interest to Deloria is the telling of major
geological events through oral traditions. Citing several
accounts pertaining to events such as the eruption of Mount Hood,
Mount Rainier, Mount Mazama-Crater Lake, and Mount Multnomah-
Three Sisters, Deloria gives good accounting of the discrediting
of native American traditional accounts by scientists. Deloria
is not saying that it is absolutely the case that people were
around North America 25 million years ago, however he is saying
that their is strong oral traditions linking man to events
supposedly not within his time line on the continent. In essence
a new history must be written. Deloria says: "My conclusion is
that these are eyewitness accounts but that the events they
describe are well within the past 3,000 years. It is past time
that this resistance be ended and new scenario for the Western
Hemisphere be constructed."

Deloria does raise some very interesting points about the
failures of western science. It has in the past lied and
obscured information for the sake of orthodoxy. I personally
believe in the possibility of an alternate time line offered by
Deloria and others. Science has not answered enough questions to
even begin to explain in any kind of detail the true origins of
mankind. A prime example of orthodox beliefs covering the truth
is the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt. Egyptologists have relied
on the standard explanations for what they say it is for over a
century. However mankind in its present stage of development
cannot reproduce what was supposedly built by uneducated slaves
with bronze tools and brute force. This is just a small example
of the kinds of alternative thought that is out their but is cast
off as unscientific or proposed by a bunch of crackpots.

Deloria spends far to much of his time, justifiably so, being
angry at anything and everything. This has the detrimental
effect of making him sound like a "crackpot" or some other misled
scholar. He should just spill the facts as they stand and be
done with it. It is clear that Deloria is not a scientist and
his greatest faults lye in that area. If he is going to attack
science on its own ground, the scientific method, then he should
use that against the establishment. Simply offering
possibilities does not change what is ingrained in the field as
orthodoxy. In the end, this lack of rigorous testing of his
hypothesis discredits his work. What this book does have to
offer is its numerous native American oral accounts of events.
They offer a vast insight into a seldom understood culture and
group of people. These oral traditions have much to offer in the
way of insight into possible events of the past in the Western

Marshall Plumley
"what dark time is coming,
what dark time is near."

Back to top...

Date: Fri, 25 Apr 1997 14:34:25 -0500
From: bina patel <bmpatel@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Re:marshalls' review

I agree with Marshall's views of white-europeans(W-E) in terms of needing
justification for their past wrongs. Empiricism offers little to the
conscience. And, Marshall was correct in stating that W-E are proud of
their past. In relation to past class discussions, we can see that in the
US their is debate over compensation for the past injustices. People tend
to think in NOW terms, and in many of these cases, they believe in
Darwin(survival of the fittest). W-E are well off and have little need to
relflect on the past as their own wrongs, and those effects are now
manifesting themselves in other ways. Native Americans are still oppressed
and discriminated against, as are other groups. And, as Marshall pointed
out, science has not yet offered enough answers to questions that have been
asked for years. Stats and science are not a challenge to the soul, when
one is trying to change the hearts and history of the world.

I also wonder about the new timelines. If this is the case, religion,
politics, social evolution, etc. is put into a new framework. We might not
be as advanced as we thought.

Deloria seems to have the heart and soul, as he seems very angry and
emotional according the review, but Marshall is right-when trying to
reestablish the establishment, it has to be from the inside out.

Back to top...

Date: Tue, 29 Apr 1997 15:31:07 -0500
From: "Patrick Z. Carlson" <pzcarls@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Marshall's review

What an odd book! RED EARTH WHITE LIES, appears to be nothing more
than an extremist attack on just about everything that people today consider
mainstream knowledge. I do agree with his views on how western science
rushes to make every effort to shoot down any new idea in the field of
science. Any knew idea that challenges a current accepted idea is going to
be disproved faster than one could imagine. Why science will not accept the
possibility of an alternative paradigm at certain times is beyond me. I do
however, find it hard to believe that knowledge of the world is based on
"scant amounts" of information. Science spends an overwhelming majority of
their time collecting information on past occurrences, and although there is
still plenty to be collected, there has been a substantial amount collected
to make an accurate description of past occurrences.

I think that Deloria is way off his rocker when he starts talking
about his beliefs and theories that help account for the evolution process.
He introduces these ideas (The Bering Strait Theory, Pleistocene overkill),
but I would think that it would be relatively easy to disprove these. I
agree, when you say that w-e are proud of their past--they are. Most w-e
are not going to dwell on the past, for the past is unalterable. Even if
Indians did not arrive here as long ago as they claim, they were still here
first and the w-e moved, and with relative ease, took over.

The biggest problem that I have with Deloria's theories is that of
the great pyramids. What exactly does he propose on them? If it was
impossible to for the people to build them, who did? We know that Egyptians
were much more advanced than we give them credit for. If you can produce
the right machines (pullies and barges), then you can do just about anything.

I wish that I could take a look at the book because it appears that
he proposes several interesting ideas, that my conservative views would
drastically conflict with. If I were asked at this moment what I thought of
him, I would have to say that he was a "crackpot." Unless you have mass
amounts of empirical data, you should not propose these ideas.

One final thought on the review is that it was written well.
Although there were some grammatical errors, they are nothing worth pointing

Back to top...

Date: Wed, 30 Apr 1997 07:31:20 -0500
From: "Michael A. Schoenfield" <maschoen@execpc.com>
Subject: Re: Marshall's review

Patrick Z. Carlson wrote:
> What an odd book! RED EARTH WHITE LIES, appears to be nothing more

I find your analysis interesting in that I am American Indian and when
speaking about the Bering Straight with some of my brothers and sisters
many of them reject out right the notion that their anesters crossed
said straights. While I tend to accept the current scientific
hypotheses, I find that not everyone wants or will accept scientific
truths. This was the same situation that Galleo and others faced when
they hypothesized that the world was round.

Mike S.
Michael A. Schoenfield
Michael A. Schoenfield & Associates, Ltd.
2637 Mason Street Voice: 608) 238-6121
Madison, WI 53705-3709 Fax: (608) 233-2507
E-Mail: maschoen@execpc.com

Back to top...

Date: Wed, 30 Apr 1997 08:13:20 -0500
From: Gary Klass <gmklass@ilstu.edu>
Subject: RED EARTH WHITE LIES \ Black Feminist.. (Plumley)

New York: Scribner
Reviewed by: Marshall Plumley

Collins, Patricia Hill. "Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge,
Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York 1991.

The books by Patricia Collins and Vine Deloria are of
contrasting subjects but have similarities in the focus
of their respective attacks. While attack may be too
strong of a term it does adequately describe the
mission of both authors. While this is not so much the
case with Collins it still applies. Both authors are,
at their heart, taking on the establishment. I will
try to illustrate these similarities and distinctions
as I go through my previous reviews.

Collins: Patricia Collins attempts in her book to define Black
feminist thought. She begins with the politics that surround
Black intellectual writings and ideas. This analysis reviews the
historical events surrounding what Collins feels are the
foundations of current Black feminist thought. With this
completed Collins sets out to define what Black feminist thought
is. This, followed by review of requirements for inclusion in
the intellectual group, sets the tone for a discussion and
extensive review of literature on core themes in Black feminist
thought. Collins attempts to form, based on the above mentioned
analysis to develop an Afro-centric Feminist Epistemology and the
politics surrounding Black female empowerment.

Deloria: Vine Delorias book is a no holds bar attack against what
he feels is the white-euro-centric scientific establishment. In
Delorias view, the western scientific establishment has done
nothing but cover its' own butt for many years over issues of
relevance to Deloria. Deloria looks to native American myth and
the oral tradition as a source of possible explanation for events
in human migratory patterns, geological events, and other events
in the western hemisphere.

Deloria: Deloria goes on in chapter two to take on scholars and
scientists in general. He argues and makes excellent assumptions
about scientists and their lack of boat rocking vigor. Deloria
is right on target when he attacks scholars for their lack of
initiative when doing research in their fields. When the boat
rockers are allowed to publish they are immediately put to the
test by others of the orthodox line in order to have their non-
conformist notions "quashed" quickly. Deloria pushes forward on
the premise that what scientists really know about mans residence
in the Western Hemisphere is based on scant information. That is
where he proposes the search begin for some real answers about
the origins of man in the Western Hemisphere.

Deloria wastes no time in defining who he is attacking,
the white-european centered scientific community. The
academics that uphold, what Deloria feels is, an
outmoded and unsubstantiated set of theories and facts
are to blame for a racist and ignorant course of
events. They ignore Native American traditions on the
basis that there is no solid base upon which it can be
built. While in fact, as Deloria argues, their
traditions of scientific inquiry have no base either.

Collins is similar to Deloria in that she takes issue
with scholars and academics for resting on their
orthodox beliefs and are unwilling to challenge the
status quo. What distinguished Collins from Deloria is
that while whites, scholars, and the establishment are
to blame for the oppression of black women she holds
black men and women scholars accountable for the
situation that exists. This is interesting for it, in
my opinion, makes Collins more credible in her arguments.
She accepts that part of the oppression is a result of
acceptence and denial on the part of black men and women.
Deloria never once illustrates Native Americans in a
negative light. With a credible attempt at understanding
and acceptance, Collins makes her work more "digestible"
to non-academics.

Collins: When dealing with the politics that surround Black
feminist thought, Collins paints a vivid picture of oppression
that has helped define as well as limit Black feminist thought.
Three interdependent "dimensions of oppression" have led to this
perspective. Collins illustrates the exploitation of Black
women's labor as the economic dimension of oppression. The
political dimension of oppression is evident in the unequal
treatment of women as a whole in America in particular of Black
women's. Finally, an ideological dimension of oppression has
formed that places qualities on Black women that have been
formulated by stereotypes from the slave era to modern day
manipulations by the media. Collins argues, and a good one it
is, that this interlocking system of oppression has led to a lack
of control by African-American women in defining themselves and
to a "suppression" of Black women intellectuals and their

Deloria would agree with Collins in her analysis of
black female oppression. In fact it could be argued
that Collins's "dimensions of oppression" could be
applied to the Native American situation. The
exploitation of Black women's labor can be compared to
the economic exploitation of Native Americans through
the aspect of their land loss and resource
exploitation. The ideological dimension of oppression
that Collins refers to can be applied as well to the
Native American experience. While the stereotypes are
different they are used in the same controlling and
manipulative manner. It may be difficult to
conceptualize how what applies to Black women, a
distinct group, can be applied to an entire group of
people including both men and women. I do think
however that in both cases the ability to define
themselves as groups is restrained.

Deloria: Deloria says that it only through this theory ( the one
concerning the Bering Striate) of a relatively young native
American population can white-Europeans deal with their guilt of
rape, theft, and murder. If Indians arrived on this continent
relatively recently then their claim is not quit so strong. This
quit frankly is pushing it. I don't believe white-Europeans are
plagued with guilt requiring scientific BS to make them feel
better. They have been quit proud of their past and the
destruction that accompanied it. Even in a time of political
correctness and moral reflection white-European centered science
has no reason to cover its own ass so to speak. Why, because
their is nothing that can change that past to make things better.
Deloria logically dispels this theory through some common sense
as well as scientific inquiry.

It is this lack of guilt that is at the key, at least I
think, to what Collins is saying in the before
mentioned paragraph. The lack of guilt affects how
academics view their research, how white men deal with
their own sexuality and women, and how feminists deal
with black women. This lack of responsibility for
Collins "dimensions of oppression" is a result of a
lack of guilt or self reflection.

Where I think both authors fail is in their attempts to
persuade established scholars of their ill-conceived
efforts. Deloria and Collins take great amounts of time
to discredit fellow scholars or highlight failings in
their work. While this makes for good reading it
accomplishes nothing but isolation of the groups or
groups that the authors are trying to change. It is not
likely that many scholars or academic departments are
going to consider change after being attacked in these
various manners.

Collins: Collins defines Black feminist thought as consisting of
"theories or specialized knowledge produced by African-American
women intellectuals designed to express a Black women's
standpoint." This standpoint having been derived from Black
female experiences in dealing with core themes, and the diversity
found among Black females who encounter these themes. In sum, as
Collins would say, thought that binds everyday Black female
experiences with consciousness for the empowerment of Black
females. Collins does take issue however with such an exclusive
tone. To Collins, and the authors she looks to for guidance and
affirmation, a more all-encompassing vision of Black feminism
must be conceptualized. Collins assimilates numerous Black
female writers and intellectuals into the fold of this more
holistic definition. Collins settles on "a process of self-
conscious struggle that empowers women and men to actualize a
humanist vision of community."

It is at this juncture that I wish to make a further
observation about Deloria. I think he would use the
same words Collins uses to describe the Native American
experience when talking about the uniqueness of the
Native American viewpoint. Collins, to her credit,
allows for a more holistic and humanist set of
possibilities when attempting to define what black
feminist thought can be. Deloria on the other hand
would not be able to allow for this open ended set of
possibilities. This I feel is demonstrated by his
animosity towards what he is criticizing and the words
he chooses to illustrate it. In a way the Native
American experience is so unique that it would be
impossible for the white man to even begin to
comprehend those experiences. So how then does white-
european science deal with the Native American oral
tradition when attempting to devise a plausible theory
of North American development? I don't believe it can
and I think Deloria is as guilty at times of the same
narrow mindedness he is so opposed to.

Collins: Collins calls on Black feminist intellectuals to promote
these qualities of Black females in order to stimulate activism
and institutional change. In essence if the power of oppression,
having been as strong as it has been in this country, cannot
crush the spirit of Black women then the world in malleable and
can be changed.

I can believe that Deloria is in agreement with this
approach to dealing with the respective problems being
addressed. It is difficult though because he never
does it in his own book. He does not call out other
scholars to push for change in the scientific
community, he just must expect it to happen after they
read his book. His ideas on paper are certainly not enough
to persuade anyone. While Collins is rigid throughout
her book on the individuality of Black feminist thought
she continually leaves the door open for assistance
from the outside. Deloria is so uncompromising that if
he did urge scholars to take action and rock the boat
he would be wary of white scholars, even those that
share his viewpoint.

As I said to begin with, their are two approaches to a
similar problem. Each author takes issue with what is
orthodox and un-bendable. If I picked up these books
knowing nothing more than they both, in their own ways,
attempted to promote change within the field I would be
surprised after reading them. I thought Collins would
be the uncompromising element in her attempts to move
scholars and academics to include the black feminist
viewpoint. Deloria I felt would look for allies and
encourage change through reasonable scientific and
factual exploration. It is obvious that the opposite
is true.

Marshall Plumley
"what dark time is coming,
what dark time is near."

Back to top...

Date: Tue, 14 Apr 1998 22:39:10 -0500
From: Timothy Alan Clark <taclark@ILSTU.EDU>
To: POS334-L@h-net.msu.edu

Custer Died For Your Sins
First Avon Printing Company
Review by Timothy A. Clark

Ever since the discovery of the "new world," Indians have been
fighting to save their identity. In his book Custer Died for Your Sins,
Vine Deloria J.R., a member of the Sioux tribe, shares a first hand
account of just what it means to be an Indian in the United States in the
late 1960's. Deloria draws not only from his family heritage, but also
shares experiences from the three years he spent as Executive Director of
the National Congress of American Indians fighting to preserve Indian's

In order to try to understand the Indian's point of view, one must
first understand what it means to be an Indian; and more importantly, what
being an Indian does not necessarily mean. In his first chapter, Deloria
tries to destroy some modern stereotypes concerning Indians. Why are
Indians lazy, and similar questions are addressed in this chapter. So who
started these stereotypes, and why? Deloria, writing in the late sixties,
believes that all people in the United States feel some degree of guilt
for what was done to the Indian people shortly after the "discovery" of
this country. Deloria demonstrates this belief as he recants meeting
several white people claiming to be descendants of some Indian tribe, some
were not even real tribes. Deloria feels it is an insult to his people
has a whole when people claim to be of Indian heritage just out of fear or

Deloria pull no punches in detailing precisely where he feels the
blame for most of the Indians' problems lie. Anthropologists, Deloria
says, come to nearly all Indian reservations during the summer time.
Regardless of the amount of information these anthropologists have on any
particular tribe, they leave in the fall claiming to now be experts on
there perspective tribe. During the winter, these same anthropologists
publish books about the tribe they had researched just six months earlier.
These published books are then used as reference materials for young up
and coming anthropologists. Essentially, anthropologists receive all the
information they have about Indians from each other. Now when
anthropologists come to the reservations in the summer time, they know
what they are looking for. No longer are they conducting research, they
are seeking to validate existing research. Essentially all knowledge
these people have concerning the Indian way of life, come from their own
preconceptions, not through accurate research. The newest craze for these
anthropologists, Deloria explains, is to conduct seminars in which they
use their own research to justify the problems the Indian people are
having today. Drinking for instance has been explained away by these
anthropologists as a normal response to being trapped between two
cultures. Since these people no longer dress in leather and feathers, no
longer dance around and chant songs at the drop of a hat, they are
obviously confused. Deloria feels that not only is this degrading to the
Indian people, but also disheartening. Many young Indians have begun to
buy into this theory, and now feel they have an excuse to blame their
alcoholism on. Deloria shares that he has lost several very close friends
due to alcohol.

So what about the relationship between Indians and black
Americans. What are some of the classic differences between these two
races. First, Deloria argues, the main difference is the manner in which
the two races are considered. The blacks were brought to this country as
workers. For many years in American history, the slaves were not even
considered as people. Deloria draws the conclusion that Americans viewed
blacks essentially as draft animals. Indians on the other hand, were
never forced into labor. Never did Americans try to enslave the Indian
people. The colonists, and their descendants, spent all of their time
trying to make the Indians American. Deloria believes that early
Americans viewed Indians as wild animals, much like an antelope. Indians
were in need of being civilized. So the first major difference, is that
blacks were seen as draft animals, used for work. The Indians were viewed
as wild animals, in need of taming. In this sense, some could argue
Indians had it better than black Americans. Another major difference
however, is the fact that black Americans were never stripped of land that
was rightfully theirs. Likewise, blacks were granted certain rights long
before the Indian people were. In this sense, blacks were viewed as
people before Indians were. Despite this fact, Americans were convinced
that Indians could become viable citizens. It seems a little ironic that
Americans would spend so much time and effort to convert a group of people
into Americans, when they didn't even legally consider them humans yet.

Despite their differences, blacks and the Indians also had several
things in common. Both, for instance, share a common enemy; the American
government. Both had been continually lied to by the government.
Although lies told to the Indian people were made at different times, and
for different reasons than those told to black people, the end result was
the same. Blacks and Indians alike gave up fundamental rights in exchange
for promises they never received. These similarities nearly came to a
head during the Civil Rights movements of the early sixties, except
Indians really didn't understand why the blacks would want to fight to
become part of a country the hated. Deloria demonstrates this confusion
as he tells about a young Indian watching television and seeing a black
man running down the street with a television he had just stolen in a
riot. If this was the kind of country America was capable of being, why
would anyone want to be part of it.

Vine Deloria makes some very viable arguments in his book. He
certainly has credentials to back all claims he makes, he is not just
pulling ideas out of the sky, these are ideas coming from Indian
reservations throughout the United States. In this book, Deloria gives a
good history of Indian Affairs and the hardships and trials the Indians
went through to get the small share of rights they currently have. While
reading about the unspeakable acts many early Americans engaged in, one
cannot help but feel a certain amount of shame, as well as a certain
amount of disgust for their ancestors. I do feel however that Deloria is
a bit too general in his criticisms. Throughout the entire book, Deloria
refers to white people as a whole, and never once is this phrase mentioned
in a positive context. As I said earlier, one would have to be heartless
not to feel guilt and remorse for the events the Indians endured, but
remorse and sympathy is not what Deloria is after. Deloria states that
his main goal is to have a law written in the books that will officially
leave Indians alone to control their own lives. I'm sure this most white
people of today would think this was a respectable request. Most I'm sure
would be in favor of it. But it is a little disheartening to the
government of the United States to try and help the Indian people when
people like Deloria say that no program ever instituted by whites was
beneficial and perhaps the Indians would have been better off without any
help from the whites at all.

I also took offense to the portion on the book in which Deloria
says that he feels white people should stop trying to claim Indian
heritage. I personally do not have an ounce of Indian blood in me. My
half-brother's father however was a full blooded Hopi Indian. This makes
my brother 1/2 Hopi. My brother is very fair skinned and at the same time
very proud of his heritage. I wonder if Deloria feels he should abandoned
this pride due to the fact that he appears to be white. With people like
Deloria denouncing any white person who comes to them claiming to have
Indian blood in them, one might be hesitant to reveal their heritage. I
think it is a even a little bit on the arrogant side for Deloria to think
that the only reason people are sharing this with him is to try and make
themselves feel a little closer to Deloria, and at the same relieve
themselves of some of the guilt they have concerning the treatment of the
Indians. Could it be that these people actually feel they do have
something in common with Deloria, it is possible that many of the people
who claimed to have Indian blood in them actually did, Deloria was not
interested in this. Essentially, I feel it is absolutely a necessity
that Indians, Blacks, Mexicans, as well as whites all learn to put their
hatreds aside. Granted this is easier said than done, however one thing
is certain, as long as one side dismisses any help from another as
worthless, nothing is going to be achieved.

Back to top...

Date: Wed, 15 Apr 1998 10:43:13 -0700
From: "Eric T. Knepper" <eknepp@ILSTU.EDU>
To: POS334-L@h-net.msu.edu

At 10:39 PM 4/14/98 -0500, you wrote:
>Custer Died For Your Sins
>First Avon Printing Company
>Review by Timothy A. Clark

>I do feel however that Deloria is
>a bit too general in his criticisms. Throughout the entire book, Deloria
>refers to white people as a whole, and never once is this phrase mentioned
>in a positive context. As I said earlier, one would have to be heartless
>not to feel guilt and remorse for the events the Indians endured, but
>remorse and sympathy is not what Deloria is after. Deloria states that
>his main goal is to have a law written in the books that will officially
>leave Indians alone to control their own lives. I'm sure this most white
>people of today would think this was a respectable request. Most I'm sure
>would be in favor of it.

As a typical American I would have to disagree with this statement and
believe that any such "law written in the books that will officially leave
Indians alone to control their own lives" would be absurd.

First, is the government NOT allowing Indians the ability to run their own
lives? Tribal lands have been returned to Indians and they are allowed to
conduct their own affairs as semi-autonomous nations, often conducting
business that would otherwise be illegal and subjecting non-Indians living
on their lands to Indian laws. The United States government gives in
excess of $3 billion to Indian tribes collectively, with no accountability
for how that money is spent.

Second, writing a law could result in the disintegration of the United
States. Think about all of the wacko-types in places like Waco, TX and
other religious and semi-religios sects, not to mention blacks and
Hispanics, who would likewise demand their own "soveriegn states" based on
the same principle of "oppression" by the United States government.

>But it is a little disheartening to the
>government of the United States to try and help the Indian people when
>people like Deloria say that no program ever instituted by whites was
>beneficial and perhaps the Indians would have been better off without any
>help from the whites at all.
> I also took offense to the portion on the book in which Deloria
>says that he feels white people should stop trying to claim Indian
>heritage. I personally do not have an ounce of Indian blood in me. My
>half-brother's father however was a full blooded Hopi Indian. This makes
>my brother 1/2 Hopi. My brother is very fair skinned and at the same time
>very proud of his heritage. I wonder if Deloria feels he should abandoned
>this pride due to the fact that he appears to be white. With people like
>Deloria denouncing any white person who comes to them claiming to have
>Indian blood in them, one might be hesitant to reveal their heritage.

I wonder how Deloria treats his fellow Indians who claim Indian heritage
based on three-sixteenths Indian blood? There are few full-blooded Indians
remaining in this country and fewer as time passes. How long will people
be considered "Indian" when they only have TRACE amounts of direct Indian

This brings up my third point: how are the members of Indian tribes
"validated" in the sense of what makes a person truely an Indian? How
would a law be written to fairly accomodate the different definitions of
"what is an Indian"? Some say ANY portion counts, some would say at least
half or even full-blooded. I have a friend whose great-great-grandfather
was Cherokee. My friend has red hair and pale white skin. Yet he has
become a member of the Cherokee Nation! His only reason was that he could
- he knows no more about the Cherokee than any one of us and in all other
respects is a "white American". I'm sure that his decendants will be
considered Cherokee as well. Where does it end?

>Essentially, I feel it is absolutely a necessity
>that Indians, Blacks, Mexicans, as well as whites all learn to put their
>hatreds aside. Granted this is easier said than done, however one thing
>is certain, as long as one side dismisses any help from another as
>worthless, nothing is going to be achieved.

I agree with your idealistic hope for the future ("Can't we all just get
along?") - However, can we ever all be equal when some are written into law
as more equal or deserving of special treatment?

Have a great day!

Eric Knepper

Back to top...

Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 10:55:46 -0500
From: "Tony Lenn Heiserman (by way of Tony Lenn Heiserman
To: POS334-L@h-net.msu.edu

Deloria, Jr., Vine. Custer Died For Your Sins. University of Oklahoma
Press, Norman and London. 1970.
By Tony Heiserman

What is one of the few constants that have remained throughout American
history? The answer is the Native Americans or Indians. Ever since the
colonization of the New World, there have been major problems involved with
the inhabitants of the land and the settlers who would try to take it
over. It is said that history is written by the victors of war who have
the reserved the right to put their own perspective on what happened. The
question is whether or not their history is substantial enough to be passed
on from generation to generation. It is only common sense to wonder about
what the "other side’s" position on history really is. Our white Angelo
Saxon Protestant history says that the inhabitants that were found here
when the colonists landed were "savages". Savage is such a cruel term for
a people whose beautiful culture is much nobler than our own.

It is also ironic how "savage" the Indians were even though the colonists
are the ones who destroyed the Indian’s civilization. Many years ago,
there was a bumper sticker that read, "Custer Died For Your Sins" which was
intended to degrade the National Council of Churches. This
also happened to serve as the title for Deloria’s book on Indian affairs.
"Originally, the Custer bumper sticker referred to the Sioux Treaty of 1868
signed at Fort Laramie in which the United States pledged to give free and
undisturbed use of the lands claimed by Red Cloud in return for peace.
Under the covenants of the Old Testament, breaking a covenant called for a
blood sacrifice for atonement. Custer was the blood sacrifice for the
United States breaking the Sioux treaty. That, at least originally, was
the meaning of the slogan." (Deloria 148)

Myths and stereotypes of Indians are dispelled by Deloria very quickly. A
consistent myth encountered by Deloria is the correlation of white man to
the Indians. It seems that almost anyone that acknowledges the fact that
they have Indian blood in them claims that it was from their grandmother’s
side. No one wants to accept the idea that they had a "savage" in their
bloodline, but almost everyone will accept the idea of a young Indian
princess who succumbed to the charms of a young pioneer in their family.
Deloria says that the white people who have Indian blood but will not claim
it are very intelligent because they understand Indians and their struggle.
Even so, the fact that whites would want to claim Indian heritage reflects
a positive value that whites associate with Indians. This reflects the
"noble savage."

There are two critical points about race relations between Indians and the
rest of American society. There is much discussing the differences between
whites and Indians. Also, the differences between how Indians were treated
by the whites compared to how blacks were treated by the whites is

Origin is Deloria’s claim to the essential difference between the Indian
and the white man. The colonists mostly came from Europe and so their
world view had been much the same as the Europeans for over a millennium.
However, the Indians have been in the western hemisphere for nearly all of
their existence. They did not have the same traditions and customs as had
the colonists who were taught in the Greco-Roman ways. "The entire outlook
of the people was one of simplicity and mystery, not scientific or
abstract. The western hemisphere produced wisdom, western Europe produced
knowledge." (Deloria 11) It is interesting to note that Asante said the
same thing about blacks.

The Indians are very distrustful of three kinds of white people:
missionaries, anthropologists, and government officials. The Indian’s
distrust of whites are just and obvious. The Indians greatly distrusted
the missionaries who tried to steal their heritage, their culture, and
their children. "An old Indian once told me that when the missionaries
arrived they fell on their knees and prayed. Then they got up, fell on the
Indians, and preyed." (Deloria 101) Throughout this book, Deloria
constantly makes light of the situation which might prove that he is not
bitter about the many grievances the Indians have had to endure.

Missionaries were not interested in preserving Indian heritage, their only
goal was to forcibly assimilate Indians into the great American melting
pot. This involved everything from forcing the Indians into Christianity
to taking the children of Indians away from their "savage" parents so they
could be properly taught the ways of the white man. Many of the ideals
that the missionaries taught were contradictory. For example, it was very
uncivilized to have long hair. It was not proper. However, when the
Indians saw pictures of Jesus and his disciples they noticed that they all
had shoulder length hair. Another example is the medicine men of the
tribes. These men were labeled as works of the devil who should not be
followed. However, there were many simple things that the medicine men did
that actually worked.

Deloria sees anthropologists in the same light as missionaries. The
problem with anthropologists, he says, is that they go into the reservation
looking for what they already know or suspect to know. The "real Indian"
that is created by the anthropologists makes little sense to the white
world as well as the red. There is a lot of findings regarding
assimilation, alcoholism, tribalism, and so on but their findings do
nothing to help the Indians. Research does not equal altruism. However,
Deloria never gives any true evidence to support his views about

And finally, the Indian’s distrust of government officials is above and
beyond being justifiable. There are only a handful of hundreds of treaties
signed between the United States government and the tribes of the Indians
that are still good. If one looks at the history of expansion in the
United States and how quickly it occurred, it will show how wrong the
government really was. The age old deal that was taught to us when we were
kids about how Manhattan was obtained from the Indians is ludicrous. It
was bought in its entirety for trinkets. Explain how far trinkets go on
the stock market today? They probably could buy about that much then as
well. From the Indian’s point of view the expansion of the United States
is very insulting. "When Indian people remember how weak and helpless the
United States once was, how much it needed the good graces of the tribes
for its very existence, how the tribes shepherded the ignorant colonists
through drought and blizzard, kept them alive, helped them grow—they burn
with resentment at the treatment they have since received from the United
States government." (Deloria 35)

The relationship between blacks and Indians are in some cases similar and
drastically different in other cases. Deloria says that Indians are very
envious of the black man because of the legislation and power that resulted
from the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. And even though blacks and
Indians have both been denied their constitutional rights for centuries,
there is the major distinction between the black experience and the red
experience. The white man did not want assimilation for the blacks but
wanted the conformity of the Indians. "Never did the white man
systematically exclude Indians from his schools and meeting places. Nor
did the white man ever kidnap black children from their homes and take them
off to a government boarding school to be educated as whites. The white
man signed no treaties with the black. Nor did he pass any amendments to
the Constitution to guarantee the treaties of the Indian." (Deloria 172)
Deloria never implies that he wants integration, though, quite the
opposite. Indians need independence, self determination, and autonomy.

One of the central themes of this book is that Deloria wants the rest of
American society to leave the Indians alone so that they might unite and
prosper. Deloria is very wary of Indians who side with the whites so as to
assimilate better and he calls them the "Uncle Tomahawks", much like how
blacks use the term, "Uncle Tom" for the blacks that would prefer
integration over segregation. And even though welfare and other
socialistic programs would be very helpful to the Indians, Deloria would
not want it. I do not think that he would agree with it because it takes
away from the power of the Indian. Indians can succeed without the help of
anyone by themselves—and that includes those that attempt to help their

So where does Deloria in the twenty first century? He thinks that the way
for the Indian to succeed in the future is only if a few changed are made.
He believes that this country was founded in violence, and in most cases he
is right—especially concerning the Indian, and that we must take a more
conservative approach to things. The red man also cannot follow the path
that the black man has trailblazed either. The political, social, and
economic problems of the black are very different from the ideological
problems of the Indian. Indians must choose their own path to identity in
this country. And finally, that path that must be chosen by the Indian
must be through the use of tribalism. Combining modern technology with the
wisdom and resources of the Indian are the key to success. Their future is
wide open and the Indians will take advantage of determining how they will
finally triumph.

Back to top...

Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 15:08:50 -0500
From: Brian L Kelly <blkelly@ILSTU.EDU>
To: POS334-L@h-net.msu.edu

Brian L. Kelly

Custer Died For Your Sins

"Indians are like the weather. Everyone knows all about the weather, but
none can change it". A statement for the Indian's plight against the white
man. In Vine Deloria Jr's "Custer Died for Your Sins", Deloria explains
many on the topics that Indians, in his day (1969), were fighting against.
Most of these topics remain very important to Indians today, so this book
although rather dated, is still one of the best books available about the
plight of the Indian. These topics, Deloria illustrates include: problems
with the government, anthropologists and missionaries, race relations, and
how Indians fit into a modern society. Through these topics of discussion,
Deloria uses Indian humor to lighten the load of the heavy topics he
discusses, making this book a very easy read, as well as a very insightful
look into the plight of the Indian.

Deloria in his first chapter, really sets the tone for the rest of the
book. He talks about real and unreal Indians. Deloria sets the tone of this
book, when he speaks of the "Indian Grandmother Syndrome". This is the
phenomenon that everyone has a grandmother and not a grandfather that is an
Indian. There is a few reasons for this. First, having a Indian relative,
makes the white man feel not responsible for the terrible treatment of the
Indians. Second, having a grandmother that is a Indian, and not a
grandfather, is a commentary to the fact that male Indians were thought of
as braves and savages. While female Indians were thought of "princesses".
Thus to have a grandmother that is an Indian is much more respectable.
Deloria really shows in this first chapter that though his topics are very
negative toward the white man, he can still use humor to make these topics
more exceptable.

Deloria, as most Indians, really distrusts the white man's government, and
probably for good reason. He speaks of several treaties that were made
between governments and the Indians were broken, by nearly every regime the
Indians came into to contact with. When Deloria was writing this book the
policy of termination was in full effect. This policy was to take service
away for the reservations and let the Indians take care of their own needs,
because they want their own control and they did not pay taxes as regular
citizens would. This policy Deloria says was supposed to be the "answer" to
the Indians problems. Though, once it was found that it didn't work, it was
continued as weapon to get more Indian land.

Government agencies are the arm of the government that the Indians
distrust the most. Though at the same time they must depend of the Bureau
of Indian Affairs(BIA) for many services that they are provided by the
government. Deloria complains mainly about the placement of the ten BIA
regional offices. These offices were supposed to be "strategically" placed
in areas that had the most Indian populations. He says that most are placed
in strange places that often make it impossible for many Indians to get to.

Deloria later sets out five ways this bureau could be improved:
Programming by size of tribe, Discretionary funds, Tribal employment would
be civil service, Reorganization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and
Disposition of Federal responsibility to Indians. Programming by size of
tribe would give each tribe its own identity profile within the BIA. Right
now(in 1969), the government just lumps together all the different tribes
in the United States. This causes Indians to believe that the government
believes that they all have the same problems and needs. This is not true.
If the BIA programmed by size they would see that each tribe has different
needs. Discretionary funds would be used much as they are with emergency
services. These funds that the government gives to the BIA area offices
should be mostly undesignated. Deloria feels that this would help the area
offices put the money to better uses than it does right now. If Tribal
employment would be civil service, as jobs were taken away from the BIA,
and given to Indian contractors, ex-BIA workers would most likely take some
of these jobs. Deloria says that if they were given Civil Service
protection from the government, they would take these jobs within the
tribes, because of the job benefits and security that civil service
entails. The Reorganization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs would entail
the transferring of the bureau to the Commerce Department. This would serve
to help the privatization of the tribal projects. The disposition of
Federal responsibility to Indians would entail the government still giving
Indians the grants and aid that the currently do, but taking a much less
vocal role on the reservations. Deloria says this will fulfill the promise
of treaties signed that stated "free and undisturbed use" of reservation

Deloria takes a very hard stance against two groups that have effected
Indian life on the reservation: Anthropologist and Missionaries.
Anthropologists, he says, are worthless and do worthless work. He says that
the work they do is supposed to tell them more about who they are as Indian
people, but does nothing but reinforce the anti-Indian schools of thought.
Deloria criticize missionaries for being the original robbers of their
land. He says that the missionaries are unable to distinguish between their
hunger for land and their religious missions. He says that more land was
taken in the name of the church, than in the name of state. The Christian
faith, he says, was created to cover the shortcomings of the white man.
Saying all this he admits at the end of this chapter that he spent four
years in a seminary learning about the Christian faith.

The red and the black, Deloria says, have as much in common as they do
that is different. He recognizes that blacks have suffered as much as the
Indians have from the white man's regime. Though he says this, he is
critical of the civil rights movement, because it does not include Indians
in its struggle as much as it does blacks. He says there are several basic
differences between blacks and Indians. First, blacks don't really have a
united past as the Indians do. They don't have a Little Big Horn to lay
their hats on. Second, he says that black culture is rooted in finding
itself, while the Indians is rooted in finding economic strength. He says
for race relations to improve in the United States between whites, blacks
and Indians, white and blacks need to recognize the Indians as humans, and
shed the image of wild animals. This will lead to a prosperous racial
future he says.

The success of the Indian in a modern society, according to Deloria, will
consist of the image the Indians are seen in by the white society. Indians
he says are not savage that just came out of the woods into a modern
society. He says they are a very smart people. The only thing that is
holding them down, as it is for many blacks, is the white man holding them
down. He says that "poverty of the Indian tribes veils the great potential
of the Indian people". He predicts that the Indian people will once again
come to power over their lands, and rule.

In conclusion, "Custer Died for Your Sins", is a good book to read. It
gives a lot of insights into the Indian reservation life and culture.
Though, I do not agree with most of the proposals that Deloria makes.
Several of his proposals are very wishful thinking. Most of the proposals
include the government giving Indians more money, while having less control
of reservation life. All this while not paying any income taxes and not
having anything on reservations taxed. This would be nice for the Indians
if it did happen, but it will never occur. I think Mr. Deloria inhaled a
little to much peace pipe while he was writing parts of this book. The
humor though, that he uses in this book really helps the reader understand
the Indian problem more from their standpoint. I felt that this book is
good for reading, but not much in terms of realistic views.

Back to top...

Date: Wed, 29 Apr 1998 14:49:38 -0700
From: Edmund Stuhr <epstuhr@YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Response "Custer Died for Your Sins"(Stuhr)

I enjoyed the review of the book. I felt that there were many things
that could be improved with the review. I don't wan to insult you
Brian, but I feel that I have some valid suggestions to help.
First I felt that the explanation of Delorie's five ways to improve
the treatement of Indians were a little vague. I didn't quite
understand what he meant by tribal employment would be civil service.
Does this mean that jobs held by Indians on reservations would be
government jobs?

Secondly I didn't understand how he felt that blacks and Indians
are both discriminated against but it seemed that he thought that
blacks discriminated against Indians. If this is the case he is
almost contradicting himself.

Enough constructive criticism, I felt that your conclusion was
perfect. Deloire did smoke a little too much off of the peace pipe.
When he says that blacks don't have a united past, he is offending
many people. Blacks do indeed have a united past and it might be more
distinguished than that of Indinas. It was proven that the humans
originated in Africa. So from the begining of the human race Africans
had a unity with each other.

Another point that I felt he was way off on was the thought of the
government giving Indians more money without being taxed at all and
the government having less say in the actions of the Indians. This
statement blew my mind. When has the government given money to a
group of people and not had a say where that money is going. I think
that Deloire should have bitten his tounge on that one.
Overall I feel that this review was quite educational. I felt
myself getting involved in the review and was almost offended by some
of the thoughts that Mr. Deloiria has.


---Brian L Kelly <blkelly@ILSTU.EDU> wrote:

Back to top...

Date: Thu, 08 Apr 1999 15:58:55 -0500
From: john kropke <jrkrop2@ilstu.edu> (by way of Gary Klass <gmklass@ilstu.edu>)
Subject: Deloria, Custer Died for your Sins: John Kropke review

Deloria, Vine: Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. Bantam
Doubleday, 1997.

Reviewed by John Kropke, jrkrop2@ilstu.edu

"Leave us Indians alone." That is Vine Deloria, Jr.'s major cry in his
book Custer Died for Your Sins, An Indian Manifest. The white man has
stolen, cheated, murdered, and lied to the Native Americans since they set
foot on "American" all those years ago. Even when the white man was trying
to help the Native Americans, he was doing more damage than good. Deloria
looks back and sees how the United States government took advantage of the
Native Americans through laws and treaties that were in favor of the
government. And in time, if those laws and treaties changed and were not
in favor of the government, the white man broke those treaties without a
second thought. When the Native Americans saw the anthropologist and
missionaries come and go they were in worse shape than when they began, for
teaching the Native American how to be "white" is not the answer and never
will be. The government, who I believe is the major reason the Native
Americans are in their situation today, has become nothing but the
bureaucracy that we have come to expect. With a whole lot of people doing
a whole lot of nothing. Deloria has an interesting angle on the African
American and Native American situations. He believes that both groups can
learn form each other, thus bettering themselves. And finally, Deloria
looks at how modern society is affecting he Native American world.

While Deloria was working as director of the National Congress of American
Indians, he was in disbelief by the number of white Americans who claimed
to have Native American blood in them. With the overwhelming majority
claiming that their Native American blood on their grandmother's side. No
one, he believed, wanted their grandfather's blood to be Native American,
for that would mean in society that you would have "savage warrior, unknown
primitive, instinctive animal" blood in you. And that would not benefit
you in today's society. When Native Americans hear our government talk
other countries breaking treaties and our negative reaction toward those
countries, the Native Americans can only shake their heads. Deloria points
out that of the four-hundred treaties and agreements signed between the
United States government and the Native Americans, not one of those
treaties was kept by the United States government.

After the Revolutionary War the United States government "adopted the
doctrine of discovery and continued the process of land acquisition." A
few tribes lost their land in war to the United States, but most of the
tribes sold some land and the remainder in a trust with the United States
government. And today, we all know what happened to that trust. One of the
oldest treaties between the United States government and the Native
American was The Pickering Treaty of 1794. The treaty called for peace on
the frontier after the Revolutionary War. It was to be signed by The
Iroquois of New York. In return, the United States promised to respect the
land and boundaries of the Iroquois and to never disturb them on their
land. That lasted until 1960, when John F. Kennedy had a dam built that
flooded the land given to the Native Americans in the Pickering Treaty. It
is alleged that the dam was built to keep Pennsylvania in line during the
1960 Democratic Convention. The Pickering Treaty is just one of hundreds
of treaties broken by the United States government.

The one constant, besides the United States government breaking treaties,
is that every summer, no matter what, the Native Americans are graced by
their "friend" the anthropologist. They come out to make their
observations, take notes, and in the wintertime write a book on what they
observe. Then this cycle is repeated summer after summer after
summer. The observations are always the same "Indians are a folk people,
whites are an urban people, and never the thwain shall meet" and what
happens is, young native Americans are "brainwashed" into believing in
something they are not. They are taught to believe they are one thing,
when they are truly something completely different. This is an endless
cycle, like the anthropologist returning every summer.

Deloria writes "When missionaries arrived they had only the book and we had
the land, now we have the book and they have the land." When missionaries
first showed up it was to "save" the Native American. But in reality, it
"shattered Indian societies and destroyed the cohesiveness of the Indian
communities." To Deloria it seemed like the tribes that took to
Christianity died, and the ones that did not survived. The Native American
religion is more an individual spirituality that what is taught in
Christianity. Deloria believes that only the Native American religion will
save his people, and that Christianity was nothing but a "sham to cover
over the white man's shortcomings."

As I have stated earlier, the problem for the Native Americans stems form
its dealings with the United States government. No where is this more
apparent than with the government agencies that deal with the Native
American communities. The United States government, with its massive
bureaucracies, threatens tribes with termination if the Bureau of Indian
Affairs request anything. That they believe is rightfully due. Deloria
believes that congress should recognize the basic right to tribal
sovereignty. The tribe should do what they believe is right, and not what
the United States government says is right. For, if a tribe is to succeed
or fail, it is on their own terms.

The white man classified Native Americans as white, by laws passed to
exclude blacks. Then turned around and classified them as black when it
dealt with areas such as marriage laws. So as far as mast race relations
were concerned, Native Americans were classified as non-whites. With the
birth of the Civil Rights Movement, the Native Americans found themselves
in an awkward situation. With a history of bad results having to deal with
confrontations between minority groups and the American public, the Native
Americans generally avoided situations such as this. Deloria points out
that the basic problems between the racial group are cultural and legal
status not race. That "Peoplehood is impossible without cultural
independence. Which in turn is impossible without a land base." He states
that the white man solutions fail because, "White itself is an abstraction
of an attitude of mind, not a racial or group reality." If we are to
succeed as a society "all groups must come to understand themselves as
their situation defines them and not as other groups see them."

The one thing a Native American does not need anymore of is assistance.
Everywhere he turns there is someone who is going to fix the Native
American "situation". The one area where Deloria thinks the Native
American can help itself is through tribalism. This is a view that is not
shared by many Americans. The major function of the tribe is to make sure
one's life is as beneficial as it could be. That activities such as
hunting, fishing and craftsmanship will effectively create structures that
will benefit not only the individual, but also relationships with the
tribe. And in return have something different to add to society.

I believe that the white man has done enough for the Native Americans,
thank you very much. Now it is time to listen to them. The Native
Americans are, were and always will be great people. The sooner the white
man gets out of his way, the better we will be a society.


Back to top...

Date: Fri, 23 Apr 1999 03:03:00 -0500
From: Matthew Schueman <mrschue@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Custer Died for Your Sins (Matthew Schueman)

Deloria, Vine Jr. Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto
1969 Oklahoma University Press

Reviewed by Matthew Schueman mrschue@ilstu.edu

In Vine Deloria's book "Custer Died for Your Sins," the author addresses
the experiences that the white man has brought to the Indian, both when
trying to help and when having malicious intent. The key point that
Deloria seems to be making in this book is more of a statement to the
United States government saying "all your existence has ever brought our
people is pain and suffering. Leave us alone!" The author makes this
point by examining elements of interference by the United States in the
life of Indians. One such element was the introduction of Christianity
into Indian culture. At first he uses this interference to illustrate
the differences of heritage that the European Americans and Indian
Americans have between them. When people think of European heritage
they think of kings, queens, holy wars, the Reformation, and
Christianity. Indians do not relate to this yet they were expected to
respect it and follow principles based on this type of history.
Christianity was imposed on them. There are great discrepancies between
the Indian way of life and Christianity. First of all, Indians follow
more of a freedom on earth in that they comfortably exist with nature or
at least try to. Their religions are based on this existence.
Christianity involves rules and regulations along with hypocrisies.
Deloria seems to enjoy pointing out the hypocrisy of the Christian
Church. He speaks of the separation between church and state, and how
the church will overlook the morally questionable actions of governments
in order to keep its economic and political stronghold within European
based societies. The differences between the European's religion and
the Indian's religion did not matter to the white man, and they forced
this religion on the Indians. Missionaries liked to believe that the
Indians welcomed this new way of life, but in fact, according to
Deloria, they only went along with the transition for preservation of
their lives. Missionaries visited reservations every year, (along with
anthropologists that Deloria enjoys making fun of) and they spread their
religion to the Indians and expected them to follow it. Then, after the
Indians had been practicing the religion for nearly a century, a group
of missionaries visited a settlement in 1964; they were upset because
the Indians were practicing Christianity the exact same way, as they
were when it was first introduced to them. They did not change parts of
it to fit the change in times because they didn't know how. Indians do
not understand the history of Christianity so they cannot change it and
still conform to the rules of this religion. They were able to blend
their old religion into Christianity because they didn't have a choice,
but once they found a mixture that they liked, they didn't feel the need
to change it.

This example of Christianity illustrates Deloria's point. Since the
first interactions between the two people, Indians and Europeans, it has
been a no win situation for the Indians. Deloria's prime example of
this principle is the dealings that the Indians have had with the
government. Treaties, agencies in the government devoted to Indians,
and programs developed to help the Indians have all been jokes to
Deloria, unrespected, unhonored, and often worth nothing. Treaties were
initially made to define boundaries and create alliances between the
Indians and the U.S. government. From the start, the government did not
honor the land treaties. The alliance treaties were simply created to
insure that no other country could invade the U.S. and make allies with
the Indians to defeat the government. Deloria is an encyclopedia of
treaties that have been broken by the government. He mentions the
Treaty with the Kaskaskias of 1802; the Treaty with the Wiandot,
Delaware, Ottawa, Pattawatima, and Sac of 1789; Treaty with the United
Tribes of Sac and Fox of 1804, and several others that stated that the
government would respect the lands of the Indians. These treaties gave
Indians the right to defend these lands against intruders, to use these
lands how they wished, and to hold these lands forever. All of these
treaties were broken. The right to defend the lands against colonist
intruders was soon taken away and given to the army who eventually
forgot about the duty. The right to do with these lands what they
wished was taken away on several occasions, one being in the 1960's when
a dam was built that flooded the lands of the Seneca Indians (since they
obviously couldn't do much with the land if it was underwater). It is
easy to see that the right to hold these lands forever was taken away
from the Indians. I make that last statement with a sarcastic because
that is the style that Deloria writes this book in. The way that the
white man has treated the Indians is so ridiculous and unfair that if a
book were written about it, it might be banned for being so distasteful
and cruel. Deloria feeds off of this in his book by making statements
to the effect of "the white man honored that treaty with great fervor
and commitment." He actually devotes quite a bit of space in this book
to the jokes that Indians have made about the white man and the way he
has treated the original occupants of this land which we now call home.
Laughter is a big part of Indians life and Deloria has been disappointed
that this has not been represented in the history books. "Rumor has it
that Columbus began his journey with four ships. But one went over the
edge so he arrived in the New World with only three." "Columbus didn't
know where he was going, didn't know where he had been, and did it all
on someone else's money. And the white man has been following Columbus
ever since." The title of this book actually comes from a bumper
sticker that is kind of a joke. The bumper sticker refers to the Sioux
Treaty of 1868, in which the United States pledged to give free and
undisturbed lands in return for peace. In the Old Testament it says
that if one breaks a covenant a blood sacrifice would have to be made.
Custer was this sacrifice for the U.S. Custer jokes are the most common
of all the Indian's jokes. "Custer is said to have boasted that he
could ride through the entire Sioux nation with his Seventh Cavalry and
he was half right. He got half-way through." Deloria describes the
Bureau of Indian Affairs, as one of the agencies developed for the
Indians that is not a very effective tool. The agency is split into ten
area offices "located strategically" to serve the Indians of each
agency. The author describes the actions of the Minnesota office as
follows: "The are office in Minneapolis serves tribes in Minnesota,
Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan. In fact, that area office ignores the
Michigan Indians, persecutes the little Indian settlement in Tama, Iowa,
and muddles around in Wisconsin and Minnesota."

Deloria spends some time in this book describing the civil rights
movement and Indians as well as black people's place in it. First he
states how the white man has always been after Indian's land and
resources and always will be (though I don’t know why he would want some
desert land that he gave to the Indian because it is useless). The
author says that the problems between Indians and the white man are not
cultural but a legal problem of the Indians trying to get along with the
federal government. Therefore civil rights are not the issue. He feels
that the rights of humanity are an economic issue and not a cultural
issue and that this is based on land. "Civil Rights is a function of
man's desire for self-respect, not of his desire for equality. The
dilemma is not one of tolerance or intolerance but one of respect or
contempt" (Deloria 179). A movement needs a land of its own. The
Jewish needed land to sustain their movement and they received it. The
Indians need land as well as the black people in America. In Deloria's
opinion, the blacks must understand that the civil rights movement will
not help them because it is the opposite situation for them as it is for
the Indian's, only they do not desire the same things. For blacks, it
is not about legal problems but about the cultural and socio-economical
drive of the white man to keep blacks down. The black people want to be
part of the United States and the Indians do not. The civil rights
movement helps neither of them. Deloria feels that the white man
oppresses because of insecurities that he has about himself. He takes
away the ability to compete against him because he doubts himself. He
conquers and rules over others because he is afraid of different
cultures. He has done this throughout history and has done it on this
continent as well. Deloria speaks for all Indians when he says that
they have had enough of the white man and just wants to be left alone.
They want their own land and they want to be autonomous of the United
States. I can certainly see why the Indians would want this. I
probably would too, but I don't think that it is the solution to our
problems. I don't really think it was the solution for the Jewish
people's problems either. The world is growing smaller and smaller. We
are becoming more tightly packed together. We do not have enough room
to go hide in our corners and ignore other people. It is also not the
best solution for humanity. Part of our growth, as a civilization, will
be to learn how to get past differences without these periods of
oppression and war. It is the only way that we will be able to
survive. It will also be extremely useful to be united if we ever
actually meet species from another world (which seems ridiculous now,
but is probably inevitable if we survive as a species long enough).

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Date: Tue, 27 Apr 1999 13:19:19 -0500
From: Matthew Schueman <mrschue@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Re: Custer Died for Your Sins (Matthew Schueman)


First let me say that I am not agreeing with Deloria. I was just reporting
on his ideas. He does touch on the monopoly idea that you presented in his
book, sort of. Deloria says that "The Reformation produced self-centered
individuals. Social and economic Darwinism, the survival of the fittest at any
cost, replaced the insipid brotherhood of Christianity not because
Christianity's basic thrust was invalid, but because it had been corrupted for
so long that it was no longer recognizable." Deloria feels that this way of
thinking created so much turmoil that people began to search back in their
roots to find "systems of thought that would connect him with the greats of the
past. Fear of the unfamiliar became standard operating procedure." Deloria
says that the first program offered to the blacks after Emancipation was giving
them 40 acres and a mule, but when it looked like the black man might be able
to compete with the white man, he took it away. This suggests that man's
motive is also one of monopoly, but what drives monopoly. A fear of the
inability to compete. An insecurity that says in less I control this whole
area of business, I will not be able to be on top since I can not win in a
competition. Therefore, I think that Deloria would agree with you that
monopoly is a drive of the white man, but the author was trying to get a little
more basic with the motives of whites. I think.

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Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 12:50:14 -0500
From: Scott Berends <swberen@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Re: Custer Died for Your Sins (Matthew Schueman)

"Deloria feels that the white man oppresses because of insecurities that he
has about himself. He takes away the ability to compete against him because
he doubts himself. He conquers and rules over others because he is afraid
of different cultures. He has done this throughout history and has done it
on this continent as well."

I enjoyed your review of the book and thought it was very informative, but
I do have one contention. I have taken the above passage from your review
and I personally think that Deloria missed the point. The white man's
domination of various cultures is not due to any insecurity on the part of
white people but rather just plain good business sense. Any businessperson
can tell you that monopolies are the most lucretive forms of business
available. All white people have tried to do is monopolize society and
culture, because with such a monopoly comes incredible power and riches.
While I agree that this approach may not be the most ethically sound
practice it is not due to any insecurity on the part of white people.
Deloria needs to be careful about confusing the motives of white people in
race relations.

Scott Berends
Illinois State University

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Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 22:10:35 -0500
From: Adam E Sebastian <aeseba0@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Re: Custer Died for Your Sins (Matthew Schueman)

Any business person can tell you that monopolies are the most lucrative
forms of business

Scott and Matt

i agree with Scott and must say that the white man never doubted himself.
Whites had almost full certainty that the Indians could be conquered. Even
now whites may talk about what a terrible thing was done to the Indians,
but few would want to compensate Indians for the stolen land or try to
enforce treaties that were signed and not held too. i would say that
America is comfortable with the monopoly they imposed on the Indians.
While whites say that it was a terrible thing that happen to the Indians,
few if any back then seemed to worry. It was a matter of resources and
when people feel threaten it becomes the state of nature and no one seems
to think of any repercussions besides what could happen to them.

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