Sunday, November 13, 2005
In Honor of Vine Deloria, Jr. (1933-2005)
The great indigenous visionary, philosopher, author and activist Vine
Deloria, Jr. passed over to join his ancestors today, November 13, 2005.
Our thoughts and prayers go to his wife, Barbara, to his children and
his other relatives. The passing of Vine creates a huge intellectual and
analytical void in the native and non-native worlds.
He will be greatly missed.
It is appropriate on this website to reflect on the meaning of Vine's
contibutions to indigenous peoples' resistance, and to reflect on our
responsibilities to maintain and to advance the lessons that Vine gave
to us. It is safe to say that without the example provided by the
writing and the thinking of Vine Deloria, Jr., there likely would have
been no American Indian Movement, there would be no international
indigenous peoples' movement as it exists today, and there would be
little hope for the future of indigenous peoples in the Americas.
Vine Deloria, Jr. was a true revolutionary when he wrote Custer Died for Your Sins in 1969, the first of his scores of books and scholarly
articles (for a partial bibliography of Vine's important books go to:
http://www.ipl.org/div/natam/bin/browse.pl/A31). He had the courage and
the vision to challenge the dominating society at its core. He was
unapologetic in confronting the racism of U.S.law and policy, and he was
prophetic in challenging young indigenous activists to hone their
We will write much more about Vine in the upcoming days. He was our
elder statesman and mentor. For now, we will share this passage from
Custer Died For Your Sins, as a reminder of our responsibilities, and
to ensure that we are more deliberate and strategic in our resistance.
"Ideological leverage is always superior to violence....The problems of
Indians have always been ideological rather than social, political or
economic....[I]t is vitally important that the Indian people pick the
intellectual arena as the one in which to wage war. Past events have
shown that the Indian people have always been fooled by the intentions
of the white man. Always we have discussed irrelevant issues while he
has taken our land. Never have we taken the time to examine the premises
upon which he operates so that we could manipulate him as he has us." (pp.251-252)
and this relevent passage regarding the example of the great Oglala
Lakota leader Tashunka Witko (Crazy Horse):
"Crazy Horse never drafted anyone to follow him. People recognized that
what Crazy Horse did was for the best and was for the people. Crazy
Horse never had his name on the stationery. He never had business cards.
He never received a per diem. *** Until we can once again produce people
like Crazy Horse all the money and help in the world will not save us.
It is up to us to write the [next] chapter of the American Indian upon
this continent." (p. 272)
For many of us, Vine was a contemporary Crazy Horse. Perhaps we
squandered his time with us. We took him for granted, and assumed that
he would always be with us. Now, the question is, not only will we
produce more Crazy Horses, but will we produce more Vine Deloria, Jr.s?
Vine, we will miss you, but we will continue your work toward freedom
for native peoples everywhere. Mitakuye Oyasin.
Tisch School of the Arts
New York University
New York, NY 10003