Vine Deloria, Jr.
March 26, 1933 - November 13, 2005
From our first encounter in June, 1975, until his death November 13, 2006, Vine Deloria Jr. was my best friend. His departure left a void I will never fill. Personal loss pales, however, when compared to the impact Vine's passing represents throughout Indian country. His importance to Indian people was so extensive and profound that most referred to him simply as "Uncle Vine". Former principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller eloquently expressed Vine's significance to Indian people when she said, "Vine left us with so many spiritual and intellectual gifts, he will be with us for a very long time. All humans benefited from the knowledge he shared with us." Chief Mankiller's assertion that Vine's legacy will benefit all humans was underscored with the remarks of globally renown religious scholar and philosopher Huston Smith praising the publication of Vine's first posthumous book, The World We Used To Live In: Remembering the Powers of the Medicine Men:
"Vine Deloria - that giant oak tree of a man - accomplishes what I would have thought impossible. It is the best book he wrote. Its virtues begin with its conception. Instead of summarizing what the visionaries of his people saw and understood, he draws on his vast data bank -vaster than that of anyone else's of our time, and very likely any time- to let them speak for themselves. …This is a veritable library between two covers. Its conception, its scope, and its eloquence make it, in my judgment, the best single book on Native Americans that has been written. Novices and pundits will gain from it equally.
This book is a priceless addition to the history of humankind."
Vine was born March 26, 1933 on Pine Ridge Reservation and enrolled as a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. His father, Vine Deloria, Sr. and his grandfather, Philip J. Deloria were Dakota Sioux Episcopalian clergymen. He served in the U. S. Marine Corps from 1954-1956 and graduated from Iowa State University in 1958, the Lutheran School of Theology in 1963.
From 1964-1967 Vine was the Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians. During his tenure in that office Vine reworked the organization's intertribal political structure and shaped the arguments for tribal sovereignty he would soon publish. In 1969 Vine exploded in the national consciousness with his landmark Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. After graduating from the University of Colorado School of Law in 1970, Vine followed "Custer" with a rapid outpouring of equally important books: We Talk, You Listen (1970), God Is Red: A Native View of Religion (1972), and Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties (1974). By 1974 the editors of six prominent journals of religion named him a "Theological Superstar of the future", one of eleven "shapers and shakers of the Christian faith" and Time magazine proclaimed him as one of the greatest religious thinkers of the twentieth century.
Vine taught at Western Washington University, UCLA, the Pacific School of Religion, and Colorado College, before accepting a position as Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Arizona in 1978. At Arizona he helped create an M.A. in American Indian Studies and formed the nucleus for what remains one of the nation's best American Indian Studies programs. In 1990, he moved to the University of Colorado, where he held appointments in American Indian Studies, Law, History, Religious Studies, and Political Science. He retired in 2000 to devote his attention to writing. At the time of his death The World We Used To Live In: Remembering the Powers of the Medicine Men and a book dealing with Carl Jung and the Sioux were being prepared to go to press.
Aside from urging financial contributions, I am including this section at Bobbybridger.com with hopes that others might want to join with me to call attention to Vine's work and also link to the American Indian College Fund and the scholarship established there in "Uncle Vine's" memory.
The World We Used To Live In: Remembering the Powers of the Medicine Men (Fulcrum, 2006) For This Land: Writings On Religion in America (Routledge, 1999) Singing For A Spirit: A Portrait of the Dakota Sioux (Clearlight, 1999) Spirit and Reason: The Vine Deloria Jr. Reader (Fulcrum, 1999) Tribes, Treaties, And Constitutional Tribulations (with David Wilkens) (Uni.of Texas Press, 1999) Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact (Scribner, 1995) God Is Red: A Native View of Religion (North American Press, 1994) Frank Waters: Man and Mystic (Swallow Press, Uni. of Ohio Press, 1993) American Indian Policy in the Twentieth Century (Uni. of Oklahoma Press, 1985) Aggression Of Civilization: Federal Indian Policy Since the 1880s (Temple Uni. Press, 1984) The Nations Within: The Past and Future of American Indian Sovereignty (Pantheon Books, 1984) A Sender of Words: Essays in memory of John G. Neihardt (Howe Brothers, 1984) American Indians, American Justice (Uni. of Texas Press, 1983) The Metaphysics of Modern Existence (Harper and Row, 1979) A Brief History Of The Federal Responsibility To The American Indian (US Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare, 1979) The Right To Know: A Paper (US Dept. of the Interior, 1978) Indians Of The Pacific Northwest (Doubleday, 1977) A Better Day For Indians (Field Foundation, 1976) The Indian Affair (Friendship Press, 1974) Behind The Trail Of Broken Treaties: An Indian Declaration of Independence (Dell, 1974) Of Utmost Good Faith (Straight Arrow Books, 1971) The Red Man In The New World Drama: A Politico-legal Study with a Pagentry of American Indian History (Macmillan, 1971) We Talk, You Listen: New Tribes, New Turf (Macmillan, 1970) Custer Died For Your Sins (Macmillan, 1969)
(Bibliography Source: Mark Trahant's tribute to Vine Deloria Jr. in the Spring, 2006 issue of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian magazine.)