Vine Deloria, Jr.

Author, Philosopher, Professor, Treaty Legal Authority, and Activist


After departing on his spirit journey November 13, 2005 the legacy of the late Vine Deloria, Jr. remains powerful. In the 1970s Time magazine proclaimed him one of the ten greatest religious thinkers of the 20th century. Today we are witnessing his impact reaching deep into the 21st century. His research, writings, and teaching encompassed history, law, religious studies, and political science and not only changed the face of Indian Country, but continue to influence future generations of indigenous as well as non-indigenous Americans. As a professor of History and Religious Studies at the University of Arizona from 1978-1990 Vine created the first American Indians Masters Degree program in the United States. He taught at the University of Colorado/Boulder from 1990-2000, all the while continuing his long career as a distinguished and prolific writer who received three honorary doctorate degrees and numerous citations and awards reflecting his contributions to social and legal causes,

After serving in the Marine Corp from 1954-1956 Vine attended Iowa State University, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in General Science in 1958. Coming from a family with deep roots in the medicine culture of the Dakota Sioux, the Deloria family were also pioneer Episcopalians. Vine’s father rose to become Archdeacon of the Episcopal Church of South Dakota. Vine assumed he would follow his father and grandfather in his father and grandfather’s footsteps in the ministry, and attended Lutheran Seminary in Illinois, obtaining a degree in Theology in 1963. Nevertheless, upon graduation from the Seminary Vine promptly went into politics and from 1964-1967 was the youngest Executive Director in the history of the National Congress of American Indians.

Realizing that many problems between Indian and non-Indian people were legal in nature, Vine returned to academia in 1968 and obtained a law degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder. While still in law school in 1969 Vine published the book that launched his career as an author, the perennially-popular Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. Custer Died For Your Sins has been translated in several languages and is considered by many to be singularly responsible for influencing major positive changes in the field of Anthropology. Vine followed the global success of “Custer” with many other books (see bibliography here). He has served as consultant, advisory editor, or contributing editor to the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Society, American Indian Cultural Research Center, Journal of International and Comparative Law, Native Peoples Magazine, Journal of the West, as well as other publications and institutions. From 1996-1997 Vine was also Chairman of the Repatriation Committee of the National Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan.

Books by Vine Deloria, Jr.

  • Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto
  • We Talk, You Listen
  • Of Utmost Good Faith
  • God Is Red: An Indian Perspective of Christianity
  • The World We Used to Live in: Remembering the Powers of the Medicine Men
  • Red Earth, White Lies: American Indians and the Myth of Scientific Fact
  • Evolution, Christianity, and other Modern Myths: A Critical Inquiry
  • Spirit and Reason: The Vine Deloria Reader
  • Singing for a Spirit: A Portrait of the Dakota Sioux
  • Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties
  • The Indian Affair
  • Indians of the Pacific Northwest
  • The Metaphysics of Modern Existence
  • American Indian, American Justice (with Clifford Lytle)
  • A Sender of Words: Essays in Memory of John G. Neihardt  (edited)
  • The Nations Within (with Clifford Lytle)
  • The Aggressions of Civilization (edited with Sandra L. Cadwalader)
  • American Indian Policy in the Twentieth Century (edited)
  • Frank Waters: Man and Mystic (edited)
  • C. G. Jung and the Sioux Tradition: Dreams, Visions, Nature, and the Primative (published posthumously; edited by Philip J. Deloria and Jerome S. Bernstein)