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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - Vine Deloria Jr. (1933–2005): Betrayals and Bridges


The primary goal and need of Indians today is not for someone to feel sorry for us and claim descent from Pocahontas to make us feel better. Nor do we need to be classified as semi-white and have programs and policies made to bleach us further. … We need fewer and fewer “experts” on Indians. What we need is a cultural leave-us-alone agreement, in spirit and in fact.

– Vine Deloria Jr., 1969

Context and Beginnings

From a certain hill on the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, it is possible on typical summer afternoons to look out over the expanse to see towering cumulous clouds marching in orderly regiments toward the distant horizon. Lowering one's gaze then to the ravine and meandering creek below, one might imagine the events that occurred at this very spot in 1890.

Focusing intently, it is seemingly possible still to make out within the valley mist the shapes of several dozen ghost tepees, with wisps of smoke curling lazily from their smoke holes, camped near the banks of the creek. In a clearing among the tepees is an ephemeral group of Sioux warriors seated in a circle, surrounded by several ranks of apparitional blue-coated U.S. Army soldiers with locked-and-loaded artillery guns.

“All of you men bring your guns and arms and stack them in the middle,” an army officer demands of the Indians. Groups of soldiers then enter the tepees, bringing out axes, knives, and tent stakes, piling them near the guns.

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