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Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto [Paperback]

by Jr. Vine Deloria
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1988 0806121297 978-0806121291

In his new preface to this paperback edition, the author observes, "The Indian world has changed so substantially since the first publication of this book that some things contained in it seem new again." Indeed, it seems that each generation of whites and Indians will have to read and reread Vine Deloria’s Manifesto for some time to come, before we absorb his special, ironic Indian point of view and what he tells us, with a great deal of humor, about U.S. race relations, federal bureaucracies, Christian churches, and social scientists. This book continues to be required reading for all Americans, whatever their special interest.

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Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto + God Is Red: A Native View of Religion, 30th Anniversary Edition
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Vine Deloria, Jr., Professor of Political Science at the University of Arizona, is the author of a number of books and articles on events affecting the lives of American Indians. He serves as the Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians and is an active spokesman and leader for the American Indian community throughout the nation.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806121297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806121291
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
125 of 136 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Swallow Your Bile and Read On March 2, 2000
So that there's no misunderstanding, I think Vine Deloria Jr is a great man. Not a perfect man, not one who's right all of the time, but a man who means well, and has done great things for Native Americans. My feelings about Custer Died for Your Sins are similar. It's a good book, this Indian Manifesto, and has the power to do great things, still, decades after its publication. But it's not perfect. If you're a Caucasian reader, you're going to get angry. Parts of the book simply aren't meant for you, and those parts that are, are very inflammatory. This is intentional. Deloria is a master of making people furious, in order to make them think. But it's also intentional, I think, because Deloria is, understandably, himself a bitter and angry man, in many ways. The book's passages on people of mixed descent are good examples. Deloria issues the blanket statement that Native/Caucasian people are, in fact, just White people with a royalty complex. He does this to make you angry, and he does this to make you think; he wants you to understand what you are doing when you claim tribal descent or affiliation, and he wants you to be sure you're doing so with the proper respect. But he's also doing it because he's annoyed, and very tired of White people who don't have said respect. He's making a mistake, though, in his implicit assumption that, somehow, being Caucasian is the default, and that to be a Native, one really should be a wholeblood. Read more ›
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A view from within October 29, 1998
By A Customer
I think non-Native people tend to forget that Native Americans aren't interested in functioning as symbols. They have lives beyond the tribal dances they put on for tourists. They're forced to watch their religion and culture being appropriated by bored New Age types who want to be cool and hip and profound, and it's hardly surprising if some Indians, like Mr. Deloria, don't view this theft as a compliment. This book, along with the works of Sherman Alexie, represents a part of the Native community that's usually ignored by the mainstream.
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87 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars and the fun continues.... May 8, 2002
What impressed me most about this book was its emphasis that imperialistic exploitation is not a dead relic of a past we Anglos are ashamed of and wish to forget. The fun continues, and it makes little difference what we call it: manifest destiny, bringing civilization to the primitives, or new world order.
Another point: we've been long overdue for a Deloria-style criticism of Anglos who exploit Indian folklore and beliefs. I refer to those who claim esoteric knowledge from Native shamans and all the rest of it. What such folks, including the anthropologists and social scientists who pretend more objectivity, never ask themselves is: do I have any right to make a profit and gain a reputation from the people I claim to have learned from? What do they get out of it? Does it benefit them or harm them? (The claim that Indian people don't need any kind of concrete benefits because they aren't "materialistic" is particularly nauseating.)
At one point, while contemplating doing some interviews with local Indians about their experience of being blinkered, baffled, and b.s.ed for 250 years, I reread parts of this book--particularly the "we want to be left alone" parts--and decided that I lacked the temerity even to ask for such interviews. Deloria suggests that no research of any kind be done that isn't approved in council and that doesn't clearly demonstrate some use to the Indians themselves. I would also suggest to other Anglo readers that before they involve themselves in matters indigenous they be very honest about their motivations--particularly where any notions of being "helpful" might occur. Our "helpfulness" has been genocidal and even now perpetrates stereotypes, as Indians may tell you if you're genuinely receptive to the feedback.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Relevant January 17, 2000
First published in 1969 and reissued in 1988 with a new preface by the author, this is the one that started it all. This book is required reading and you will be tested. Best Sellers magazine says of Custer Died for your Sins, "nauseated by the traditional Indian image, (Deloria) asserts the worth if not the dignity of the redman and blasts the political, social, and religious forces that perpetrate the Little Big Horn and wigwam stereotyping of his people." Deloria shines his distinctive light on Indian missions, federal relations, Hollywood stereotypes, and community leadership, to name a few. Here began the critique of anthropology to be continued in Indians and Anthropologists, also featured on this website. One of the most notable chapters of this heavy little book discusses the Civil Rights Movement and compares Native American and African American civil rights issues.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, funny . . . and frustrating December 10, 2006
This has become a period piece, as both Indians and the rest of North America have changed a lot since this was written in 1970. Though the foreword to the new edition updates it somewhat, significant chunks of the book still come across as quite dated. For example, it was clearly written during the civil rights movement, which shapes many of the issues Deloria discusses.

Still, many of his points remain timeless. Deloria is very good at pointing out how many whites patronize Native Americans while believing that they are honoring them. For example, many whites like to claim that they had an Indian ancestor - - almost always a woman, often a great grandmother, and usually Cherokee. (Funny how whites don't make such claims about slave ancestors.) These claims are rarely documented, and rarely true. Many whites like to take on a cloak of Indian mysticism, as we see in many New Age practices. This has little to do with real Native Americans, real Indian religious practices, or real people's lives. Third, Deloria launches a devastating bromide against sociologists, and by implication other social scientists, who descend on reservations to pursue their own professional ambitions without giving anything back to their subjects.

Despite making a lot of similar valuable points, the book does not make any real argument. Each chapter is a bunch of ideas, anecdotes, and observations, all strung together. There's considerable inconsistency: on one page, Deloria praises a tribe for getting funding from five different agencies to build some housing, while two pages later he says that Indians just want to be left alone. Being left alone would probably not mean depending on funding from federal agencies.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening!
Another library book turned purchase! Great book every Indian and non Indian should own this book! This book is like The Catcher In The Rye for Indians. Vine Deloria Jr. Read more
Published 20 days ago by SHYSLIM
5.0 out of 5 stars Sarah Helen Harvey
Custer Died For You Sins is a detailed, honest and factual book, it really inspired me and taught me very much about Sovreign Nations.
Published 2 months ago by Sarah Helen Harvey
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably one of the most important books for young NDN's to read
Vine changed my outlook on a lot of things with this book, I read it as a young man of 22 or so and being a halfy from the south lets just say that whole pissed off youth thing was... Read more
Published 6 months ago by christopher shea
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Thrilled
While this book may contain a lot of neglected and unsung history, I feel it was very much skewed. It is not an easy read either.
Published 7 months ago by Kenneth E. Hundrieser
4.0 out of 5 stars Custer Died For Your Sins
I think Americans of every ethnic background should read this classic work. There are parts that will make you laugh and parts that will make you cry, parts that are... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Kim Burdick
4.0 out of 5 stars revolutionary!
ideas and problems put into perspective. vine deloria is breaking barries with this book, making a enemy out of our government which you should consider!
Published 13 months ago by Chris
5.0 out of 5 stars just the facts
Vine Deloria wrote many books, and made a name for himself as a key contributor to the red power movement of the 60s. Read more
Published 14 months ago by gogo
3.0 out of 5 stars A little textbooky
I always wondered about the meaning of this title, which if I remember correctly, came from a 1970s bumper sticker. Read more
Published 17 months ago by AgingHippy
5.0 out of 5 stars Plight of the Native American
Of all the minority groups in the U.S., none have suffered as much as the Native American. This book outlines the difficulties of these beautiful people who have been... Read more
Published 18 months ago by John D. Armstrong
5.0 out of 5 stars Promises, Promises
Every American should read this book. I learned:

That the U. S. government never kept 1 treaty with Indians. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Timothy
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