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Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (1st,1969) Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0806121291
ISBN-10: 0806121297
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Vine Deloria, Jr., (1933–2005) was Professor of Political Science at the University of Arizona and the author of a number of books and articles on events affecting the lives of American Indians. He served as the Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians and was an active spokesman and leader for the American Indian community throughout the nation.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press; (1st,1969) edition (1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806121297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806121291
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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