"Custer Died For Your Sins" Analysis

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Author and Indian Activist, Vine Deloria makes compelling statements in chapters one and five of his Indiana Manifesto, “Custer Died for Your Sins.” Although published in 1969 this work lays important historic ground work for understanding the plight of the Indian in the United States. Written during the turbulent civil rights movement, Deloria makes interesting comparisons to the Black struggle for equal rights in the United States. He condemns the contemporary views toward Indians widely help by Whites and argues that Indians are wrongly seen through the historic lens of a pipe smoking, bow and arrow wielding savage. Deloria forcefully views the oppressors and conquerors of the Indian mainly as the United States federal government and Christian missionaries. The author’s overall thesis is that Whites view Indians the way they want to see them which is not based in reality. The resulting behavior of Whites towards Indians shows its affects in the false perception in law and culture. In regard to law, Deloria defines the relationship between the US Government and the Indians as paternalistic. The US Government treated and governed the Indians as a father would by providing basic needs but without given them rights. There has been some improvement with the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934. This act allowed the return to local self-government on a tribal level and restored the self management of their assets. By allowing the Indians to self govern it encouraged an economic foundation for the inhabitants of Indian reservations. Unfortunately only a few tribes have fully taken advantage of this act, while others continue to struggle for survival. Culturally, according to Deloria, there are many misconception... ... middle of paper ... ...s Whites as the cause of the decline and oppression of his people. Although the work is 40 years old, “Custer Died for Your Sins” is still relevant and valuable in explaining the history and problems that Indians face in the United States. Deloria’s book reveals the White view of Indians as false compared to the reality of how Indians are in real life. The forceful intrusion of the U.S. Government and Christian missionaries have had the most oppressing and damaging affect on Indians. There is hope in Delorias words though. He believes that as more tribes become more politically active and capable, they will be able to become more economically independent for future generations. He feels much hope in the 1960’s generation of college age Indians returning to take ownership of their tribes problems and build a better future for their children.

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