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Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  3,052 ratings  ·  186 reviews
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, iro ...more
Paperback, 278 pages
Published May 15th 1988 by University of Oklahoma Press (first published 1969)
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Traci
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this when I was about 16 and it changed my life. I know that sounds hokey, but this book, "God is Red," and "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," flipped a switch in my head that I have never wanted to turn off. I was raised by civil rights activists, and my dad was born on an Indian reservation in the Midwest (he is not Indian) so I had some sort of context for what Deloria was talking about...where my dad grew up he said the word "Indian" was like the N word in the south...Deloria lit the fi ...more
M. Kei
Apr 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-american
Hilarious and truthful, you never knew history could be this entertaining--and this horrifying. Vine Deloria is a Native American author who explains why American Indians are not quietly vanishing the way conquered people are supposed to. The absolutely horrible things that are still happening to Native Nations in the United States are repetitions and replays of what has been going on for hundreds of years, and if one is gifted with a dark and surrealistic sense of humor, it's incredibly funny, ...more
Virginia Arthur
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recently I read an interview with a Native American academic. The interview, written by a white journalist, was all about the ways Native Americans appreciate the earth, in other words, the kind of bullshit that drove Vine up the wall.

Here we go romanticizing the Indian again.

When I worked as a biologist in Alaska and we went to Tongass, there were sections of Tongass that were clearcut to nothing, including the riparian areas--down to dirt, nothing left. It looked like a nuclear bomb. I thoug
...more
Kaelan Ratcliffe ▪ كايِلان راتكِليف
I went in looking to understand the Native American, and finished with a greater understanding of the world.

I got something different out of this book that I wasn't expecting. Jane Elliot, the creator of the infamous 'Green Eye / Blue Eye' test (look it up if you on YouTube haven't already, be ready though, it gets rough) has a recommended reading list on her website, and this book was on it. Going in, I wasn't sure what the meat and bone of the book would detail, and I certainly didn't know the
...more
Steven Yenzer
Feb 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
Meandering and often vague. Along with the wit, there is a heavy dose of theory, which is not particularly compelling. I learned a lot about Indian culture, but I also learned that white culture either doesn't exist or is founded on violence and exploitation.

A good chunk of the book is taken up with Deloria Jr.'s elevation of Indian culture above white (and specifically, American culture). For him, there is little (really, nothing) wrong with Indian culture, which is infinitely wise, holistic,
...more
Gina
Apr 03, 2012 rated it liked it
My feelings are very mixed on this book. Deloria is an interesting thinker, and his view of how the future would work out, and his contemporary situation was interesting. His scathing humor was often enjoyable, including his section on anthropologists. At the same time, I disagree with much of what he says, especially his feelings about separatism and certainly his characterization of whites. Certainly he had reasons for feeling that way, but prejudice towards the majority isn't exactly more com ...more
Guy A Burdick
Aug 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Deloria's perspective on U.S. history was both discomforting and eye-opening. Whenever someone (clearly caucasian) tells me about their Cherokee princess great-great grandmother, I think of Vine Deloria's book. ...more
Kusaimamekirai
Mar 02, 2018 rated it liked it
I don’t think that many would argue that the United States has repeatedly and violently suppressed and lied to Native Americans over hundreds of years. Land was stolen, treaties were broken and even to this day Native American land is still expropriated and exploited. The question is for any group with this history, what are you going to do about it? Treaties that were broken aren’t going to be retroactively honored. Land that was stolen isn’t going to be given back. So what are you going to do ...more
Cheyenne
I picked up this book at the home of my aunt right before taking a week long beach vacation. The same aunt gave me Deloria's God Is Red for my birthday, and I hadn't read it yet, so I figured this might be a good primer before taking on the other book.
Deloria hits the nail on the head with a lot of things in this book. The Indian Humor. The rise of traditional religions. With his scathing sarcasm, his voice radiates off of the page. He also gets a lot of things wrong, however, in a way that almo
...more
Amaru
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book shed alot of light on the history of Native Americans in the U.S. I learned quite a bit that I didn't know previous. Deloria's mix of humor and factual information had me laughing and nodding my head as I read many of the chapters.

He's brutally honest about European/white treatment of Native Americans but the truth hurts.
...more
Elle
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really wanted to love this book, and most aspects of it are great, but some of the history is factually wrong. In essence, it's mostly true, but there is some conflation of historical leaders (Henry VIII for one) that made me raise an eyebrow occasionally. This could have been solved with better editing, as it was mostly irrelevant information at didn't change his point. It didn't subtract from the overall message, which was well carried out. But it did make me doubt some of what he said about ...more
Jessica
Aug 25, 2010 rated it liked it
In response to questions posed in the class for which I read this:

“Indians are alive” seems like such an obvious statement, but as Deloria evidences time and again, it was necessary to blatantly state this in his 1987 preface and would probably still hold true if he were to write this today. This statement, “Indians are alive” can be taken literally and figuratively. Indians, in fact, do exist. Though they’ve been on a rollercoaster ride of relocation, termination, legislation, and misrepresenta
...more
Mary
Jun 05, 2020 rated it liked it
I picked up this classic 1969 work at an exhibition on treaties at DC's Museum of the American Indian. Some parts of the book haven't aged super well in the 50+ years since it was first published, but other moments--such as these--seem only too current:

"But the understanding of the racial question does not ultimately involve understanding by either blacks or Indians. It involves the white man himself. He must examine his past. He must face the problems he has created within himself and within ot
...more
Graham Cifelli
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Surprisingly funny! Writing has a real wit and a lot of info but some of the portions read a little dated (it was published in 1969 though so I can't fault it too much there) ...more
Alexis Kaelin
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Holy smokes. Not at all what I expected, and I loved every minute of it. I laughed audibly a number of times and was just blown away by the honesty and humor of the author. If you are looking for a historical account, kindly look elsewhere. This is an Indian account of how they feel they have been treated/wronged by the US government and how they should be treated. It says "manifesto" in the title. I kept thinking about how my husband, who teaches Russian/Soviet history, tells students at the be ...more
Kurt
Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
I remember seeing this book when I was a youngster. It was published in 1969 when I was 10 years old, and I remember thinking that the title was sort of sacrilegious or disrespectful -- and I remember being very curious about it.

Since that time I have read dozens of books about Indian history. It's become the subject I am most expert in and most interested in. One time while I was reading an enthralling account of red vs. white warfare I even felt an overwhelming intuition that in a previous lif
...more
Troy
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
I can see why this is a highly regarded book, but it just didn't hold my attention very well. He is definitely highly critical of politics in the U.S., but can you really blame him? The tone took away from the book for me, but anyone looking for a good historical perspective of native Americans would likely enjoy this book. ...more
Marsha Altman
Full of information I didn't know about the Indian situation in the 1960's (and before that). Interesting read, even if I couldn't really parse all the information. ...more
Claudia
I have read two other books recently that led me, finally, to this one...the first book articulating issues from a Native perspective: There, There, by Tommy Orange (a novel about urban Indians), and Lakota Woman, by Mary Crow Dog (a memoir of the struggles of AIM in the 70s). Add to this, the appointment of Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo, as Sect of Interior, which oversees the federal relationship with all Natives. Deloria got some things right, I think, in 1969, and others wrong.. ...more
AJ Payne
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
I got this from the library based on title alone as it sounded interesting. I thought it was a recent book. So color me surprised that it came out over 50 years ago.

Anyway, I found it a really interesting look into native American life at that point in time, and seeing what has changed and what has stayed the same. The author was fantastically sarcastic throughout most of it while explaining his ideas. I can get behind some angry sarcasm. What I wasn't expecting was the large amount of talking a
...more
Samantha Hines
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The parts dealing with intersectionality were particularly interesting to me.
Brooke
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a really interesting read and very different perspective than my point of view. Would definitely recommend.
Jordan W
Dec 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: theory
3.5 ish, shows tensions of when it was written, great analysis in some areas but hasty in others (esp. re: black organizing, youth/urban native organizing of era)
Sue Jackson
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Custer Died for your Sins is a book that I'm glad I read. It tells a history from the Indian point of view and adds wit and human to make it more palatable. This book covers the many broken promises and treaties, the forced education, and social policies forced against the Native. It shows how the U.S. refused to acknowledge their ways yet many of them survive today. Some of the things in this book are a little outdated but the overall view, sadly, is not.

One of my favorite topics was his view o
...more
Matthew
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing, influential, and brilliant.
Samantha Shain
I thought this book was fantastic and insightful. The jokes were funny enough that I frequently shouted them across the apartment to my partner - and read aloud most of the chapter on anthropologists. I appreciated all of the social movement insights comparing urban/reservation Indians (his terminology!) as well as how many Indian political perspectives map onto the civil rights movement and Black power struggle. I appreciate the scope and depth of the book, since Deloria has such extensive poli ...more
Dale
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wow! And now a little back story...I was adopted shortly after my birth in 1969. I found my birth mother in 1998 and at that point I found out that I am Native American and that Vine Deloria is my great uncle. My birth mother recommended this book to me and it had been a total eye opener. I loved the stories and the humor and the sarcasm and the culture in the face of some of the worst treatment and injustice on the planet. Even though this was written 50 years ago, it’s still very relevant toda ...more
Melissa McClintock
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I actually need to buy this one as a reference book.
He writes about a combination of politics, religion, indians, the bia, etc to explain alot about native americans as an everyday person.

IE they don't want to be romanticized, etc. Plus it explained what happened with the gov'ts assimilation plan.
He is fair I believe. IN regards to assimilation, states that the original plan outlined that was proposed was a good one and probably workable.
Unfortunately Congress and the political parties involv
...more
cory
Sep 05, 2009 rated it liked it
there were some very interesting points, and stuff that i hadn't considered, even though i feel like i have thought a lot about the history of colonization of this land called the united states. there's a chapter on the relationship between tribes & the feds & tribes & the BIA which i found very informative. there's also a whole chapter on indian humor that's really funny & although i felt a little like a voyeur reading it, i still laughed a lot & enjoyed it. i didn't finish the end because it g ...more
Elizabeth
Jul 10, 2013 marked it as to-read
I abandoned this book because when I first tried reading it it seemed like such a pack of cliches.

But (especially after seeing _The Lone Ranger_ last night with a group of people old enough to remember the television show) now I think this might be one of those books like Silent Spring or The Feminine Mystique that so transformed the world that it's hard for me to imagine what it was like before, and as such, perhaps it is worth revisiting.
...more
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Vine Victor Deloria, Jr. was an American Indian author, theologian, historian, and activist. He was widely known for his book Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (1969), which helped generate national attention to Native American issues in the same year as the Alcatraz-Red Power Movement. From 1964–1967, he had served as executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, i ...more

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