Deloria says Indians, whites face same crises
By Heidi Bell Gease,
Journal Staff Writer
RAPID CITY Those who expected Vine Deloria to talk about race
relations at a Thursday Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon
heard a different message instead.
The noted educator and author of books such as "Custer Died for Your
Sins" and "God is Red" spoke mainly about population trends and
"It's always going to be a whole bunch of nuts on either side in race
relations," Deloria said after the program, lighting up a cigarette
outside The Journey Museum. "The problem's not with each
other. It's with what's happening with the world."
In South Dakota, Deloria said, projections show that within 10 years,
20 percent of the population will be over age 65.
"I'd be all over (Sen. Tom) Daschle like fleas on a hound dog to
protect Social Security," said Deloria, a longtime professor of history
and religious studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder. "We're
dependent on the federal government out here. ... What, are you
going to sit there and watch your parents starve?"
He disagrees with the state's heavy reliance on property taxes, which
hits the elderly hard.
"If you people really want a revision, you should go to sales and
income tax," Deloria, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,
said. "It should be obvious to anybody that you've got a crisis staring
you right in the face, whether you're white or Indian."
Statistics also show the Great Plains losing population. Deloria sees
a solution: Learn to live with and through the buffalo.
With recent scares over mad-cow disease "which would be a very
useful contagion inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C.," Deloria
deadpanned South Dakotans would do well to put more emphasis
on buffalo. Ranchers could learn from Indians how to treat the animals
with respect and develop the spiritual relationship between man and
animal that doesn't exist in the cattle business.
"You can't really admire a cow," Deloria said, "but you can admire a
As for government, Deloria said no traditional Indian tribe ever
governed 20,000 people. He advocates chartering lower-level entities,
such as townships, to provide more responsive, grassroots leadership.
No one likes government, he said. If he were a Martian studying South
Dakota politics, he would conclude, "Indians tend to elect crooks.
Non-Indians tend to elect morons."
But he said most people don't know who is running things, "and the
sad thing is, we really don't care." He said irresponsible citizens
who don't demand accountability shouldn't criticize those who are
Deloria also nailed American education, calling it "the biggest disaster
anybody's ever seen."
"Teaching was so painful a thing that I just decided to retire," he said,
rather than accept a large salary to teach one class.
In recent years, Deloria said he had students who knew nothing about
American history or even about classic movies. He blames the
educational system for not having teachers who know their subjects.
Rather than make students attend classes, Deloria believes communities
should decide what children need to know. When they know those
things, they should move on to something else. "We're boring kids to
death in schools," he said.
Deloria's program, hosted by the chamber's Cultural Awareness
Committee, was co-sponsored by Crazy Horse Memorial, state Rep. Mike
Derby and Wells Fargo Bank.
You may call reporter Heidi Bell Gease at 394-8419, or send e-mail to
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