Custer Died For Your Sins (1969)

Custer Died For Your Sins, published in 1969, was Deloria’s first major success, which was written around the time that the Red Power movement was beginning to emerge, and its publication actually coincided with the occupation of Alcatraz, which started that same year. As such, it is an important testament to the Native resistance movement that was beginning to take shape at that time, the importance of which cannot be overstated. At the same time, however, it is important to take into account that nothing happens in a vacuum and inevitably, Deloria also commented on some of the other developments, including the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam. In doing so, Deloria draws attention to the troubles shared by Americans, especially Americans from a minority background, helping them see their shared interests rather than their differences. Perhaps one of the most important pieces of Native writing of that period, it nevertheless managed to transcend the era and “proclaimed the continued existence of Indian peoples in the midst of American society and announced that we were not going away” (Tinker 170), filling in gaps in the history education provided by the United States. To do so, Deloria “recounts the long history of Indian grievances in blunt language but without exaggeration or melodrama” (Abbey), instead making his point in a straightforward but powerful manner. Abbey and other critics praised the book for Deloria’s writing and his powerful message, managing to write an inherently Native book for general audiences that “contains much of significance for Indians and non-Indians alike.” (Buffalohead 553) in Deloria’s discussion of a wide range of issues.

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