Book Review on Custer Died for Your Sins

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“Indians are like the weather.” With his opening words Vine Deloria Jr. sets up the basis for the rest of his witty yet substantial manifesto, Custer Died for Your Sins. The book, which describes the struggles and misrepresentation of the American Indian people in 1960s American culture, is written in a style that changes from ironic and humorous satire to serious notions, then back again. Through energetic dialogue that engages the reader in a clever and articulate presentation, Deloria advocates the dismissal of old stereotypes and shows a viewpoint that allows the general public to gain a deeper understanding of what it is to be an American Indian.

In the first chapter of his manifesto, called Indians Today: The Real and Unreal, Deloria outlines the truths and purposeful deceptions on how American Indians were perceived by the white society in the 1960s. One of the most prevalent deceptions that the white people often abused was the notion that they had an Indian ancestor, most commonly an Indian grandmother of royal descent. Deloria explains that this false lineage may be due to a variety of reasons, but is likely an extension of the fact that white people believe that Indians are so easy to understand. Jokingly, he describes that he “once did a projection backward and discovered that evidently most tribes were entirely female for the first three hundred years of white occupation.” The author explores a serious topic of the underestimation of his people through ironic humor. It is this aspect of Deloria’s writing that makes it so unique and captivating at the same time. He is able to deal with serious issues and keep the reader interested. Overall, he expressed that his people suffer from this stereotyping and lack of true understanding because white people tend to believe they already understand Native Americans, labeling them as Indians, the lost tribe of Israelites and as wild animals, without taking the time to gain an understanding through...
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