cover image

Life of the Indigenous Mind

Vine Deloria Jr. and the Birth of the Red Power Movement

David Martínez

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 08/2019
Pages: 498
Subject: Social Science
eBook ISBN: 9781496213563


2019 Choice Outstanding Academic Title In Life of the Indigenous Mind David Martínez examines the early activism, life, and writings of Vine Deloria Jr. (1933–2005), the most influential indigenous activist and writer of the twentieth century and one of the intellectual architects of the Red Power movement. An experienced activist, administrator, and political analyst, Deloria was motivated to activism and writing by his work as executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, and he came to view discourse on tribal self-determination as the most important objective for making a viable future for tribes. In this work of both intellectual and activist history, Martínez assesses the early life and legacy of Deloria's "Red Power Tetralogy," his most powerful and polemical works: Custer Died for Your Sins (1969), We Talk, You Listen (1970), God Is Red (1973), and Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties (1974). Deloria's gift for combining sharp political analysis with a cutting sense of humor rattled his adversaries as much as it delighted his growing readership.Life of the Indigenous Mind reveals how Deloria's writings addressed Indians and non-Indians alike. It was in the spirit of protest that Deloria famously and infamously confronted the tenets of Christianity, the policies of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the theories of anthropology. The concept of tribal self-determination that he initiated both overturned the presumptions of the dominant society, including various "Indian experts," and asserted that tribes were entitled to the rights of independent sovereign nations in their relationship with the United States, be it legally, politically, culturally, historically, or religiously.


David Martínez (Akimel O'odham/Mexican) is an associate professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University. He is the author of Dakota Philosopher: Charles Eastman and American Indian Thought and editor of The American Indian Intellectual Tradition: An Anthology of Writings from 1772 to 1972.    


"As David Martínez observes, the Indigenous mind is the Indigenous community's most potent weapon against colonialism. This powerful statement triggers a challenging responsibility: to identify the types of ideas that should inform the efforts of Indigenous intellectuals. Martínez charts a framework for future intersectional analysis, providing an important contribution to the growth of American Indian intellectualism. This book offers a magnificent appraisal of Vine Deloria Jr.'s legacy and the power of critical thought."—Rebecca Tsosie, Regents' Professor of Law at the University of Arizona and faculty co-chair of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the James E. Rogers College of Law

"David Martínez transcends hagiography in this complex analysis of four key early works by Vine Deloria Jr. This fascinating book takes a deep dive into Deloria's thinking. Martínez does an admirable job of both placing these works in the historical context of turbulent changes in Indian affairs in the United States and illuminating Deloria's intellectual acumen as he challenged federal bureaucrats, academia, the public at large, and, perhaps most significantly, Indian Country to rethink the place of American Indians in the United States."—David R. M. Beck, professor of Native American Studies at the University of Montana