Vine Deloria, Jr., the greatest indigenous philosopher of his day, wrote Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto in 1969. It was a spirited polemic that both galvanized and inspired Native peoples at home and abroad. Simultaneously, the book's powerful and trenchant words sent shock waves through non-Indian society. Deloria articulated a resurgent indigenous-centered understanding of sovereignty that had largely been suppressed by federal policy and law for nearly a century. Why did he emphasize the word "sovereignty"? Because he knew that Native nations needed to employ such concepts since they were familiar to both federal and state lawmakers. And Natives had learned over the last several centuries that institutional and conceptual familiarity on the part of whites are important if they are to make any headway against the powerful forces that are still arrayed against them.
Copyright © 2013 Detroit College of Law Review. This article first appeared in Michigan State Law Review 2013: 2 (June 2013), 325-338.
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Wilkens, David E. “A Most Grievous Display of Behavior: Self-Decimation in Indian Country.” Michigan State Law Review 2013, no. 2 (June 2013): 325-338.