Vine Deloria Jr. Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. NY: Avon Books 1969. pp. 83-85--


INTO EACH LIFE, it is said, some rain must fall. Some people have bad horoscopes, others take tips on the stock market. McNamara created the TFX and the Edsel. Churches possess the real world. But Indians have been cursed above all other people in history. Indians have anthropologists.

Every summer when school is out a veritable stream of immigrants heads into Indian country. Indeed the Oregon Trail was never so heavily populated as are Route 66 and Highway 18 in the summer time. From every rock and cranny in the East they emerge, as if responding to some primeval fertility rite, and flock to the reservations.

"They" are the anthropologists. Social anthropologists, historical anthropologists, political anthropologists, economic anthropologists, all brands of the species, embark on the great summer adventure. For purposes of this discussion we shall refer only to the generic name, anthropologists. They are the most prominent members of the scholarly community that infests the land of the free, and in the summer time, the homes of the braves.

The origin of the anthropologist is a mystery hidden in the historical mists. Indians are certain that all societies of the Near East had anthropologists at one time because all those societies are now defunct.

Indians are equally certain that Columbus brought anthropologists on his ships when he came to the New World. How else could he have made so many wrong deductions about where he was?

While their historical precedent is uncertain, anthropologists can readily be identified on the reservations. Go into any crowd of people. Pick out a tall gaunt white man wearing Bermuda shorts, a World War II Army Air Force flying jacket, an Australian bush hat, tennis shoes, and packing a large knapsack incorrectly strapped on his back. He will invariably have a thin sexy wife with stringy hair, an IQ of 191, and a vocabulary in which even the prepositions have eleven syllables.

He usually has a camera, tape recorder, telescope, hoola hoop, and life jacket all hanging from his elongated frame. He rarely has a pen, pencil, chisel, stylus, stick, paint brush, or instrument to record his observations.

This creature is an anthropologist.

An anthropologist comes out to Indian reservations to make OBSERVATIONS. During the winter these observations will become books, by which future anthropologists will be trained, so that they can come out to reservations years from now and verify the observations they have studied.

After the books are written, summaries of the books appear in the scholarly journals in the guise of articles. These articles "tell it like it is" and serve as a catalyst to inspire other anthropologists to make the great pilgrimage next summer.

The summaries are then condensed for two purposes. Some condensations are sent to government agencies as reports justifying the previous summer's research. Others are sent to foundations in an effort to finance the next summer's expedition west

The reports are spread all around the government agencies and foundations all winter. The only problem is that no one has time to read them. So five-thousand-dollar-a-year secretaries are assigned to decode them. Since the secretaries cannot read complex theories, they reduce the reports to the best slogan possible and forget the reports.

The slogans become conference themes in the early spring, when the anthropologist expeditions are being planned. The slogans turn into battle cries of opposing groups of anthropologists who chance to meet on the reservations the following summer.

Each summer there is a new battle cry, which inspires new insights into the nature of the "Indian problem." One summer Indians will be greeted with the joyful cry of "Indians are bilingual!" The following summer this great truth will be expanded to "Indians are not only bilingual, THEY ARE BICULTURAL!"

Biculturality creates great problems for the opposing anthropological camp. For two summers they have been bested in sloganeering and their funds are running low. So the opposing school of thought breaks into the clear faster than Gale Sayers playing against the little leaguers. "Indians," the losing "anthros" cry, "are a FOLK people!" The tide of battle turns and a balance, so dearly sought by Mother Nature, is finally achieved.

Thus go the anthropological wars, testing whether this school or that school can endure longest. And the battlefields, unfortunately, are the lives of Indian people.