We Talk, You Listen: New Tribes, New Turf

We Talk, You Listen: New Tribes, New Turf

We Talk, You Listen: New Tribes, New Turf

We Talk, You Listen: New Tribes, New Turf

Synopsis

We Talk, You Listen is strong, boldly unconventional medicine from Vine Deloria Jr. (1933-2005), one of the most important voices of twentieth-century Native American affairs. Here the witty and insightful Indian spokesman turns his penetrating vision toward the disintegrating core of American society. Written at a time when the traditions of the formerly omnipotent Anglo-Saxon male were crumbling under the pressures of a changing world, Deloria's book interprets racial conflict, inflation, the ecological crisis, and power groups as symptoms rather than causes of the American malaise: "The glittering generalities and mythologies of American society no longer satisfy the need and desire to belong," a theory as applicable today as it was in 1970. American Indian tribalism, according to Deloria, was positioned to act as America's salvation. Deloria proposes a uniquely Indian solution to the legacy of genocide, imperialism, capitalism, feudalism, and self-defeating liberalism: group identity and real community development, a kind of neo-tribalism. He also offers a fascinating cultural critique of the nascent "tribes" of the 1970s, indicting Chicanos, blacks, hippies, feminists, and others as misguided because they lacked comprehensive strategies and were led by stereotypes rather than an understanding of their uniqueness.

Excerpt

Suzan Shown Harjo

Vine Deloria Jr. was the center of the Native American political world when I met him in 1965 in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the annual convention of the National Congress of American Indians. He was the NCAI’s executive director and, at thirty-two years old, one of its youngest leaders. He was dealing with the diverse and sometimes conflicting priorities of tribal delegates and attempting to gain consensus on Indian country’s pressing issues. I was a new ncai member, just twenty years old, with a baby on my hip and only one vote, but he took time to talk with me. I asked him how to go about recovering an important sacred object from a museum. He said something I did not expect to hear from a politician: “I have no idea how to do that.” He also said he would back me up and help me think about how to get it done. As time passed, he did exactly what he said he would do, and he began to top any list I ever made of people whose opinion mattered most on any given subject.

That collaboration was the beginning of a great friendship and led to many milestones in federal Indian policy, especially in cultural rights protection. in 1965 the term repatriation was not yet used to refer to the return of Native human remains and cultural items from museums, but within thirteen years we achieved the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and made the first major advances in protecting Native American sacred places and reforming the way museums treat our people and cultural property. It took nearly a quarter of a century, but in 1989 and 1990 Native Americans revolutionized the museum world with repatriation laws and the establishment of the National Museum of the American Indian.

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