FOR THIS LAND by Jr. Deloria

FOR THIS LAND

Writings on Religion in America
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Thirty years’ worth of Deloria’s essays on religion and Native American life, thoughtfully edited and presented. Deloria is famous as a pioneering Native American activist, legal scholar, and writer (God Is Red, 1973, and Custer Died for Your Sins, 1969, among others), but not as a theologian. Yet he spent four years in seminary and was rooted in a multigenerational family legacy of missionary work among Indians, so his theological opinions carry some weight, as well as his customary bite. Historian James Treat has gathered some of Deloria’s most memorable essays and chapters published since 1969, arranged topically and arguing for native autonomy and the need for Indians to eschew white-dominated Christianity and return to traditional tribal religions. Deloria’s battles with religious institutions are a recurring motif, as we see him criticizing the Episcopal Church’s missions to Indians (he resigned from the Church’s task force for minorities in 1969). Other essays deal with legal topics like religious freedom and the government’s responsibilities for redress of native grievances. Always, Deloria approaches religion with his attorney mindset: he is pragmatic, solution-oriented, and impatient with illogical arguments. His 1990s essays are generally more even-tempered than his bluntly radical writings from the early 1970s, but some issues still clearly push his buttons. He is particularly choleric about the trendy appropriation of Native American spirituality by whites, an exploitation which Deloria regards as dangerous. (“The non-Indian appropriator conveys the message that Indians are indeed a conquered people and that there is nothing that Indians possess . . . that non-Indians cannot take whenever and wherever they wish,” Deloria warned in 1992.) The essays are finished off by Deloria’s 1998 afterword, in which he describes in fascinating detail how his own intellectual development was influenced by scholars as divergent as Rudolf Bultmann and James Cone, as well as by “the stories of spiritual power and revelation” he learned growing up. A forceful and clear-sighted anthology.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-415-92115-5
Page count: 311pp
Publisher: Routledge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999