Deloria, Philip J.
DELORIA, Philip J.
(Philip Joseph Deloria)
PERSONAL: Son of Vine Deloria, Jr. (a writer, scholar, and activist). Education: Yale University, Ph.D., 1994.
CAREER: Historian, educator, and writer. University of Michigan, professor of history and director of American culture program. Member, distinguished lectureship program, Organization of American Historians, 2005–06.
AWARDS, HONORS: Outstanding Book Award, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America, 1999, for Playing Indian.
(Editor, with Neal Salisbury) A Companion to American Indian History, Blackwell Publishers (Malden, MA), 2002.
Indians in Unexpected Places, University of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 2004.
Contributor to The New Warriors: American Indian Leadership in the Twentieth Century, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2001. Contributor to scholarly periodicals, including Journal of American History and Western Historical Quarterly.
SIDELIGHTS: Philip J. Deloria comes from a family of Native American scholars: his father, Vine Deloria, Jr., is a prominent Native American leader. The elder Deloria is also the author of several books that discuss how white Americans' stereotyping of Native Americans has harmed Native communities, and he argues for a strong, separatist Native American identity. Deloria covers similar topics in his works, but from a different angle: he focuses on how white America has integrated stereotypical ideas about Indians into their culture.
In his first book, Playing Indian, Deloria traces the history of white Americans' thoughts and attitudes toward Indians throughout the country's history. Beginning in colonial times, Deloria examines how the concept of "Indianness" helped to shape Americans' concepts of themselves. For example, he argues that the participants in the Boston Tea Party chose to dress up as Indians not just to disguise their identities—a plethora of other devices could have accomplished this—but also to differentiate themselves from the British authorities, to stake their claim to be true inhabitants of America. "As English became a them for colonists," Deloria wrote, "Indians became an us." Deloria also discusses the appropriation of Native American imagery by white men of the early industrial era who were skeptical about this new, mechanized age and who found much to admire in the "noble savages." Moving to the latter part of the twentieth century, he examines the similar misuse of an idealized Indian culture by those who have critiqued modernity from a New Age perspective. Although noting how at different points in the country's history white Americans have ascribed different ideals to Indians, Deloria sees in this history a common theme of ambivalence, of white Americans consciously embracing various aspects (real or imagined) of Native American culture while ignoring and stereotyping the experiences of actual Indians. The book "is based on an impressive amount of research," both empirical and theoretical, noted a reviewer for Labour/Le Travail, and Mark Anthony Rolo declared in the Progressive that "not since the 1970s bombshell Custer Died for Your Sins by the revered scholar Vine Deloria Jr. … has there been a more compelling and startling work on Indian and white relations."
Deloria's second monograph, Indians in Unexpected Places, collects a series of the author's essays about Indians in turn-of-the-twentieth-century popular culture, from Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show to Native-inspired music. In a piece that Booklist contributor Rebecca Maksel described as "cogent," Deloria ponders why Native Americans would agree to act in Buffalo Bill's stereotypical "cowboys and Indians" play. Another "lovely composition," Maksel continued, focuses on Deloria's grandfather's days as a college athlete and uses this personal history as a jumping-off point for a discussion of Native Americans in sports. A third essay documents the disconnection between actual Native history in the late 1800s and the depictions of this history in the popular Western films of the early twentieth century. "These vibrant writings are highly recommended," Nathan E. Bender concluded in his review of Indians in Unexpected Places for Library Journal.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Deloria, Philip, Playing Indian, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1998.
Antiquity, June, 2002, N. James and Helen Strudwick, review of A Companion to American Indian History, p. 574.
Booklist, September 15, 2004, Rebecca Maksel, review of Indians in Unexpected Places, p. 196.
Historian, spring, 2001, Jaakko Puisto, review of Playing Indian, p. 632.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, March, 2002, Ronald Niezen, review of Playing Indian, p. 159; June, 2003, John H. Moore, review of A Companion to American Indian History, p. 360.
Labour/Le Travail, spring, 1999, review of Playing Indian, p. 264.
Library Journal, April 15, 1998, Mary B. Davis, review of Playing Indian, p. 92; September 15, 2004, Nathan E. Bender, review of Indians in Unexpected Places, p. 68.
Progressive, February, 1999, Mark Anthony Rolo, review of Playing Indian, p. 41.
University of Michigan Department of History Web site, http://www.lsa.umich.edu/ (May 27, 2005), "Philip Deloria."