Phil Deloria wove together three stories of assimilation to show the struggles of Native American integration into a society that looked down on them for a crowd of about 80 students and teachers.

Audience members trudged through the rain on Wednesday night to see Deloria speak in the multimedia room of the DiMenna-Niselius Library. Deloria is the author of “Playing Indian” and “Indians in Unexpected Places,” as well as the son of famous Native American writer Vine Deloria and

Wednesday night’s speech centered around the biographies of Deloria’s grandfather, grandmother and great aunt, and the struggles they dealt with in the Early 20th century.

His grandfather Vine Deloria Sr. and great aunt Ella Deloria were both half Sioux Indians who made great strides to assimilate into American culture, but ultimately fell short of being accepted.

Vine Sr. originally came into contact with mainstream American society through sports, as he lettered in four sports at military school and later played football at St. Stephen’s College. Vine went on to become an Episcopalian minister, but would become bitter by the racism in the church and eventually resign.

Ella Deloria took a different path, but with similar results. Ella was a famous anthropologist who worked with some of the great female anthropologists of the 1900’s, but because of her race she was never paid in full and wound up living like a homeless person in New York City.

Vine’s wife, Barbara, was a very different story. Barbara was white and grew up in middle class New Jersey before marrying Vine after knowing him just three days.

Barbara would face similar problems to Vine and Ella when she moved back to South Dakota with him after Vine accepted a job on a Sioux reservation. Barbara was a complete outcast and treated poorly by the community, and, according to Deloria, this had disastrous affects on her psychologically and on her marriage.

Deloria used these stories of three people he was close to in order to show how Native Americans were rejected by the society that claimed to be trying to integrate them. While they may have outwardly been extending a helping hand, racism prevented it from going any further.

The more personal stories, even as tragic as they were, gave the night more of an atmosphere of levity. Deloria made jokes before and after his speech, and even stopped partway through to encourage late arrivers to sit up front.

“He was good,” said Rob Karl, a graduate student. “It was interesting and rewarding and a lot different than I thought it would be.”

Even with the looser atmosphere, however, the seriousness of the topic wasn’t lost on the audience.

“I thought it was pretty interesting how he was able to combine history and theory in his speech,” said Dr. Michael White, an Associate Professor of English.

It wasn’t just the University that appreciated Deloria’s speech, however.

“I was asking poignant questions about whether my son could get in and whether I could afford it and if you had a tennis team,” Deloria said, joking with the audience about his conversations with students.

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