Vine Deloria discusses Native American rights and history
BROADCAST: Jan. 20, 1975 | DURATION: 00:46:21
Vine Deloria discusses Native American rights and history focusing on treaties formed and broken by the United State government. Original recording 1965063-3-1 includes music by Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.
Studs Terkel My guest is Vine Deloria, Jr., he is one the most articulate spokesmen for the American Indian today, and Vine Deloria, Jr. has written several books in the past. One, "Custer Died for Your Sins," the title itself indeed says very much another "God is Red" and "We Talk, You Listen." His most recent book is "Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties," and that's a, that's a double theme to that, the actual fact itself, broken treaties and behind the Trail of Broken Treaties being a particular caravan, too. And so in a sense, Vine Deloria, this morning we'll be talking about the nature of the American Indian and this United States of America and the nature of, the history of betrayal and where to, what next. Delta, the publishers of "Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties." After this message we'll hear the voice of Buffy Sainte-Marie and the voice of an American Indian living In Chicago some years ago, Benny Bearskin, reflecting.
Benny Bearskin I think this is one feature that most Indians have in common. They have a deep attachment for the land. I don't know exactly how to define it, but this has been, this has been so for a long, long time. There are many, many different tribes of Indians now residing in Chicago, but most of them maintain their ties with people back home.
Benny Bearskin Well, during the years that I was working in welding shops on the basis of my own experience I'd say about 9 out of 10 companies judge you solely on your performance and only about 1 out of 10 would have any reservation because of race.
Vine Deloria, Jr. I've tried to emphasize this in the last two books, "God is Red" with kind of the religious meaning of land. And now in view of Wounded Knee and other protest occupations and "Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties" how you really interpret both land and legal status in today's world. It's obvious that some changes have to be made. But what types of changes, what clarifications do we have to have.
Studs Terkel Does this leads to your book itself. Many thoughts, the needs of the Indians, the aspirations of the American Indian, the history and that of other groups have been put down. And that too, there's a double thread here, isn't there?
Vine Deloria, Jr. Yeah. At least. I think a lot of themes that run through social reform movements in the way different groups look at the relationship the United States and American society as a whole have a lot of parallels to what Indians are doing today in that the parallel, say, to the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s is very strong. But in a sense the civil rights movement had already established by law that it was unconstitutional to segregate on a racial basis in the Indian movement now coming along at the end of civil rights and kind of arising in the Vietnam context. We were really trying to move things backwards in a sense that we really haven't established once and for all in court or in Congress what our status as tribes should be. And so we have a much more difficult time because we have to evolve the theory of where we want to go at the same time that we're doing activist things to attract attention to get people to understand.
Studs Terkel There's a sort of two avenues involved here. One the question of, the phrase "national independence" comes up throughout in your book and through the history. When you say national independence, what specifically?
Vine Deloria, Jr. Well, what we're talking about is going way back to the days of discovery and in taking the status of an Indian tribe at that point which was pretty much independent political entity. And then going through American history and showing that this had been a predominant theme that Indians have wanted to maintain. But it's one that the United States continually rejected and either overcame by force or by signing a treaty and getting the tribes to disarm and then just moving in and co-opting the leadership and making unilateral changes through administration. So when you, when you put Indians in, say, the world context today, you see that other nations have taken smaller countries or islands under their protection and they've allowed them a maximum self-government but have really handled their foreign affairs. And so we kind of look at a quasi-independence movement as a means of bringing some order out of the chaos today. The Federal Government is spending right now close to a billion dollars a year on Indian Affairs. But if you go to the average reservation, the full-blood Indian is still in the same poverty he was twenty, thirty years ago. So most of the money is going into efforts to direct Indians to do things, rather than to the local communities. And part of our problem is that a lot of educated Indians have fallen into the federal money trap and themselves been co-opted with big salaries and prestigious titles. So it becomes not simply a fight against federal government but an effort to get your own people to respond to their community.
Studs Terkel That's a tough one, isn't it. There you have, what you just said, this -- Some of the middle-class, Indians who have become middle-class who are doing rather well become co-opted and they fall away from what the aspiration is of the Indian generally. And you have the activists who are right in the middle of a battle. Now, how about the great many in between?
Vine Deloria, Jr. Well, this is one of the things that that seems to be very puzzling to the federal government and they refuse to accept it. And that is that the American Indian Movement which started out as an urban venture, now has a very substantial constituency on those reservations. And in both the Trail of Broken Treaties' occupation of the BIA in '72 and Wounded Knee in '73, whole-blood reservation Indians from all age groups supported that. And so it's across the board in terms of age group and blood quantum of this protest.
Vine Deloria, Jr. About '68 in relation to police brutality in Minneapolis it was urban phenomena. Then they got into the topic of Indian religion and treaties and then they were determined to push the treaty aspect. And that's part of the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan in '72.
Studs Terkel Perhaps you should explain that, too, we'll come back to the American Indian Movement and its impact and place where it happened, that impact. The Trail of Broken Treaties is an actual caravan, isn't it?
Vine Deloria, Jr. Yeah. And I titled this book "Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties" because when the caravan got to Washington, D.C. they presented, or they had 20 points to present to the government. And I believe eight of those dealt with the reformation of treaties in an attempt to get some some clear definition of what Indian rights were. So I titled this book "Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties" to indicate that the treaty proposals presented by that caravan were not treasonous and they were not a bunch of kooky ideas but are -- Really fell in the mainstream of American legal thought and legal relationships that the United States had with the tribes.
Vine Deloria, Jr. Right. See, it went, the way it is today, a tribal council can, oh, say, own thousands acres of coal lands and through the proper manipulation of the bureaucracy you can you can put all the pressure you want on, let's say 10 or 12 people in a tribe of four or five thousand, and get them to lease those lands to one of the big energy companies, and the energy companies then come in to strip-mine and you have thousands of traditional full-blood Indians living back in the canyons in log cabins or shacks who are suddenly dispossessed of their homes and they have no recourse right now against either the federal government or the tribal council. So one of the proposals that I make in the book is that you cannot sell or lease Indian land without a substantial portion of the tribe approving it in a referendum to be held two consecutive years to make sure it's the consent of the people.
Vine Deloria, Jr. Well, no. You have tribal governments set up for the most part in the '30s. The constitutional structures are designed to handle conditions of the '30s in which a tribe may have, let's say, two or three thousand dollars income, no roads, no telephones, and you know they may give away a couple hundred dollars for scholarships, a couple hundred dollars for ceremonies on the reservation a year. Well, since that time, a lot of tribes have evolved into million dollar a year corporations either through government grants or development of their resources and you simply can't have that type of government structure which is unable to cope with today's world.
Vine Deloria, Jr. It's a very hot topic right now, they're stripping part of the Navajo Hopi lands, Black Mesa, and there's tremendous controversy up in Northern Cheyenne which is a very traditional reservation over strip-mining that.
Studs Terkel So is -- This is interesting, the American Indian Movement which was, which is the, say, the unifying force for your involvement, you've been involved with it from the very beginning, weren't you?
Vine Deloria, Jr. No. In fact, I'm really not a member of it. I had always worked with the groups that had advocated peaceful change and non-confrontation situations. But during Wounded Knee I tried to get some of the tribal councils to stand up for the treaty issue and ask that Congress resolve it. And they all went to Wounded Knee and backed Wilson.
Vine Deloria, Jr. Yeah, Wilson is a tribal chairman of Pine Ridge, and he and Russell Means had been political rivals and Wilson had administration that a lot of people disagreed with. I don't think it was really any better or any worse than previous administrations. But but it became an emotional issue. And so during Wounded Knee, the people who occupied the village raised the question of the '68 treaty and it's obvious if you go into the documents that the United States first demanded that the people sign the treaty and in the treaty had all kinds of guarantees against the United States, they were taking the land, and then eight years later they turned around and broke the treaty that they'd made the people take and took the Black Hills. So that's always been the emotional issue. But what it evolved what present conditions are that kind of evolved out of Wounded Knee is a majority of people holding elected officers on the reservation or supporting the government against their own people and against American Indian Movement so that they are in effect against their own treaties, which are the only legal guarantee we have of Indian social existence today. So it's become an extremely sticky situation where you're fighting your major fight is with educated Indians to get them to stop being co-opted by the government. So I was never a part of the American Indian Movement. I was always with the other group, and during Wounded Knee I just got so turned off by the other groups so radicalized that my ideas have switched completely around.
Studs Terkel Now is what's happening to you, isn't it, because I think of you as a chronicler and historian too, but you were not a part of the AIM, or you are -- In the sense you are sympathetic to them now. Now you say this is also, this feeling has spread now, to the older people, too?
Vine Deloria, Jr. Not only to older people but I think a lot of people in my situation and I'm educated and I've been in the Indian game for a number of years and I've always have up to this point believed in working through the established structures. But I was part of a team of Indians we set up after the occupation of the bureau to evaluate what damage the activists had done.
Vine Deloria, Jr. Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington. January '73 we brought the group together, and I was absolutely astounded; a lot of people who had been against activism up to that point were suddenly for it. And the White House was supposed to respond to these 20 points and they wrote a very insulting and perfunctory answer to this and that infuriated me because they had absolutely perverted the historical context of most of the ideas and really didn't know what they were responding to. So I sat down and wrote a response to the White House response and that got me in hot water with all the Indian politicians. So when I went around to explain I'm really not pro-activist, but I hate to see Indian people insulted by this very bad response from the federal government when the people are sincere. And the breach just kept getting wider and wider. And so I'm at this point, what, two years later, a very strong advocate of the American Indian Movement, although I don't like a lot of things they do but they have raised issues that I think are very important and I think the only way to solve things right now. So I've been at three of the Wounded Knee trials as expert witness on treaties and I'm working with some of the lawyers now on the historical background of exactly what is our status.
Studs Terkel Because what is, your book, by this recent book of Vine Deloria that Delta has put out, the paperback "Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties" and the subtitle "Indian Declaration of Independence" deals with the very beginnings of it, doesn't it.
Studs Terkel Now, there were Supreme Court opinions, John Marshall was the Supreme Court justice, and he came through with an opinion and Andrew Jackson was then, was he president then? Or he Jackson said, "Let the guys in." What was that about? The role of duplicity played by the United States throughout is consistent.
Vine Deloria, Jr. Well, there was a rumor that the Cherokees had gold in their country. And so the state of Georgia passed laws extending state laws over the Cherokee Nation and in effect invalidating all Cherokee titles and allowing the white gold-miners to go into, to go into the Cherokee lands and claim the gold. So the Cherokee Nation sued the state of Georgia and the Supreme Court and John Marshall was was in trouble, political trouble, with Andrew Jackson, anyway, he didn't need the Indian issue to be in hot water. And so he had to find a way to dodge the Indian question. So they wrote this famous decision, Cherokee Nation versus Georgia, and said that the Cherokees weren't really a foreign state so they couldn't go into the Supreme Court to sue Georgia. So the following year a missionary allowed himself to be convicted under Georgia law for obeying the laws of the Cherokees. These were laws guaranteed by treaties. And the case went back up and in this time was called Worcester vs. Georgia, and John Marshall at this point had to rule the legal doctrines were so clear that the Cherokee nations were a distinct nation and that their their existence was guaranteed by the United States Constitution. It would have been in comparison the same type of situation where Eisenhower had to send troops to Little Rock. In other words, it was that type of a crisis. And when John Marshall made the decision that the United States had to guarantee the political existence of the Cherokees, Andrew Jackson just said, "Well, he's made his decision, let him enforce it." So Jackson refused to uphold the constitutional basis of Cherokees and they moved them to Oklahoma.
Vine Deloria, Jr. Yeah. And we used to point out during Watergate that the American people are only getting the type of duplicity that we've always gotten from the federal government, so they should be able to understand this at this point.
Vine Deloria, Jr. They are the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creeks, and Seminoles, and they had occupied that whole southeastern area of western North Carolina through Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Florida, and following Jackson's refusal to uphold their political status in the southern states, then they passed a series of removal bills and forced some of the tribes to sign what they call removal treaties and they took them to eastern Oklahoma and then you have a whole series of general statutes that purport to change Indian status but they're never applied to those tribes. And there is this peculiar definition. The United States has civil and criminal jurisdiction over what they call "Indian Country," Indian country from the beginning was just everything west of the Mississippi where there happened to be Indians. But some of the big criminal statutes that are now the point at issue in the Wounded Knee trials were never applied to those five tribes because of their treaties and they moved west and up until 1906 really acted as independent nations and they had, their courts were -- Had such integrity that they administered the death sentence to their own people they had the death sentence and they had their own juries and their own --
Vine Deloria, Jr. Colleges. Right. And they had, they were so much together as a society that they could, their courts could issue a death warrant, or a conviction and penalty being death on one of their members, and they would let the member out of jail. They'd set a date for his execution. He was allowed to go home and live with his family and get all his business affairs arranged and provide for his family and then he would show up on the day of execution at the execution tree, and there allow himself to be executed. And so you see, there was a really a society where everyone even --
Vine Deloria, Jr. Well, when when the United States -- You had maybe two or three territories left that were not states and the United States wanted the lands of the five tribes open, there was oil there, everybody knew there was oil, considerable asphalt and other minerals. The United States simply came in and broke up those tribal governments, appointed what they called the Dawes Commission and they just came and said we're going to allot the lands and sell whatever you have surplus.
Studs Terkel Now, I think we should talk about the Dawes Commission, the Dawes Act of 1887, now this is done in the name of doing good. You know the phrase, "Little difference between doing people good, and doing people, good."
Vine Deloria, Jr. Right.
Vine Deloria, Jr. Right.
Vine Deloria, Jr. That was the theory that you can only civilize people if they had private property. And so a statute was passed in 1887 which allowed the government to go out and negotiate with tribes for the allotment of their land and sale of the surplus to the government. So a lot of tribes were dispossessed of 80 and 90 percent of their tribal lands in order to give small garden allotments to individual members and then sell the rest for a settlement and Senator Dawes went down to the five tribes and reported back that they had no poor people, and there are no poor people in their tribes, that they supported all, they had public education and hospitals, that there was nobody uneducated and nobody sick and that the five tribes didn't owe anybody a penny, they were completely solvent, and he said, "It's obvious they've gone as far as they can go and that we have to introduce selfishness in order to get them [unintelligible]."
Studs Terkel Vine Deloria, I think you've just said it. Before we take a pause. Vine Deloria, Jr. is my guest and his most recent book is "Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties" and this particular phrase, this Senator Dawes' comment, selfishness is needed. This is what it's about, isn't it?
Studs Terkel But this is what it's about. And all to the actual American Indians that somehow he was wrong, as Benny Bearskin and not on the piece we heard speaks of a certain kind of life that was there, independent of the Anglos' life, you know, but that introduce selfishness to make it civilized. That's it -- I think that's the perfectly ironic spot for a pause for a message. And we'll return with Vine Deloria. I'm resuming the conversation with Vine Deloria and the book "Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties" just the different cultures involved, how one culture superimposes its own, its own, dirt upon another. You have the oral tradition, you speak of the oral tradition, the word the elders of Indians and how that had a rough time in courts where rules of evidence as we know it applied. Perhaps you can talk about oral tradition which I know is Indian history and lore.
Vine Deloria, Jr. Well, that's one of the reasons I've become so pro-activist is that we have had in the Wounded Knee trials fairly good federal judges who have allowed the oral tradition and I would say from about 1856 to oh, maybe 2 or 3 years ago, the federal courts would not allow Indians to come in and say, "I heard this from my father or grandfather, and this is what you told us in the treaties." And there are a number of very important cases doing with Indian land title, where the judges would say, "We will only allow the records of the government and no additional Indian testimony." And in the Wounded Knee trials of the last year, the judges have recognized the traditions and interpretations of treaties passed down by Indians have a certain validity and we were able to show in hearings in December in Lincoln, Nebraska that the Indian oral tradition which was passed down coincides with the documents the United States has very carefully kept hidden in the archives and has never allowed to be published which are the minutes of those treaty recordings and we were able to show that the full-blood tradition of what the United States promised during the treaties is identical with what the United States secretaries of treaty commissions were writing down on the field there as people were negotiating. So the interpretation of treaties is switching very radically over to a pro-Indian stance because the judges are now seeing that the things that some of these old Indians have said are not lies made up by them, but you can verify those in the federal records.
Studs Terkel Well, your own, your own memories, going back since the oral tradition. How you came to be as involved as you are right now. From the very beginnings, where were you on a, were you on a reservation or city?
Vine Deloria, Jr. And I knew a lot of those old-timers who had always talked about the Black Hills and the Custer fight and all of the promises that had been made and my father was an Indian missionary and my grandfather was one of the chiefs to the Yanktons, one of the first people to adopt the ways of the white man and become a missionary. My great grandfather was one of the chiefs who signed one of the treaties and went in to Washington with the Yankton delegations in the 50 -- 1850s and refused to sign two treaties because he thought they were bad treaties. So my family had been pretty much involved in both religious and political affairs of the Sioux tribe for many generations and I originally just wanted to work in the religious field. But I saw so much discrimination against Indian clergy by white Christian churches, I just couldn't do that. So I got into Indian politics in 1964 and up until the last two years I had always strongly supported whatever establishment was there. But in recent years just begun to see that that doesn't solve the question. If you go back in the bureau records you find over 100 years it's been a policy of co-opting whatever educated Indians the government creates and allowing them a good income while you oppress the rest. And so I've I've been changing my views very considerably.
Studs Terkel And what is it you've noticed? If you noticed now, I'm thinking about many of the young Indians going to the city what happens to, well, young people put down, you're in the city but the young Indians who have lived elsewhere and remembering Buffy's song, Buffy speaks of a sense of shame, shame of heritage, is there less of that now?
Vine Deloria, Jr. Oh, yeah, considerably. The one thing that I think Alcatraz did more anything else was to really pull Indians together who had not really been involved in carrying on a culture and give them a great pride in being Indian. And maybe since Alcatraz which was '69 it's almost gone the other way so that you get a lot of people who are more anti-white than pro-Indian. And I think there's a tendency to overdo that and perhaps today we've got too much focus on the Indian identity because we're going to confront world famine and the energy crisis as Americans, not particularly as Indians, and we've got to look beyond simply the tribe or reservation to regional problems and area problems. So I've been kind of disappointed in the movement in the respect that it's really time now to hold hands with people who want reform in all areas.
Studs Terkel Isn't this what was happening in a sense before Martin Luther King was assassinated when he thought of the whole Poor People's March, you mentioned the [wash?] Resurrection City but that was a key moment, was it not?
Vine Deloria, Jr. Yeah, well, he was he was quite a bit ahead of the rest of us thinking. I was against the Poor Peoples' March because at that point I was working as a lobbyist for the different tribes. We had good appropriation increases that year, and a lot of Indians went on the march, I still have questions on their motivation. But I think King was really 15 years ahead of the rest of us. But, you know, really unable to articulate to us exactly what the situation was and I know all through the '60s a lot of tribes were were very pro-government Vietnam policy and --
Vine Deloria, Jr. And then then let's say by '68 or '69 they were returning Indian boys back to the reservation to be buried and at Standing Rock they had seven funerals in one week. And all of a sudden people said, "Wait a minute, what are we doing? We're sending all our young people in there to be killed, and they're killing people who look just like us. And we're doing to the Vietnamese what the white man did to us." And so, in about a matter of a year you had a real pullback by a lot of tribes that just didn't want to say anything about Vietnam but they sure weren't ever going to support it. So I have noticed from time to time that issues that affect all Americans have all of a sudden become clear to people in the Indian community and it's really changed things and nobody is willing to articulate those changes or recognize --
Vine Deloria, Jr. Yeah, and I think I'm in hot water with a lot of segments in the Indian community today 'cause I not only recognize the changes, but I'm willing to articulate what this has meant to me and kind of put it in a context with other Indians who are under the same pressure. And so it is really a series of radical about-faces on our -- The way we're looking at the world.
Studs Terkel What is the -- Again I think of this double the two avenues, you know, national independence at the same time as you say, a part of this overall problem whether that's ecology, strip-mining, energy, the war, wars against other peoples, you know. So there's, you know, the old melting pot theory that never really applied to the Indians to begin with, you know. At the same time, part of it -- What's the approach now? National independence is used, a phrase, what does it mean specifically?
Studs Terkel I think Russell Means and Dennis Banks probably want some affirmation in the U.N. that Indians have international political status and this book advocates that. At the same time I'm willing to recognize what I think yourself and others that we have a problem of gigantic transnational corporations and other things so that the political sovereignty is an old doctrine that even the United States can't handle at this point. So I would advocate the creation of a type of political status where we could stop exploitation of lands and people. But at the same time recognize that we're tied in to the fate of other people on the planet that we can't isolate ourselves and recreate a pure culture, we're tied into distribution of food networks, we're tied into communications networks, highways, all that, and so we have to recognize the existence of those things and begin to relate to people being exploited by those types of networks.
Studs Terkel Your book deals with, you know, the history, of course, of treaties that double-cross but also an interesting theory put forth, this is, I suppose, to be the AIM theory, here's Israel recognized because here are people who have suffered a holocaust and genocide was involved. As they wanted a parallel. As someone raised this point.
Vine Deloria, Jr. Well, that's become a very strong argumentative argumentative theme when we present these ideas to people in the administration. Oh, we got some laugh and a brush-off, that we're not creating any nations today and just forget about it. But in fact this substantial number of ex-colonies have been created and Israel was created. And I point out in the book that the Navajo tribe holds more land than 30, I think, 36 members of the United Nations, and the four Sioux reservations in South Dakota are a larger land area than Israel. So that conceiving of a new type of sovereignty for Indians is well within the trend of what the modern world is doing. And I would I would think that Indians are going to be very traumatic to the American public in the next couple of years because of the U.N. action on Yasser Arafat and the comparison between Yasser Arafat and Russell Means and their approach to getting people's attention it seems to me is --
Vine Deloria, Jr. Right. And when you compare literacy rates and a lot of Indian tribes have a higher literacy rate than members of the United Nations and it seems to me the only argument that the United States government has against us achieving a new type of status is that we don't have the population that these other countries have. But in the view of the world famine and the need to cut population we don't think that's a valid complaint that perhaps all nations ought to severely cut their birth rate and bring their population within reach of their resources. So that it becomes a very interesting international question at the same time that we're fighting domestic strip-mining companies and --
Studs Terkel Both, isn't it? And this is another aspect as, you know, the old doctrine of discovery that was used by the whites, you know, the doctrine of discovery, discover it, but somebody lives on that land! You see, again we come to, the Middle East as opposed to -- Somebody's living on that land at the time.
Vine Deloria, Jr. Well, it got to be a two-edged sword even in the 1500s when they advocated it, because several of the theologians who were were pro- Indian said, "If we advocate this doctrine, then somebody from India," and he wasn't talking about North American continent, he was talking about the Asian Indians. He said, "Then some prince could sail along our shores and then claim Europe under that doctrine." Who discovers who? And it's become a very two-edged doctrine and in the Wounded Knee trials in Lincoln we had the testimony of Bill Laughlin from Connecticut who is a leading Bering Straits theory person who had to testify if you want to go to the doctrine of discovery, we discovered it, see. So it has, I think the doctrine of discovery has kind of separated out the Christian church establishment, as at least a theoretical enemy of Indians and not simply a religious enemy, because that Christian doctrines have in my opinion, many other Indians' opinion, supported disenfranchised enjambment disenfranchisement of Indians and genocide of Indians.
Studs Terkel I wish I had the Mark Twain piece on American missionaries, you know, civilizing the Indians, biting powerful piece. I'm sure you're acquainted with similar works. Throughout there's always been the official and every now and then somebody interesting comes along, like John Collier, who was appointed by Roosevelt during the -- He was one of the guys who understood things pretty well.
Vine Deloria, Jr. I think he not only understood them and he was so far ahead of what the tribes were thinking that he had a very good and well thought out plan for reform. And when he presented it, it was just so overwhelming that a lot of people rejected it. Indian people and a lot of people in Congress cut it down to the point where it really wasn't effective. But what he did get through Congress was and has been the means of reform over the last 30 years. He had a terrific idea of setting up a special federal court for litigation of Indian questions and then once a court was established states or the federal government or private parties from [under?] Sioux Indians would have to sue only in that court. And that today is still a very good idea because you have problems with fishing rights out in the state of Washington and any county sheriff can come arrest an Indian and take him down to the local J.P. And so you have the use of law in the state of Washington as a means of simply harassing Indians and not ever settling legal questions. So if you had Collier's original idea of one court there would be expert in Indian legal problems and that would be the only court you could go to, that would be a tremendous tool for reform today.
Vine Deloria, Jr. Well, Congress knocked that one out. But he would just, he would just so bright and such a visionary that he got through maybe 15 percent of his program that still has been the most powerful thing. You can imagine what -- How revolutionary benefit got the whole programs
Studs Terkel You mentioning fishing rights in the battle, I think of the fish in, fish in, and you start thinking that in a sense some Indian movement itself has been helped use some of the techniques of the other civil rights movements which which brought the attention of that country to the problem, that these these demonstrations that occurred were you feel quite necessary.
Vine Deloria, Jr. Yeah, and for a long time I thought, "Well, if we just don't say anything and work with federal officials we can get something done." and we just really never did. And to give you an example, late in 1970 at the urging of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the state police and game wardens came in and arrested Indians in Tacoma, beat them up, confiscated their cars and everything. And about ten days later, Dick Cavett let me show pictures of the brutality on national television and we had really good photos that were smuggled out and within several days the government announced they were suing the state of Washington on the behalf of the Indians to protect fishing rights. And they got we got very loud disclaimers that we're not doing this because of all the publicity but in fact they really were, 'cause Cavett gave me 20 minutes on national air.
Vine Deloria, Jr. But you hate to come to that conclusion because you realize there's so many people who are sympathetic and who really are working for reform. But you come finally the conclusion that they have to be spurred on by something.
Studs Terkel You know, I should like to add this. Your thoughts. Marlon Brando, who I know you like, he he does something, he does something rather unusual and nontraditional and the press, the media, generally put him down. So long -- I know it! You get a sense, they put him -- Somewhere along the line. Oh, see that? He did it to avoid taxes. See that? did right. When someone does something that touches the conscience of others even if not at the very moment they feel it, that person has to be put down. Have you noticed that?
Vine Deloria, Jr. Get an Academy Award and I felt that way for a long time and I talked to some of the Indians who were there, and they said, "Well, Jane really didn't understand the issue. But the mere fact that she was there, the soldiers couldn't brutalize us because the television cameras followed her and her presence protected us."
Studs Terkel Yeah, but there's something else that applies to Jane Fonda, applies to Brando, two different ways that these two people have to be put down because there's something they didn't have to do, yet they did.
Studs Terkel And that very doing that, somehow touches a conscience, a certain sense of guilt. You gotta knock them down. I feel very strongly this is so about that. One thing I must add before we run out, the book, "Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties" and all we've done is touch in a very, very peripheral way upon Vine Deloria's writings and they're very succinct and clear and powerful. Delta is the book. There was a genocide convention and we're one of the few countries hasn't signed it.
Vine Deloria, Jr. Right.
Studs Terkel Now, the Indians recognize something -- American Indians -- That Brazilian Indians, a genocide is being committed. So many Americans recognize this and they want that genocide convention signed -- Our country hasn't signed it.
Vine Deloria, Jr. No, and it's been, what, close to 30 years now. But part of the thing that, you know, there's tremendous genocide of Indians in South America and in the Genocide Convention the mother country of the minority group being persecuted, as you know, has rights against the country persecuting. So this raises an extremely interesting question with regard to American Indians. You know, if the United States doesn't sign the genocide pact, it must mean we have some type of sovereignty. If they do, then they've got to respond to the other nations of the world. So. yeah. Frank Church has always tried to get the United States to do it, so I really support his efforts because we want to raise that question.
Studs Terkel That's -- Well, obviously, in talking about the American Indian and the United States, we talk, and it goes back to a deep, deep well and there's no bottom to it. And we gotta dig, though. "Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties: An Indian Declaration of Independence." My guest is Vine Deloria, Jr., who wrote it. The book's available, Delta the publishers. Any postscript? Any base we haven't touched, a lot we have, anyone that --
Vine Deloria, Jr. No, except this book was written really in '73 and it's been extremely useful because it's coincided with the theories we're using as defense in the Wounded Knee trials. So it's more relevant, it's almost futuristic.