NW Indian College to house library of famous Indian writer

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(MCT) – For now, the 2,000 or so books are stored in 96 boxes at Northwest Indian College, but in a few years they will fill a special reading room dedicated to Vine Deloria Jr.

A noted author, speaker and activist, Deloria lived near Marietta for several years while he taught at Western Washington University in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Deloria moved on to teach at several other universities, but he maintained close ties with friends and tribes in the area, and he spoke at a symposium at Northwest Indian College the summer of 2005, just four months before he died at the age of 72.

“He undoubtedly was the greatest Indian intellectual that we’ve ever been blessed with,” said Steve Pavlik, an instructor at Northwest Indian College and a friend and former student of Deloria’s. “He was a national treasure.”

The reading room will be part of a new library planned at the college. Ground-breaking could come next year, with the library possibly opening spring 2011.

Summer Symposium The fifth annual Vine Deloria, Jr. Indigenous Studies Symposium will be held at Northwest Indian College on July 8 – 10. For details, contact the college, (360) 676-2772.

Several institutions were interested in housing some of Deloria’s books, but Northwest Indian College’s willingness to keep the library intact, plus Deloria’s ties with this corner of the country, prompted his widow to donate them to the college.

“I didn’t want to sell them piecemeal, or give them to a library group that would use them as a fundraiser,” Barbara Deloria wrote in an e-mail from her home in Colorado. “Vine treasured his books, and he used them and read them, but he isn’t using them now, and it is my hope that his love for learning and knowing will be passed to a young generation of Indian students.”

A member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Vine Deloria had degrees in theology and law, and wrote more than 25 books and hundreds of articles. His best-known work, “Custer Died for Your Sins,” has been called the most influential book on Indian affairs.

“Most people in Indian country know him, and most people outside of Indian country don’t,” said Valerie McBeth, librarian at Northwest Indian College.

Deloria’s library includes rare books and government documents about Indian affairs, but he read and wrote about a wide range of subjects, including evolution, theology, geology, global catastrophes, life after death, and Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung.

“It’s dinosaurs to treaties,” said Cheryl Crazy Bull, president of Northwest Indian College. “It shows the breadth of his interest, as well as the depth of it.”

Deloria arranged his basement library by general categories – such as Native American, history and psychology – and his reading room at the college might be similarly set up.

“Vine’s organization made much sense to him,” Barbara Deloria wrote. “He could find any book he wanted with no trouble. And he knew the books with good vibes were next to each other.”

Along with his books, the reading room might display pictures and information about Deloria.

“We want this library to be not just a library, but a monument to Vine and his work,” Pavlik said. “The whole room will reflect Vine.”

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