At six am this morning I lost a mentor and a friend who was also a friend of Iliff School of Theology. The American Indian world lost a great champion. Professor Vine Deloria, Jr., had been struggling, as many of you know, with colon surgery from more than a month ago. About two weeks ago that was complicated with an abdominal aneurysm and underwent surgery for that. He died of complication from the latter after a couple of follow-up surgeries this past week. He was a giant among American Indian intellectuals, teachers, and writers. He will be terribly missed by much more than myself.
Since this has just transpired and I have just this evening returned from Palestine, I do not know what the arrangements are. Indeed, Barbara will not be able to contact a funeral home until tomorrow, since Vine passed on a Sunday. She has asked that we give her another day or two in personal retreat before we begin to contact her with condolences, etc. Their children have already gathered around her. For those who are interested, I will pass on the information as it becomes available.
I know I do not need to rehearse the multitude of his accomplishments for most of you. I was told in 1985 when I was first hired at Iliff that it was his letter of recommendation that pushed my name to the top of the stack. He was not on my list of referees. At that point in my career, I would not have dreamed of even asking him. But Iliff had its own relationship with Vine and approached him unbeknownst to me. In a curious turn-about, the University of Colorado asked me for a letter of reference on his behalf in the process leading to their offering a position to him a few years later.
He had retired as an emeritus professor from CU only about three or four years ago. I believe he was 73 years old. I was not prepared to lose such an important discourse partner.
The American Indian world is hurt by this loss. He was not yet done writing.
Dr. Tink Tinker (Osage Nation)
Professor of American Indian Cultures and Religious Traditions
Iliff School of Theology