Beatrice Medicine Dead at 82

Beatrice Medicine, Standing Rock Sioux and anthropologist, died today during emergency surgery. I had the good fortune to meet Medicine once, at the AAAs, and was impressed with her openness and passionate devotion to Indian rights, women’s rights, and all-around human rights. While both anthropologists and Indians have spent the last 40 years either wringing their hands or gloating (respectively) over Vine Deloria’s attack on “anthros” in Custer Died for Your Sins, Medicine met Deloria’s challenge head-on. In her book Learning to Be an Anthropologist and Remaining “Native”, Medicine addressed the apparent contradiction of being both Indian and anthro, writing (pg. 3):

I am a part of the people of my concern and research interests. Sometimes they teasingly sing Floyd Westerman’s song “Here Come the Anthros” (1969) when I attend Indian conferences. The ambiguities inherent in these two roles of being an “anthro” while at the same time remaining a “Native” need amplification. They speak to the very heart of “being” and “doing” in anthropology. My desire to be an anthropologist has been my undoing and my rebirth in a very personal way, but that topic is outside the scope of this contribution.

Recently, many students—particularly Native Americans—have been dazzled by Vine Deloria, )r.’s scathing attack on “anthros,” as we are called by most Native Americans. I (is article, which first appeared in Playboy (Deloria 1969a), has since been reprinted in many anthropological works. Besides serving as a “sweat bath” to purge anthropologists of their guilt feelings, it has become a rallying cry for Indian militants and tribal people alike. Many Native people have articulated their discontent with the exploitative adventures of anthros in the American Indian field. (See, for example, the proceedings of a symposium en-tided “Anthropology and the American Indian,” held in San Diego at the 1970 annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association and published by the Indian Historian Press in 1973.) However, Native readers seemingly do not go beyond page too of Deloria’s manifesto entitled Custer Died for Your Sins. Later, he states: “This book has been the hardest on those people in whom I place the greatest amount of hope for the future—Congress, the anthropologists, and the churches” (1969:275). Because the churches and Congress have eroded my faith in the institutions of the dominant society, I shall focus on anthropology. It is, after all, the source of my livelihood.

82 is far too soon to lose such a generous spirit.

One thought on “Beatrice Medicine Dead at 82

  1. Bea taught me Native American Studies and Anthropology at Dartmouth College in the early 1970s. She was the best teacher I ever had. We were friends for over thirty years and I will truly miss her.

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