Photo courtesy of Philip Deloria
Yankton Dakota Anthropologist, Linguist, and Writer
Ella C. Deloria (Anpetu Wastéwin)
Ella C. Deloria, named Anpetu Wastéwin (Beautiful Day Woman) in Dakota, was born to a prominent Yankton Dakota family in 1889 on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Her father, one of the first Sioux Episcopal priests, moved the family to the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota where he was assigned to head St. Elizabeth’s Church and boarding school on the reservation. As a result, Deloria was raised in a Christian home that followed Dakota traditions in a Lakota community, shaping her to become fluent in Lakota, English and Dakota languages. At first she attended St. Elizabeth’s school for several years, then she attended All Saints, an Episcopal boarding school in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She went to Oberlin College in 1910, later transferring to Columbia Teachers College where she earned a BS in 1915. During her senior year she met anthropologist Franz Boas, professor at Columbia University, who hired her to speak Lakota for his students in a Linguistics course. This transformative event introduced her to the formal study of American Indian languages and cultures and set her on the career path that she pursued the rest of her life.
After teaching Indian education at All Saints, teaching health education in Indian schools for the YMCA, and then dance and physical education at Haskell Indian School in Kansas for 13 years, Boas contacted her to resume Lakota language studies with him in New York. Over the next decade, with research supported by Columbia University, she studied the language and conducted fieldwork with Dakota and Lakota elders in South Dakota and Minnesota. Her collaboration with Boas produced a grammar of Lakota language which remains a classic in the study of Lakota language, and she translated, edited and re-transcribed a Lakota text on the traditional Lakota religious ceremony, the Sun Dance. On the advice of Ruth Benedict, Deloria recorded numerous Lakota myths and sacred stories, some of which have been published, and she studied commonalities and differences in the performances of the structures of Sioux sacred ceremonies by different branches of the tribe, but this work remains unpublished. Deloria also received funding from the National Science Foundation to work on a Lakota dictionary, work that remains uncompleted.
Ella C. Deloria was the most prolific scholar of Lakota culture. Although much of Deloria’s research remains unpublished, several important works have been published including:
“The Sundance of the Oglala Sioux” (1929), published by AFS
Speaking of Indians (1944)
Deloria, Ella Cara. Ella Deloria Archive. Digitalized collection of published and unpublished stories and works.
Deloria, Ella Cara. 1928. The Wohpe Festival: Being an All-Day Celebration, Consisting of Ceremonials, Games, Dances and Songs, in Honor of Wohpe, One of the Four Superior Gods… Games, of Adornment and of Little Children. [Place of publication not identified] : [publisher not identified].
Deloria, Ella Cara. 1929. “The Sundance of the Oglala Sioux.” The Journal of American Folklore, Published by American Folklore Society. Vol. 42, No. 166 (Oct. – Dec., 1929), pp. 354-413.
Deloria, Ella Cara. 1932. Dakota Texts. New York, G. E. Stechert & co., agents.
Deloria, Ella Cara, and Franz Boas. 1933. “Notes on the Dakota, Teton Dialect.” International Journal of American Linguistics. Published by The University of Chicago Press. Vol. 7, No. 3/4 (Jan., 1933), pp. 97-121.
Deloria, Ella Cara and Franz Boas. 1941. Dakota Grammar. U.S. Government Printing Office. 183 pages.
Deloria, Ella Cara. 1944. “Dakota Treatment of Murderers.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. Vol. 88, No. 5 (Nov. 7, 1944), pp. 368-371.
Deloria, Ella Cara. 1944 . Speaking of Indians. Pickle Partners Publishing.
Deloria, Ella Cara. 1954. Camp Circle Society/Dakota Family Life/ The Dakota Way of Life. Manuscript.
Deloria, Ella Cara. 1954. “Short Dakota Texts, including Conversations.” International Journal of American Linguistics. Published by The University of Chicago Press. Vol. 20, No. 1 (Jan., 1954), pp. 17-22.
Deloria, Ella Cara. 1969. Reminiscences of Ella Deloria, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of South Dakota [microform] / Ella Deloria ; [interviewer, Bea Medicine]. Deloria, Ella Cara. Reminiscences of Ella Deloria, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of South Dakota [microform] / Ella Deloria ; [interviewer, Bea Medicine].  30 leaves. Microfiche 85/200 (E) American Indian oral history research project. Part II ; no. 69.
Deloria, Ella Cara. 1988 . Waterlily. U of Nebraska Press.
Deloria, Ella Cara. 1992. Deer women and elk men: the Lakota narratives of Ella Deloria, ed. Julian Rice. University of New Mexico Press.
Deloria, Ella Cara. 1993. Ella Deloria’s Iron Hawk, ed. Julian Rice. University of New Mexico Press.
Deloria, Ella Cara. 1994. Ella Deloria’s the Buffalo People, ed. Julian Rice. Univeristy of New Mexico Press.