Ella Cara Deloria
1888 - 1971


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Ella C. Deloria
(Rice 1993: frontispiece)

"[Ella Cara Deloria]…produced a definitive dictionary and grammar, provided thorough descriptions of traditional social organization and religious life, edited and translated tests dictated by various storytellers, and composed commentaries and annotations to these texts. At the same time, she honored her family obligations as a Dakota woman and left a lasting legacy for scholars and for the culture that had sustained her." (Medicine 1988:49).

Selected Works By Ella

1929 The Sun Dance of the Oglala Sioux. Journal of American Folklore 42 (166):354-413.

1932 Dakota Texts. New York: G.E. Stechert and Co.

1941 [with Franz Boas] Dakota Grammar. Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences 23, Second Memoir. Washington, D.C. : Government Printing Office.

1944 Speaking of Indians. New York: Friendship Press.

1954 Short Dakota Texts, Including Conversations. International Journal of American Linguistics 20 (1):17-22.

1967 Some Notes on the Yankton. Museum News 28:3-4,5-6.

1979  Reminiscences of Ella Deloria, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of South Dakota.  NY: New York Times oral history program, American Indian oral history research project.

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Dance Garters or Anklets
(Rice 1994:138)

Links of Interest    globe.gif (11088 bytes)

* The Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center

* Native American Organizations and Urban Indian Centers

* Native American Books and Resources

* Links to Native American Law universities, databases, and legalities

* Native Americans links

* Linguistic Anthropology

NB Many of Ella’s earlier notes and manuscripts are housed in the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.   Her (later) unpublished manuscripts are housed in the Institute of Indian Studies at the University of South Dakota.

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Ella Cara Deloria, a Yankton Dakota whose native name was Anpetu Waste Win (Beautiful Day Woman) was born on the Yankton Dakota Reservation at Lake Andes in South Dakota.  Known primarily for her linguistic and ethnographic work with the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota (Sioux nations), Ella was most "remembered by reservation residents for her contributions as an educator" (Medicine, 45).

     Ella chose teaching as a career.  Later, however, she would combine fieldwork and teaching, interspersing lectures and writing.  Ella spent her formative years with Hunkpapa and Sihasapa Lakota (Sioux) on Standing Rock Reservation.  Her father converted to Christianity and became the first Native American Episcopal minister.

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Map showing the Great Sioux Reservation
(Circle of Children, Puddleduck.com)

     Ella received a scholarship to Oberlin College, Ohio, though she later transferred to Teacher’s College at Columbia University, from which she received her B.S. in 1915.  She conducted much of her work at Standing Rock, Pine Ridge, and Rosebud reservations and was primarily involved with church and educational activities.

     Invited by Franz Boas to teach Siouan dialects at Columbia, Ella later co-authored with Boas Dakota Grammar (1941).   She worked with Ruth Fulton Benedict and is the author of  Speaking of Indians (1944) and Dakota Texts (1932), a compilation of folktales recorded directly from Native American storytellers.  She has translated both written and recorded material from collections of the Bureau of Indian Affairs physician who resided at Pine Ridge between 1890 and 1920.

     Bea Medicine has noted that "In many ways, Ella Deloria stood within and outside her own culture" (47).  Today we celebrate a linguist and ethnographer, known as Aunt Ella to younger anthropologists (Medicine 45) - Ella Cara Deloria.

Selected Works About Ella

Medicine, Bea 1980.  Ella C. Deloria, The Emic Voice. Melus (Multi-Ethnic Literature in the Unties States) 7(4):23-30.

Murray, Janette K. 1974. Ella Deloria: A Biographical Sketch and Literary Analysis. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of North Dakota.

1988  Introducing Ella C. Deloria.  Chamberlain, S.D.: Dakota Indian Foundation.

1993  Growing Up Native American.  New York:   Avon Books.

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Baby Carrier, (Rice 1994:19)


Medicine, Bea   1988  Ella Cara Deloria. In Women Anthropologists: A Biographical Dictionary. Ute Gacs, Aisha Khan, Jerrie McIntyre, and Ruth Weinberg, eds. Pp. 45-50. New York: Greenwood Press.

Rice, Julian  1993  Ella Deloria's Iron Hawk.   Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Rice, Julian  1994  Ella Deloria's The Buffalo People.   Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.