The title of the book should give at least a partial understanding of the tone here. The book is not tongue in cheek almost at all, but does offer up a healthy dose of irony and trickster-ish pluck in addressing the question: what is the state of the Native American in the US today? Today, of course, means 1967 or so and by Native American, Deloria says “Indian”. So in reading this book in 2021, there’s a history being told, and then there’s the history of the book itself to consider. An attempt to understand the fuller scope of the history would be quite beneficial and ultimately necessary, but this book is relatively slim and can only do so much. If many history books are actually syllabuses, than so is this book, in that it offers up not necessarily a reading list, but a set of guiding questions. Among those questions: how did we get here? Why are we (him, not me) so skeptical? What do we know? Can anyone else use this knowledge?
The two main histories that really come through in this book is the history of broken treaties, and how to understand them (just saying they’re broken is accurate, but incomplete) and then the more recent 20th century histories of abolishing tribes (especially for cash pay-outs). There’s a lot of commentary from Deloria about Civil Rights, but especially more liberational movements. I can’t really speak to that, but it wouldn’t surprise me if those essays have been subject to some scholarly attention. It’s a funny and enlightening book that can’t be the only word on the various topics, but is an interesting part of the larger conversation.