DENVER - Vine Deloria Jr., a groundbreaking author and an influential advocate of American Indian rights, has died, family members said. He was 72.
Deloria, a Sioux Indian, died Sunday of complications from an aortic aneurysm, said his son, Phil Deloria.
The author was considered one of the most outspoken - and persuasive - proponents of Indian cultural and political identity.
His best-known book, "Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto," attacked the treatment of American Indians by settlers and the government.
"I think he opened Americans' eyes to the real history of Native Americans and the injustice of past federal policies," said John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder.
"Through Vine's leadership, tribes started to stand on their treaties and their right to self-determination," he said.
As president of the National Congress of American Indians in the 1960s, Deloria helped forge a united, "pan-Indian approach" in dealing with the federal government, said Patricia Limerick, faculty chair of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado.
"His role in getting Indian people heard in the last half of the 20th century is unparalleled," she said. "(He was able to) get his message into camps where it had never been heard."
Deloria was born in 1933 in Martin, S.D. He earned an undergraduate degree from Iowa State University and a law degree from the University of Colorado.
He taught at the University of Colorado from 1990 until he retired in 2000.