History, Department of


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A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: History, Under the Supervision of Professor Margaret Jacobs. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Susana Dalena Geliga-Grazales

[Updated Nov 2014]


The subject of this thesis is a Yankton Dakota Sioux woman named Ella Cara Deloria who lived from 1889 to 1972. The intent of this thesis is to use her own construct of an educated Indigenous woman to examine her personal and professional life as a middle figure between a world of Dakota traditionalism and a modern academic arena during an era of intellectual curiosity about Native Americans. She flowed between these worlds to become a distinguished author and accomplished Dakota woman who built bridges of understanding between cultures. Ella initially set out to follow the patriarchs in her family by adopting Christianity and pursuing a formal education, yet her gender enabled her to learn from her female ancestors as well, and to convey the traditional stories of her people, the Sioux. When she arrived at Columbia University, she intended to become a teacher. However, surrounded by an environment of intellectuals studying Native Americans, Ella grew alarmed by what she considered discrepancies and inaccuracies in the production of literature on Native Americans, the Sioux in particular. She decided to devote her life to create an understanding between cultures. It was through the academic world of anthropology that she found a medium to develop her unique vocation. Known for such works as Speaking of Indians and Waterlily, Ella used her writing skills to serve as a cultural mediator between her people and the rest of the world.

Advisor: Margaret Jacobs