The Long Riders' Guild

Dr. Vine Deloria Jr. denounces Frank Hopkins as a fraud

Dr. Vine Deloria, Jr. is a leading Native American scholar, whose research, writings, and teaching have encompassed history, law, religious studies, and political science.  He is a retired professor emeritus of history at the University of Colorado and the author of many acclaimed books, including God is Red and Red Earth, White Lies.  Dr. Deloria, a Standing Rock Sioux, has been hailed as "one of the 11 great religious thinkers of the twentieth century" by Time magazine.  His first work, Custer Died for Your Sins (1969) was one of the most influential books written on Indian affairs and helped launch the field of Native American studies.

"It has recently come to my attention that another monstrous fraud - or hoax to be polite - involving a white man casually lifting or creating an Indian identity has occurred. Rather occurred half a century ago and was recently revived by the Disney Studios. Having suffered through "Chief Red Fox" who had an uncanny talent for writing in his diary in identical words, James McGregor's work on the Oglala Sioux, and Jamake Highwater who had a Blackfeet and/or Cherokee Indian background depending on the reporter quizzing him, the Frank Hopkins hoax merely repeats the same propensity to create a heroic persona for a man who knew nothing about Indians except what he was able to pirate from existing literature and cultural trivia.


Hopkins claims are so outrageously false that one wonders why the Disney people were attracted to this material at all - except of course the constant propensity to make money under any conditions available. One need only peruse the mass of material purporting to deal with the Oglala Sioux and Hopkins' claims regarding them to see that almost anything can be acceptable to the money-mad titans of Hollywood. Try this on for size - Hopkins claimed to be the grandson of Geronimo who, he confided, was really a Sioux and not an Apache at all. Further Hopkins’ claims will amuse people - that Chief Joseph was Geronimo's brother. Seems one royal family had relatives in several tribes. One wonders then why the Sioux did not come to the aid of the Chiracahua Apaches or at least give assistance to their cousins the Nez Perce when they were seeking to escape into Canada, being as how they were so closely related.


Hopkins, according to himself and wife, was very popular with the Indians because he was half Sioux himself, his mother being a lady called Nah-Kwa - her more formal name was Valley Naw-Kwa or "Valley of Silence" - hardly fitting for a woman who had such illustrious relatives. Hopkins spoke "the Indian language" so he was a natural interpreter for the Army - although his name does not appear on any treaty documents where the interpreters are listed or in any correspondence in government files wherein interpreters were needed. He was perhaps too important and was listed on another piece of paper. He related in one article that he was seated next to Colonel Bradley as his interpreter. It is uncertain what army Colonel Bradley was representing but it can't have been the American army unless it was Omar Bradley of World War II fame.


Hopkins claims an intimate knowledge of Chief Gall of the Standing Rock Reservation who, he asserts, gave Hopkins his horse when he agreed to live on the reservation and died two years later. The problem here is that Chief Gall was a member of my grandfather's congregation at Wakpala and lived long after he came to the reservation; his relatives are well represented at Standing Rock today and will be astounded that Hopkins knew more about their ancestor then they did.


At any rate, Hopkins should have been awarded the World's Greatest Liar award. The problem is that these distortions of the Indian history, the slandering of famous chiefs and leaders, and the presentation of these lies as history cannot be easily erased once they are promulgated as fact. Further word has reached me that some Indian actors know the falsity of this project but to be working as actors they are not saying anything. If this situation is true, they also have been swept up in the rush for riches. I am also told that several Lakota scholars were told about these distortions of their history and leaders but refused to comment on the materials. For shame. I hope this cowardice is only another smear against our people although I have seen some Indian academics that will sell anyone down the drain to maintain their status.


This hoax is beyond Hanta Yo but inspired by Hollywood money as was that absurd phenomenon wherein Ruth Bebee Hill claimed to have written a true story of the Sioux using the "original language" which she guaranteed as authentic by translating it into the English of an early dictionary. Each generation faces these kinds of frauds and each generation should get up and howl and scream until this appropriation of Indian culture and history stops. What kind of authenticity Hopkins' writings had were derived from other books or just plain speculation and fantasy. But Hollywood in all its fictional ventures of the past has never treated history with just such a dismissive attitude. Disney must need the money to take such a bold step."