Yesterday Philip Deloria visited one of my alma maters, the campus of University of North Dakota (Grand Forks). I had a chance to ride up from Fargo with good friend Dakota Goodhouse (he was on his way up from Bismarck), and we met with Phil for a short while that morning.
One of Phil’s ongoing projects has to do with the artwork of Mary Sully (1896-1963). Mary was from the Standing Rock Nation in the Dakotas, and Phil is analyzing a large body of artwork she produced throughout the course of her life. Mary did not leave behind any narratives of her art, so Phil is piecing together what he can, and contextualizing a lot of her work with the periods in which it was produced. This reminded me a bit of that general rule of history, that all historical figures influence and are influenced by the times and places they occupy (context, context, context!).
Prior to his talk at noon, Dakota and I chatted with Phil over coffee. In every sense of the classic phrase, he is both a gentleman and a scholar. It was quite interesting to hear about how the grandfathers of Dakota and Phil kept up a correspondence throughout the course of their lifetimes, too. Today, Dakota and Philip continue that correspondence.
And another note: Phil is a great, great, great, great grandson of General Alfred Sully (I may have one too many or few “greats” in their). One year, Sully took a Native Dakota wife while on the northern Great Plains. Children resulted from that, and so did grandchildren. History has an infinite number of connections with the present, as it should: the reason we are here is because of yesteryear. Cool stuff. Also, check out Philip’s scholarship here and here and here. And definitely check out his late father’s scholarship, too, Vine Deloria, Jr., here, here, and here (this is just a cursory sampling of Vine’s body of work).