FEBRUARY 12, 1971


Born January 31, 1889, on the Yankton Reservation, South Dakota, her name meant “Beautiful Day.”  Her father converted to Christianity and, in 1890, became the head of a church and boarding school on the Lakota Standing Rock Reservation.  Ella grew up speaking Lakota and Dakota.  She earned her Bachelor degree in 1915 from Columbia University where she also met Franz Boas.  In 1927, she began a research/writing program with Boas and later Ruth Benedict.  This resulted in her English translation of a Lakota text, Sun Dance of the Oglala Sioux (Journal of American Folklore, 1929 edition), followed by Dakota Texts (1932), Dakota Grammar (1941), and Speaking of Indians (1944).  All have been reissued.  Her work remains a foundation for the study of Sioux dialects, myths, and ethnography.  She also wrote the novel Waterlily (not published until 1988) about the daily life of a Teton Sioux woman which attempted to introduce Native American culture to non-Natives.  She died in Wagner, South Dakota.

Source:  Gordon Morris Bakken, “Ella Cara Deloria, Encyclopedia Brittanica.  Retrieved, 12/17/2019, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ella-Cara-Deloria
Photo:  Author unknown.  Date: 1920s or 30s.  Public Domain.

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