Black Elk, Woke | Ann Neumann


It’s bracing, though, to encounter the idea rendered anew in Joe Jackson’s new book,  Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016). Jackson, a former investigative reporter and the author of six historical nonfiction books, chronicles the life of the Lakota medicine man made famous by the controversial Black Elk Speaks. Published in 1932, that book grew out of a long series of interviews between the titular Native American prophet and John Gneisenau Neihardt, an Anglo Great Plains poet of some Depression-era renown. Though initially a publishing bust, it was rereleased in the 1960s and is now a standard text in the canon of American dissident spirituality.

Source: Black Elk, Woke | Ann Neumann

Black Elk: Lakota Holy Man, Catholic Catechist


Black_Elk_1231In his book Black Elk Speaks, author John Neihardt interviewed a Lakota holy man who recounted pre-reservation life and events he witnessed, including Custer’s Last Stand and the Wounded Knee massacre. Later, anthropologist Joseph Epes Brown interviewed Black Elk about Lakota religious traditions for his book The Sacred Pipe (1953). Both works are touched with a certain sadness, that of a man whose best days have passed. Together they introduced millions to the richness of Native American traditions. But Black Elk’s prestige among his own people had little to do with these books. It was based more on his ministry as a Catholic catechist on South Dakota reservations. A convert to Catholicism, for fifty years he helped prepared people for baptism, led prayer meetings, organized events for Native American Catholics, and worked as a lay missionary to the Lakota (also called Sioux).

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Source: Black Elk: Lakota Holy Man, Catholic Catechist