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Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux
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Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  11,292 Ratings  ·  543 Reviews
Named one of the ten best spiritual books of the twentieth century by Philip Zaleski of HarperSanFrancisco, Black Elk Speaks is the acclaimed story of Lakota visionary and healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863–1950) and his people during the momentous, twilight years of the nineteenth century. Black Elk grew up in a time when white settlers were invading the Lakotas' homeland, d ...more
Paperback, 21st century, 246 pages
Published August 1st 2000 by Bison Books (first published 1932)
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Michael
This is a haunting and moving transcription of interviews with the revered medicine man Black Elk of the Oglala band of the Lakota Sioux in 1930 at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The editor, John Neihart, was a poet who was writing an epic poem about Messiah movement in the 1880’s among diverse Plains Indians and was seeking Black Elk’s perspective. Black Elk, then in his mid-60s, reflects back on a life spent trying to heal his people as a whole, not just individuals with medical p ...more
Tim
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was inspired of John Neihardt to get Black Elk to tell him his life story. It’s hard to believe anyone could have told better the story of the Lakota Nation’s demise as an autonomous, proud, wise, communal, deeply spiritual and sometimes brutal culture. Black Elk lived through the so-called “Fetterman Massacre”, the battle of the Little Big Horn and the massacre at Wounded Knee. He even participated in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and visited Paris and London where he met Queen Victoria who ...more
Joan DeArtemis
This was my third time reading this book, and every time I come away with something new. I highly recommend this to anyone studying religion. I highly recommend this book to every single American citizen. It should be required reading in public schools. The Lakota people have a vibrant, exciting, living religious tradition, and the fact that Black Elk's story was recorded is a gem and a blessing. Not only is it because of the religious tradition is this book important. It is also important becau ...more
Christy
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this years ago when I first started teaching an undergraduate "global ethics" class, and knew it was the likely the best source of Lakota (American Plains Indian tribe) philosophy and worldview. Black Elk believed that humans would not be Good if they weren't connected to each other and to the universe. Unless we knew and practiced a "oneness of humanity" (to borrow a phrase from the Baha'i' faith - a group that once gave me an award for anti-racism work in schools!) the world would more ...more
Amy
Feb 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Grandfather, Great Spirit, once more behold me on earth and lean to hear my feeble voice. You lived first, and you are older than all need, older than all prayer. All things belong to you --- the two-leggeds, the four-leggeds, the wings of the air and all green things that live. You have set the powers of the four quarters to cross each other. The good road and the road of difficulties you have made to cross; and where they cross the place is holy. Day in and day out, forever, you are the life o ...more
Barnaby Thieme
John Heihardt's classic is a problematic read to be sure. On the one hand, Neihardt was a sympathetic interlocutor who elicited a fascinating account from an extraordinary man who lived through several major episodes in late-19th-century history. On the other hand, his poetic pretensions led him to rearrange and dress up that testimony, adorning it with his own mediocre neo-Romantic insight, and altogether distorting the historical and cultural record.

Readers of Black Elk Speaks may be surprise
...more
Paul
Jun 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-us, biography
I read an edition of this book which lists where the contents of Black Elk's telling of this portion of his life was greatly enhanced emotionally and symbolically by Neihardt. Were I not aware of these changes until after reading it, I would feel cheated and as though this book were a fake. Despite these added notes, however, the book is still fantastic, most of the perversion of the text being whiny, emotional additions and romantic lamentations Neihardt adds in his cultural guilt and ethical f ...more
Jimmy
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
An abridged cd with a magnificent reading by Fred Contreras. The other day as I went to a car repair appointment, I arrived all misty-eyed and runny-nosed. Very sad story. Black Elk speaks of the creatures with roots, legs, and wings. I add the creatures that crawl and swim. And any other creatures that are left out. I hope to read the full unabridged version in book form some day so I can copy down a few quotes.

Riding home from my appointment, I noticed the melting snow. The seven-day forecast
...more
Marielle
Jun 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the Premier Edition, which is wonderfully annotated with historical references and clarifications on the interpretations and additions that are Neihardt's and not in the transcripts of Black Elk's words. I have had this on my "to read" list for years — everything in its time. I read this while in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Black Elk's homeland. It seemed especially powerful to read it in the very hills where he lived and walked, had visions, dreams, and went about the work of a holy ...more
C.g. Ayling
Apr 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“History is written by the victors, not by the vanquished.”

Rarely do we have an opportunity to view history from the perspective of the vanquished. “Black Elks Speaks”, by John Neihardt, gives us another window through which we may look at the past. Neihardt’s window shows us a completely different view of history. A view in which honor and dignity belongs not to the victors, but to the vanquished.

“Black Elk Speaks” grants a Lakota medicine man named Black Elk a voice, and every reader an opport
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Have a secret I don't think they have one 1 5 Jul 05, 2015 09:24PM  
connection of black elk to mother nature 12 27 Jun 29, 2013 07:20AM  
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Heȟáka Sápa (Black Elk) (December 1863 – August 19, 1950) was a famous wičháša wakȟáŋ (medicine man and holy man) of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux). He was Heyoka and a second cousin of Crazy Horse.

Since the 1970s the book Black Elk Speaks has become an important source for studying Native spirituality, sparking a renewal of interest in Native religions. Black Elk worked with John Neihardt to give a fi
...more
More about Black Elk...
“Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that one.” 88 likes
“I did not see anything [New York 1886] to help my people. I could see that the Wasichus [white man] did not care for each other the way our people did before the nation's hoop was broken. They would take everything from each other if they could, and so there were some who had more of everything than they could use, while crowds of people had nothing at all and maybe were starving. This could not be better than the old ways of my people.” 47 likes
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