Black Elk: The Sacred Ways of a Lakota


In a first-person narrative, a Lakota shaman blends an explanation of the mystery and ritual of the sacred pipe with a lively account of growing up Native American.
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In a first-person narrative, a Lakota shaman blends an explanation of the mystery and ritual of the sacred pipe with a lively account of growing up Native American.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wallace Black Elk, a Lakota Indian shaman, claims to be a spiritual ``grandson'' and former trainee under healer Black Elk (subject of Joseph Epes Brown's The Sacred Pipe ). In this first-person narrative, taped and edited by California anthropologist Lyon, Wallace Black Elk describes how the sacred pipe enabled him to commune with spirits, to hear the songs of rocks, water and trees. In a litany of miracles, he heals a boy who was unable to walk; the spirits, speaking through him, predict that Korean jet 007 (shot down by the Russians) will veer off-course; he meets ``little people'' who descend in a luminescent UFO; spirits disassemble a television set and float electronic tubes around a room. In his apocalyptic vision, ``the people from the multinational corporations'' will be cooked alive or will starve. Lyon does not provide documentation that might allow readers to evaluate how much of the book is fact or fantasy. (Apr.)
Lyon is an anthropologist who transcribed this first-person account of a Lakota elder and shaman describing his boyhood and his spiritual development. The moving narrative is not accompanied by scholarly paraphernalia (except a glossary). Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062505231
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/1/1990
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 193

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The Old Ones

You know, straight across the board, hardly anyone really knows what is Indian. The word Indian in itself really doesn't mean anything. That's how come nobody knows anything about Indians. So I want to tell you how I grew up and who I am. I've never read books. I wasn't educated that way. What I am saying here is based on my life. That's what I am telling you. I grew up with this Chanunpa, this Sacred Pipe, " and I have a spirit guide with me all the time. He leads me in and out of all the difficulties, all the obstacles I have to go through. The spirit always finds a pathway. The Chanunpa [Sacred Pipe] Ends a pathway. It's like a deer trail. If you find a deer trail and follow that trail, it's going to lead you to medicines and waterholes and a shelter.

I began when I was five years old. That sacred power was given to me. It belonged to my forefathers and foremothers. My grandfather and grandmother decided they wanted to leave something with our people so that in future times there would be little guys behind me. So it was for the unborn to come, and we had a prophecy about that nineteen generations before. We can't remember back any further than that. Every seven generations we have a family reunion. You call our family the Sioux, but we call ourselves Lakota. We are Earth People because we live close to our mother, the Earth. At first we all spoke the same language and the same mind. At the end of seven generations we had a big family reunion, and we spoke many different languages. Then everybody went off again. They went in all directions. At the end of that seven generationswe had a family reunion, and we spoke even more languages. Each time our people came together they had to unanimously understand where we came from. They had to understand that we are a part of the fire and a part of the rock, or earth, and a part of the water and a part of the green, or living. That way we were able to communicate with all the living. And so we spoke many different languages, but we still spoke the same mind. So we know where we came from. We still know our roots.

At that time we were warned that an unknown power would come to us and would cause in us that little shadow of a doubt. That shadow of a doubt would lead to nothing but hurt and destruction and even to death. For us, death means you are gone forever. For the white man, death means physical death, but to us that is a sleep. In the real death, the spirit is gone forever.

So I learned all this little bitty, kindergarten stuff when I was five years old. We have a biological father and mother, but our real Father is Tunkashila [Creator], and our real Mother is the Earth. They give birth and life to all the living, so we know we're all interrelated. We all have the same Father and Mother. That is why you hear us always saying milakuye oyasin. We say those words as we enter the sacred stone-people-lodge [sweat-lodge] and also at the end of every prayer. It means "all my relations." It helps to remind us that we are related to everything that exists. So I was educated that way, and it was prophesied nineteen generations ago that that gift would be given to me at the age of five. The old people were waiting and ready for me. So when I was five years old, I became an adult. I was just a little guy, but in my mind I was an adult.

When my old people talked, I always sat right in the middle. I was just a little guy, you know, but I listened to them. It's really hard to hear an old man talk. You have to have a lot of patience to hear those people talk, because when they talk, they talk about the motivation, the feeling, the unsound that is around in the universe. They explain everything to one understanding. They bring it all together, and when they finish, just one word comes out. Just one word. They might talk all day, and just one word comes out. The next day they'll talk again, and then another word comes out. So for three or four days of talking, there might be just three or four words that come out. But once you hear that one word, you hear it and understand it. You'll never forget it because your subconscious mind will see and understand it. That silent communication will come in, and you will receive it. One side of the hemisphere will receive it, and the other side will record it. It will remain with you for the rest of your life. It will go even further to your generation, and generation after generation. It will even go to four generations. So that is really hard for this society here to really understand.

So you have a little tape recorder back there in the mind. I call it color TV, and it records. So if you turn up the volume, the electrical power will come in and hit those little water bubbles or molecules and make a sound. If you turn it down, you could have silence. So that's the way my mind works. So I used to sit there with the old people and turn on my video. Then I would go to sleep, and it would record. So while I was sleeping, the electrical power would come in. It records, runs my heart, pumps my breathing, keeps me living. So when I went there and turned on my video and went to sleep, I could still hear, because this was a spiritual power that came from the wisdom given to us by the Creator and Grandmother the Earth.

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