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Reviewed by:
  • Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux
  • Gregory A. Cajete
John Neihardt. Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux. Premier edition. Albany: SUNY Press, 2008. Paper, $13.95.

This is the first edition of Black Elk Speaks that includes annotations by a scholar of Lakota history, Raymond J. DeMallie. DeMallie’s annotation is helpful to the first-time reader and scholar alike. The annotations deepen the understanding of the thoughts shared by Black Elk and recorded by Neihardt in relationship to the history of other events that form the context in which the story of Black Elk unfolds.

While some scholars may prefer to make their own interpretations, DeMallie’s annotations provide food for thought and discussion while also providing cross-referencing of Black Elk’s words with other relevant scholarship.

In short, the annotations provide a mechanism for deeper discussion and reflection on Black Elk’s thoughts, the underlying perspectives of ecological ethics, and Lakota history and philosophy. These qualities make this edition of Black Elk Speaks a very useful course reader for students and a catalyst for deep reflection on his life and philosophy.

The inclusion of the original Standing Bear illustrations are an added highlight and are important in their own right as a reflection of Lakota mythic and visionary traditions associated with the events and visions that Black Elk relates.

In addition, the various maps situate where the historical events described by Black Elk actually happened. This helps the reader visualize the geographic “space” in which Black Elk’s stories unfold.

The revised index is an added bonus in that it updates the recent scholarship on the history of the Lakota people as well as other writing and interpretations of Black Elk’s vision. The new index allows for a thorough cross-referencing of the work and facilitates a comprehensive research of this classic work.

In all, this edition of Black Elk Speaks extends Neihardt’s work to a wider audience and honors Black Elk’s vision of the interconnection of human beings with all living creatures and the earth in a way that speaks to contemporary environmental issues. The life and vision of Black Elk as presented in this edition should resonate with a new generation of readers who have interest in Native studies and/or environmental philosophy. Black Elk’s message is a timely reminder that indeed we are all related and that our ability to internalize and act upon his message will determine the extent to which we are able to sustain ourselves during this age of environmental crisis. [End Page 262]

Gregory A. Cajete
University of New Mexico
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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1828
Print ISSN
0095-182X
Pages
p. 262
Launched on MUSE
2010-04-02
Open Access
No
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