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Black Elk

 Black Elk

Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, 1863-1950
 

"The first peace, which is the most important,
is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize
their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers,
and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit,
and that this center is really everywhere,
it is within each of us."
 
 
Hehaka Sapa, or Black Elk, the great Sioux elder, over sixty and nearly blind, reflected upon the invasion, between 1863 and 1890, of his people's lands by the white man, and sadly recounts their treatment of the buffalo. The "Winter of the Hundred Slain,'' to which he refers, is the Fetterman Fight, commonly described as a ''massacre" in which a Captain Fetterman and 81 men were wiped out on Peno Creek near Fort Phil Kearney, December 21,1866

"I can remember that winter of the hundred slain (1866). As a man may remember some bad dream he dreamed when he was little, but I can not tell just how much I heard when I was bigger and how much I understood when I was little.

It is like some fearful thing in a fog, for it was a time when everything seemed troubled and afraid. I had never seen a Wasichu [white man] then, and did not know what one looked like; but everyone was saying that the Wasichus were coming and that they were going to take our country and rub us all out and that we should all have to die fighting.

Once we were happy in our own country and we were seldom hungry, for then the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds lived together like relatives, and there was plenty for them and for us.

But the Wasichus came, and they have made little islands for us and other little islands for the four leggeds, and always these islands are becoming smaller, for around them surges the gnawing flood of the Wasichu; and it is dirty with lies and greed.

I was ten years old that winter, and that was the first time I ever saw a Wasichu. At first I thought they all looked sick, and I was afraid they might just begin to fight us any time, but I got used to them.

I can remember when the bison were so many that they could not be counted, but more and more Wasichus came to kill them until there were only heaps of bones scattered where they used to be. The Wasichus did not kill them to eat; they killed them for the metal that makes them crazy, and they took only the hides to sell.

Sometimes they did not even take the hides, only the tongues; and I have heard that fire boats came down the Missouri River loaded with dried bison tongues.

You can see that the men who did this were crazy. Sometimes they did not even take the tongues; they just killed and killed because they Iiked to do that."

The above is a quote from Black Elk Speaks.
 
 
"You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the power of the world always works in circles, and everything tries to be round...
The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls.  Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours...
Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves."
 
 
 "I cured with the power that came through me. Of course, it was not I who cured, it was the power from the Outer World, the visions and the ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which the power could come to the two-leggeds.  If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power could come through. Then everything I could do would be foolish."
 

 
Earth Prayer
 
"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-legged, the four-legged, the wings of the air, and all green things that live.

"You have set the powers of the four quarters of the earth to cross each other. You have made me cross the good road and road of difficulties, and where they cross, the place is holy. Day in, day out, forevermore, you are the life of things."

 
Hey! Lean to hear my feeble voice.
At the centre of the sacred hoop
You have said that I should make the tree to bloom.

With tears running, O Great Spirit, my Grandfather,
With running eyes I must say
The tree has never bloomed

Here I stand, and the tree is withered.
Again, I recall the great vision you gave me.

It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives.
Nourish it then
That it may leaf
And bloom
And fill with singing birds!

Hear me, that the people may once again
Find the good road
And the shielding tree.
 
 

 
 
The Sunset

Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.

And I say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the centre grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy...

But anywhere is the centre of the world.

A long time ago my father told me what his father had told him, that there was once a Lakota holy man, called "Drinks Water", who dreamed what was to be... He dreamed that the four-leggeds were going back to the Earth, and that a strange race would weave a web all around the Lakotas. He said, "You shall live in square grey houses, in a barren land..." Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking.

 

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