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Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala Paperback – September 15, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (September 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806129883
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806129884
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,637,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Black Elk Speaks (1932) and The Sacred Pipe (1953), John Neihardt portrayed the Lakota Sioux elder Black Elk as a 19th-century figure, steeped in memories of pre-reservation life. In this scholarly study, Steltenkamp revises these nostalgic portraits of the Sioux spiritual leader as a victim of Western subjugation, showing that he preached Christianity to his people in his later life and used this consciousness to push them to renewal. The author, professor of anthropology at Bay Mills Community College in Mich., bases much of his study on the recollections of Black Elk's daughter, Lucy Looks Twice, whom he met while teaching on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. "After he became a convert to Catholicism, in 1904 and started working for the missionaries," Lucy, who died in 1978, remembers, "he put all his medicine practice away. He never took it up again." Steltenkamp's prose is pedestrian ("Here was an amazing story and a humorous tale being told . . . "), but his book should spur re-evaluation of views "concerning the adaptation of Lakota people to changing times." Illustrations not seen by PW .
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Based on conversations with Black Elk's surviving friends and relatives, especially his daughter Lucy Looks Twice: a reassessment of the Lakota holy man's religious vocation. Although Black Elk (1863-1950) is usually ranked as the most important Native American religious figure of the past two centuries, almost nothing is known of his life beyond the age of 28, the year that concludes his classic autobiography, Black Elk Speaks (1932; coauthored with John Neihardt). Here, Steltenkamp (Anthropology/Bay Mills Community College) fills in the blanks. Scholars have long been aware that Black Elk converted to Catholicism in 1904--an event often covered up by radical Indian activists--but Steltenkamp makes it clear that this turn to Christianity was neither halfhearted nor coerced but, rather, the culmination of Black Elk's religious search. Lakota religious expression, he finds, is more flexible than previously believed; Black Elk's Catholicism was another way of maintaining his Indian identity. Taking issue with Neihardt's portrait of a pessimistic ex-warrior, Steltenkamp paints the mature Black Elk--whether reciting his rosary, building a chapel, or exhorting other Indians to convert--as patient, kind, hard-working, and happy. While interviewing Black Elk's associates, Steltenkamp hears repeated complaints about how the holy man has been misrepresented by the media, and a second issue emerges: the right of Indians to choose their own way of life, be it Catholic or otherwise, free from pressures by those who wish to freeze their history in 1890, at the massacre at Wounded Knee. A real step forward in American Indian religious studies. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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I was required to read an excerpt of Neihardt's work on Black Elk.
langewi@c2i2.com
The vision involved a panoramic view of two roads that stood for Good and Evil passages through life.
Char
What better message could sustain a man through the difficult days to come!
Gerard Reed

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Thomas N. Headland on July 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a mild revisionist biography of Black Elk. The account has a definite ring of truth. The book received the *Alpha Sigma Nu Award* in 1994. Based on extensive ethnohistorical research of archival sources and extensive interviews with the daughter of Black Elk, author Steltenkamp (who has a Ph.D. in anthropology) shows that many of the biographies of Black Elk are highly mythologized. Most interesting, it turns out that Black Elk was a committed Catholic and Christian missionary to his own people for the last 46 years of his life (he died in 1950 at about age 90). Why did the previous biographers fail to tell that? Why keep secret that Black Elk was a Christian? Steltenkamp concludes that it would have compromised his Indianness. For example, John Neihardt, who wrote the classic biography *Black Elk Speaks* (1932)--which I personally read several times by the time I had graduated from high school in 1953--avoided the issue by focusing on Black Elk's 19th century life. (Black Elk participated as a teenager in the Custer Massacre and witnessed the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee.) Neihardt instead "highlighted 'the end of the trail' and 'vanishing American' themes" (19, xiv). Steltenkamp reviews the work of the Jesuit missionaries among the Lakota in a good light. He leads his reader to understand the lay public's bias against missionaries, seeing them as part of the ethnocide of the Lakota, and how the mythological accounts of Black Elk, the "traditionalist who will lead his people back to cultural revival," supports this view. But of course if Black Elk was a Christian trying to lead his people into American Catholicism, this would ruin everything. Like the famous Chief Seattle (see the July 1993 issue of Reader's Digest), Black Elk was used to perpetuate false romantic myths of Noble Savages. key words: missiology, ecological Noble Savage, revisionism, myth of primitive harmony, New Ageism, idealization of primitivity
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By langewi@c2i2.com on May 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
I was required to read an excerpt of Neihardt's work on Black Elk. Choosing, as usual, to go beyond the scope of my text, I searched carefully for a meaningful book about Black Elk, and this was certainly it! I was so fascinated by the fact that the two most popular books written about Black Elk "conveniently" didn't address the last 60 years of his life, and failed to mention that he had totally rejected his "Holy Man" status in favor of embracing Catholicism. How fortunate we are that the author, Michael Steltenkamp, connected with Black Elk's only surviving daughter and was able, at her insistence, to set the record straight. Had this not occurred, we would likely still buy into the fallacies of other, earlier publications touted as the authorotative sources not only about Black Elk's life, but holding his life as they portrayed it as the standard for Native Americans! We learn that Black Elk was NOT a teary eyed, old Indian, pining away for pre-reservation days, awaiting death at any moment, but that he lived, and lived FULLY, embracing the new world around him. While this portrayal is probably not when Indian Movement Advocates want to acknowledge, it is a fair, balanced, accurate portrayal, carefully researched and corroborated. My appreciation to Mr. Steltenkamp for his diligence in undertaking this project. This word was extremely stimulating and thought provoking.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
Steltenkamp does a superb job of describing Black Elk's years as a devout Catholic -- Black Elk converted in 1904 and remained a praying Christian until his death in 1950 -- and demonstrating that the Lakota holy man's Christianity was an organic continuation of his earlier years as a Lakota traditionalist. This book thus provides a necessary complement to Black Elk Speaks, which avoids discussing the second half of Black Elk's life. Not to be missed by anyone who wants to learn about the real Black Elk -- and thus give a great saint and prophet his due.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book relays the last "untold" years of Black Elk's life as a Holy Man, as told to the author by Lucy Looks Twice, Black Elk's daughter. Although Black Elk's headstone states his birth as 1850, he considers his birthdate to be December 6, 1904, feast of St. Nicholas, which was the day he was baptized and his name became Nicholas Black Elk. A wonderful first hand account by Michael Steltenkamp of Black Elk. A must to read.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael G. Batcho on February 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
"Black Elk - Holy Man of The Oglala" by Michael F. Steltenkamp is a most fascinating little treasure.

You may "think" that you know something about Black Elk (perhaps from "Black Elk Speaks" and other books about him, but Steltenkamp presents "Nicholas Black Elk" as he lived more than two thirds of his life: as a Catholic catechist and Christian community leader.

It is so inspiring to see how this "holy man" (and I believe "Saint" , though not canonized by the Church) interpreted the religion of the native Americans into a proleptic vision of the arrival of Jesus Christ and the christian faith.

and even more inspiring is to read of how this man truly lived that faith day to day himself. i know how impressed i was by one simple photgrpah of Nicholas Black Elk standing with a group and holdong his rosary beads . . .proud but devout.

Some "pseudo-scholars" may try to down-play the true religious piety of this Sioux "holy man" by claiming it was a mere ruse to adapt to the "power" of the occupying white invaders . . . but read the book and see that those who actually knew him knew better.

He walked miles praying his rosary to go and lead funeral services (though only a catechist he served almost in the role of "deacon"). . . He even had the experience of a miracle attributed to the intercession of Saint Therese of Lisieux healing his little "Nicholas" and saving the boys life when he asked that a prayer be said to saint Therese.

And as he predicted there were even signs in the night sky the night he passed away into eternity.

I recommend that you get a copy of this book and read it and then re-read it again and again.
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