Black Elk of the Sioux has been recognized as one of the truly
remarkable men of his time in the matter of religious belief and
practice. Shortly before his death in August, 1950, when he was the
"keeper of the sacred pipe," he said, "It is my prayer that,
through our sacred pipe, and through this book in which I shall
explain what our pipe really is, peace may come to those peoples
who can understand, and understanding which must be of the heart
and not of the head alone. Then they will realize that we Indians
know the One true God, and that we pray to Him continually."
Black Elk was the only qualified priest of the older Oglala
Sioux still living when "The Sacred Pipe "was written. This is his
book: he gave it orally to Joseph Epes Brown during the latter's
eight month's residence on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South
Dakota, where Black Elk lived. Beginning with the story of White
Buffalo Cow Woman's first visit to the Sioux to give them the
sacred pip, Black Elk describes and discusses the details and
meanings of the seven rites, which were disclosed, one by one, to
the Sioux through visions. He takes the reader through the sun
dance, the purification rite, the "keeping of the soul," and other
rites, showing how the Sioux have come to terms with God and nature
and their fellow men through a rare spirit of sacrifice and
The "wakan "Mysteries of the Siouan peoples have been a subject
of interest and study by explorers and scholars from the period of
earliest contact between whites and Indians in North America, but
Black Elk's account is without doubt the most highly developed on
this religion and cosmography. "The Sacred Pipe, "published as
volume thirty-six in the Civilization of the American Indian
Series, will be greeted enthusiastically by students of comparative
religion, ethnologists, historians, philosophers, and everyone
interested in American Indian life.
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