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Black Elk: Lakota Holy Man

Black Elk Speaks is widely hailed as a religious classic, one of the best spiritual books of the modern era and the bestselling book of all time by an American Indian. This inspirational and powerful story reveals the life and visions of the Lakota healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950) and the tragic history of his Sioux people during the epic closing decades of the Old West.

In 1930, the aging Black Elk met a kindred spirit, the famed poet, writer, and critic John G. Neihardt (1881-1973) on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The Lakota elder chose Neihardt to share his visions and life. Black Elk's remarkable great vision came to him during a time of decimation and loss, when outsiders were stealing the Lakotas' land, slaughtering buffalo, and threatening their age-old way of life.

The Lakotas, led by such legendary men as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, had fought unceasingly for their freedom, winning a world-renowned victory at the Little Bighorn and suffering unspeakable losses at Wounded Knee. Black Elk Speaks, however, is more than the epic history of a valiant Native nation.

It is beloved as a spiritual classic because of John Neihardt's sensitivity to Black Elk's resounding vision of the wholeness of earth, her creatures, and all of humanity. Black Elk Speaks is a once-in-a-lifetime read: the moving story of a young Lakota boy before the reservation years, the unforgettable history of an American Indian nation, and an enduring spiritual message for us all.

The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk's Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux was given orally to Joseph Epes Brown by Black Elk. His account of the seven sacred rites of the Sioux is considered the most highly-developed commentary on Sioux cosmography.

As Keeper of the Sacred Pipe, Black Elk said shortly before his death in 1950: "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 -- an understanding which must be of the heart and not the head alone. Then, they will realize that we Indians know the One true God, and that we pray to Him continually."

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