from: The Sacred Ways of a Lakoka/Wallace Black Elk (transcribed by William S. Lyon)
Since our earliest contacts with the first inhabitants of North America, nothing has been more intriguing to the Western mind than the sacred mystery powers of the Native American shamans (medicine men). Although shamans have appeared in some form in nearly every culture throughout history, we still know very little about their remarkable powers. What we have learned from our studies of shamanism is that its core resides deep within the human psyche. Shamanism involves the ability to enter into an altered state of consciousness at will in order to acquire help from spirits. Both the spirits and their aid are manifested mysteriously. One never knows which spirit is going to "jump in" or what it will do. The spirits seem to come of their own volition, yet once a spirit appears to a shaman, the shaman is said to have "caught" that spirit, and a spirit that has been "caught" can, in turn, be recalled at any time by that shaman. The actual rituals or techniques used to do this usually differ from shaman to shaman because, most often, such instructions come directly from the spirits to the shaman. Frequently the shaman receives a sacred song--a spirit-calling song--to be sung for this purpose.
North American shamanism is unique in that it has remained relatively untouched by any of the major world religions. This is not the case for the shamans of Europe, Asia, or Africa, where shamanism often takes on Taoist, Christian, or Buddhist motifs. In North America, however, shamanism has remained basically the same for thousands of years. The Native American form of shamanism, rooted deeply in nature and natural elements, is perhaps one of the most pure and powerful forms of shamanism in
existence today. It has survived (perhaps barely) the onslaught of industrialized civilization and the persecutions of church and state. Still, very few authentic shamans remain. Most of them are hidden from our view, scattered along the back roads of reservations across this land. With few concerns for the outside world, they quietly and humbly serve those who come begging them for aid. From the viewpoint of the psychology of consciousness, shamans are master technicians at altered states of consciousness. We should protect these elusive and shy professionals as we do our most endangered species. They are the guardians of a rare, but once powerful, force in humankind. The forces they are able to tap, we little understand. Yet, if we are to survive such threats as AIDS, nuclear waste, and the greenhouse effect, it would be naive of us not to seek their assistance.
It was Carlos Castaneda's fanciful sprints through shamanland with Don Juan that, by the 1970s, first brought about a widespread interest in shamanism. Although Don Juan was more sorcerer than shaman, such concepts of power were new to us. His reported adventures seemed somewhere between fantasy and intrigue. To Native American elders, such narratives were neither new nor very interesting, nor did they believe that anyone would really want to live the life of a shaman. Shamanic training requires a great deal of personal suffering, social isolation, and the psychological fortitude to withstand great terror. It takes years to master the ability to self-induce a trance at will; just to reach the first Lakota "level of power" often takes around sixteen years of training in self-control. The most powerful shamans often lead solitary lives full of arduous service with few personal rewards. Those shamans who do marry often fear for the safety of their children. Because their powers always manifest themselves on the wings of mystery, shamans are more likely to be suspected than respected. Finally, there is no graduation from the school of shamanism, for it is more a way of life than a school of techniques for effecting magic.
In 1978, the Native American Religious Freedom Act was signed into law. It was the response of Congress to public pressures (brought about by such events as the occupation of Wounded Knee) to stop the suppression of Native American
traditions. The passage of this law encouraged traditional shamans to come out of hiding. Today, such shamans as Rolling Thunder, Fools Crow, and Lame Deer are well known. However, earlier in this century, especially during the 1920s and 1930s most shamans had to practice in secret. One of the major exceptions was Nicholas Black Elk, a Lakota shaman whose story was told by John Neihardt in Black Elk Speaks (1932) and again in Joseph Epes Brown's The Sacred Pipe (1953). These two books form one of the most penetrating views to date of what North American shamanism is all about.
According to Neihardt, Nick was attempting "to save his Great Vision for men" (Black Elk Speaks, 1960 ed., p. xi), which meant saving the shamanic lineage, or in Black Elk's own words, seeing the Tree of Life bloom again. Nearly two decades later and near death in 1948, Black Elk collaborated with Joseph Brown because "he did not wish that this sacred lore, much of which he alone knew, should pass with him" (The Sacred Pipe, p. x).
John Neihardt, a poet focused primarily on the visionary aspects of Black Elk's shamanism, while Brown wrote about the seven major Lakota rituals. Both writers together give a deep insight into Black Elk's personality and his views on shamanism, but they tell virtually nothing regarding his practice thereof. In fact, many scholars believe Black Elk stopped his shaman practice around 1904, when he was baptized a Catholic. I have reason to believe he continued on in secret.
Following Brown's book, there was a twenty-year silence. Then, in 1972, Richard Redoes published Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions, which was followed by Thomas Mails's Fools Crow in 1979 As autobiographical accounts, these two books do not hold to the subject of shamanism exclusively. However, many new insights into Lakota shamanism were gained from these works.
We now have a rare opportunity to penetrate even deeper into the core of Lakota shamanism, this time through the words of Wallace Black Elk, also a renowned Lakota shaman. In fact, such a detailed account of Native American shamanism by a practicing shaman has never before been compiled for general reading. What Nick Black Elk failed to do in his lifetime, Wallace Black Elk attempts to achieve in his--to bring the sacred mystery
powers back into the hands of the people and to see the Tree of Life bloom again on Earth. Wallace, however, extends his scope beyond the realm of the Lakota Nation to include all human beings. He believes that the power of the Sacred Pipe is for everyone. Wallace noted long ago that when the spirits do appear, they never lay claim to a racial identity. In fact, Lakota prophecy speaks of the Sacred Pipe as going out to all nations. Shamans need only follow the sacred rules for handling (carrying) a Sacred Pipe. From his perspective, we would all be better off if we each received some personal guidance in our life through direct communication with a "guardian angel." Wallace's attitude may irritate those who think whites are stealing the Indian's religion, but he sees this worldview as not simply his personal philosophy but as part of the sacred teachings themselves. In his Earth People philosophy, power is seen as a gift from the Creator for all human beings.
I first met Wallace Black Elk in the summer of 1978 through a friend named Charles Cameron. Charles was an Oxford-educated poet who was a colleague at the small college in southern Oregon where I worked. We were both very interested in creative teaching methods and were involved in a new "living-learning" program being tested by the school. Charles personally knew Wallace from an earlier stay in Denver, where Black Elk lives, and
he suggested that it might be worthwhile to involve him in the new program. The anthropologist in me had no problem with the thought of meeting a very much alive shaman. By then, I had been studying Native Americans for over a decade, but mostly from books. Armed with purpose, I convinced our summer session director that a two-week course at the end of the summer session that included a Native American shaman might boost his enrollments--and it did.
On a hot, August afternoon in 1978, about fifty students gathered in a basement classroom for what was about to become the first of many adventures I had with Black Elk. On that first afternoon I was clearly in unfamiliar territory. I explained to the students that Black Elk and I had decided that the subject matter of the course was to be the first step in most Lakota rituals, known as the inipi ceremony-purification by sweating, singing,
and praying. Black Elk translates this into English as the "stonepeople-lodge" ceremony. We selected it because, historically, it is the most widespread Native American purification ceremony ever used, and, as such, it is also the most common ceremony found in North America. The purification of self is the first step in any major sacred undertaking, regardless of time and culture. Therefore, no ceremony is more basic to all Native American cultures than this one. It was their universal starting point.
After finishing my introductory remarks, out of respect for Black Elk I turned the class over for comments and questions. At one point a female student raised her hand and asked, "Mr. Black Elk, exactly what do we wear in the sweat-lodge?" With stoic face and dignified authority, Black Elk immediately replied, "You wear that suit you were born in--that birthday suit." He had not spoken the whole truth. Not only were traditional Native Americans usually very sensitive to nudity, but among the Lakota, men and women usually went into separate lodges. Some students began to squirm in their seats, for Black Elk had already begun the teaching process.
By eight o'clock the next morning I found myself standing before an anxious dean who was explaining to me that the father of one of my students was about to bring suit against the college because his daughter had to appear naked in public to earn a grade in my class. I told Black Elk that we were in big trouble, but he merely looked at me, smiled, and said, "Don't worry. It will be okay." "Easy for him to say," I thought at the time. Three months later, when our college won a national award for creativity with that very class, the dean had a smile on his face when he flew to the Midwest to accept the award on behalf of the college. Everything was "okay" from then on, and Black Elk returned each year thereafter.
Around l983, Wallace suggested that I quit teaching and assist him as a "translator." From our perspective, the stakes were high--access to uncharted knowledge of shamanism versus my job. After two years of considerable introspection, I opted for adventure and resigned my tenured professorship. Since Wallace speaks English, one might wonder why a translator is needed. The reason is this: Wallace thinks in Lakota and translates, as he
speaks, directly into English. For Wallace, if you don't think in English, you don't speak it. That is why he often says, "I don't speak English." Also, the organization of his thoughts follows the Lakota pattern of making a point from many different angles, in contrast to our style of holding to one subject. Therefore, when you hear him speak, his thoughts seem to circle about. He drifts
along, and, if you don't sense the point being made, you often wonder what he is talking about. The real gap, however, is not so much between the Lakota and English languages as between sacred and profane levels of being. In Black Elk's world, spirits are more real than matter.
We live in a world nearly devoid of the sacred mystery powers that once abounded via shamans throughout humankind. It is difficult for us to imagine that perhaps we could all use a little magic in our lives. Our thoughts convince us that magic is impossible or, at best, only an illusion. That's where "translation" comes in. Quite frankly, our assumptions about the basic nature of reality are, in this regard, false. Medicine men do cause unbelievable things to occur, but what makes their feats seem so "unbelievable" to us is that we have yet to believe that time is, for certain, a relative affair. Shamans know that to be a fact. In that sense, they are advanced physicists, and with proper "translation" I am sure they have a few things to tell us about the "laws of nature." After all, from Black Elk's perspective, shamanism is the original technology and science.
This book, then, is an attempt at translation. The first question will be, "Did Black Elk really say the things written here!" In answering that question, let me briefly compare this book with Neihardt's, since they complement each other. In Black Elk Speaks, Neihardt freely admitted to authoring both the first and last chapters of the book. Furthermore, it was Neihardt's daughter, Enid, who actually took, in shorthand, the field notes from which the book was created. What she wrote down was the English narration she heard from Ben Black Elk, who was translating from Lakota what Nick was saying. Later on, she rewrote her notes into longhand for her father to use in his writing of the book. My process with Wallace Black Elk has been much different. All of the material used in this book was taken from tape-
recorded sessions during which Wallace spoke in English. In reviewing these tapes for this book, I transcribed, for the most part, only the material that in some way related to Black Elk's practice of shamanism. Essentially, then, there is nothing written here that you could not also hear Black Elk saying at some point on one of these recorded tapes. Given these differences in approach, I consider Wallace's words here to be more accurate with regard
to his personal understandings of the sacred mystery powers than any of the material written in the name of Nick Black Elk. That is to say, I believe there is less interference found here between the actual spoken words of Wallace and my work as translator than in any of the material by Nick.
As "translator," I made two major alterations in the material as recorded on tape. The first was to edit together into one single account disparate parts of the same story, especially with regard to accounts of visionary experiences. Recall that Wallace does not organize his thought processes as we do. For example, he is much more likely to tell only a single aspect of one of his visionary experiences, in order to make a certain point, than he is to cover an entire visionary experience during the course of one conversation. To tell one's visionary experience in its entirety is a sacred undertaking that is done in the stone-people-lodge right after the completion of a vision quest. It would never seem appropriate to him to render a full account of a vision under any other circumstances. Accordingly, differing accounts were compared in order to enrich the material--to give the reader access to more recorded details.
Second, I have altered Wallace's grammar to conform, for the most part, to our standards. As noted earlier when speaking, he is thinking in Lakota while he translates directly into English. Since the Lakota word order is different from ours, his English Often sounds "backwards" to our ears. This makes his English often sound "incorrect." These alterations were made, therefore, to free the reader from having continually to say, "Oh, he must mean ..." They simply make for smoother reading.
In addition, I have made other, minor alterations in the material as recorded. For instance, I have removed most personal idiosyncrasies from the tapes, such as long hesitations between
sentences, repetitions of the same word or phrase, misuse of a word followed by its corrected usage, mispronunciation, etc. Also, in order to make the transition from one topic to another, I have added, now and then, a transitional sentence to the original material, such as, "One time we were at ...," or, "I can remember when ..." These minor alterations were also introduced to make the text flow more smoothly.
In moving the material from tape to page, my foremost concern was to preserve Black Elk's original intent. For example, Black Elk often uses the term Pipe or Pipe ceremony when referring to the Sacred Pipe. However, Black Elk prefers the Lakota word for the Sacred Pipe, which is Chanunpa. Therefore, in transcribing the material from tapes, I most often substituted the term Chanunpa for Pipe in order to give a more exact "translation." Given over a decade of working with Wallace, I feel that this book contains about as true and accurate a picture of his views as one could possibly present, at least in English and without extensive additions. Nevertheless, just to keep Black Elk's essence alive in the narrative, I have also included some material that even I do not clearly understand. Therefore, please expect not to understand everything he says.
The first half of the book covers, for the most part, Black Elk's early training as a shaman. His training was unique in several respects. Traditionally, most shamans receive an "initiatory call." This "call" is seen as accidental, since it most often comes during a personal illness serious enough to induce a coma (a form of trance). Such was the case with Nick Black Elk, who lay in a coma for twelve days at age nine only to experience his life-altering "Great Vision." In fact, his vision was so overwhelming to him that it took him seven years thereafter to realize he had any real power or even to speak to anyone about it, for fear of being thought foolish. Wallace's initiatory call was preplanned. His tribal elders introduced him (via ritual) to the spirits when he was only five years old. This is rare, since in most cultures, shamanic training does not begin until after the onset of puberty; shamanism is for adults, not children. Wallace's induction occurred around 1926, a period in which the elders were certainly very much in fear of losing their shamanic lineages. From their per-
spective, the ability of their shamans to tap into the sacred mystery powers was their most-valued knowledge. To lose their shamanic powers was surely seen as tantamount to the death of the "old ways," and rightfully so.
Wallace Black Elk's shamanic training was also unique in that he had so many "grandfathers" involved in teaching him the "red road" (spiritual life-style). Normally, an upcoming shaman will train under only one mentor. It is really the function of the teacher to train the novice how to be trained directly by the spirits. That is, the advanced instructions normally come from the spirits themselves. Wallace, however, reports that he had eleven "grandfathers" who assisted in his early training, one of whom was Nick Black Elk. There was something else unique about Wallace. He was the first in his family to learn English. Wallace remembers that between the ages of five and nine he was taught by the spirits "all the [English] terminologies used in the universities today." Although such a feat is incomprehensible to us, the elders must have noted his remarkable command of English. This observation probably caused them to focus even more attention on his initial training. They may even have seen this ability as a prophetic sign. Whatever the reasons, Wallace's training was not routine. In addition, he is now entering his sixty-fourth year of training. To date he has completed over thirty vision quests, and he plans for more powerful ones to come. Because of all these factors, I hold him to be one of the truly great shamans of our time.
The second half of the book centers on Black Elk's applications of the sacred mystery powers. He states that power comes for two purposes--health and help (or, more recently, happiness). That covers a vast range of human needs, and it is here that readers will begin to sense the nature of power inherent in shamanism. For the Lakota shamans who believe in and use the spirits, sacred power seemingly has no limits. What may seem unusual, even paranormal to us, is an everyday part of their world. They do not question the existence of power, only its application. That is a universal concern among shamans. An African anthropologist once told me about his taking a famous psychic to visit the Bushmen shamans of South Africa. The psychic
demonstrated for them his ability to bend spoons with his mind. They only laughed, asking if that was all that he knew how to do with his power. Readers may find the second part of the book
unbelievable in many respects, but to laugh it away is to give the shamans the last laugh.
I want to say something about how Wallace Black Elk is related to Nick Black Elk. Some people may believe that one's genes can determine ones shamanic abilities. I don't believe that, and so I was never concerned enough to establish their distant blood relationship if any at all. Both of them spell their Lakota name the same -- Hehake sapa. Hehake is Lakota for the male elk, and sapa means "black." (Wallace, however, has said that his name had been mistranslated. Instead of an elk black in color, originally his name in Lakota meant the "black elk" as seen in the silhouetted figure of an elk at early sunrise or late sunset.) Whenever Wallace does refer to Nick, he refers to him as "my grandfather," but Nick was not Wallace's biological grandfather. Wallace had eleven "grandfathers." Wallace and Nick's real relationship, then, is a spiritual one within the Lakota shamanic tradition. They both first encountered spirits at the age of five, and they both had their first visionary experience at the age of nine. On that level they are very much related. Indeed, so much so, that Wallace will say that they still speak to one another.
Finally, a few words about myself and this work. This book is designed to cover a broad range of interests. It may be used for entertainment, instruction, or scholarly purposes. It has been ten years in the making and one year in writing. Black Elk still says that I need to be more patient. I published my first professional paper on Native Americans in 1963 It was a technical report on the physical features of a female Indian skull. Black Elk never knew that, but the spirits did. In 1986, the spirits told Wallace my secret in the course of giving me a sacred name- Hohu sha, meaning "red bone." They do seem to have a good sense of humor.
What began in 1978 as a small class on the inipi ceremony with Black Elk has now become a large, annual Sun Dance in the same locale. There is no doubt that over the years our endearment to each other has matured. He has adopted me as his nephew,
and, in turn, I call him lekshi, the Lakota word for "uncle." I'm still a professional anthropologist and not a shaman. Yet I have my feet in both worlds. It is difficult to keep such a balance, for one is all too likely to be misunderstood both on one side and the
other. But it turns out there is really only one side; it is our perspective on things that makes it appear as duality. After eleven years of participating in sacred ceremonies and listening to Black Elk, I finally carved my own Sacred Pipe and went on my first vision quest. My goal is to complete four annual quests in succession. That is under way. There are things I now know about shamanism that shall never be put into writing. If ever I catch a spirit ...
WILLIAM S. LYON
One time I found this eagle lying on its back. We were driving down the highway, and I saw something lying on the side of the road. So we turned around and went back to see what it was, There was this eagle lying there that had been shot through. He was lying there alive. It had fallen and broken its wing. He tried to fly with it, but he was too weak. So I chewed a piece of sage and plugged his wound with it. I put some sprigs of sage around him, some on tap and some underneath. Next I folded his broken j' wing and put a splint on it. then I grabbed both feet, picked him ~: up holding him to the west, and prayed. About halfway through he died there in my hands. So we took him back to the stone-people-lodge. MY dad and cousin were there with me. When we prayed, there was a flash of lightning, and the spirit of that eagle came into the Lodge. He fanned me and touched me with a human hand. Me thanked me for what 1 had done. There was a lump in my throat, and tears came to my eyes. He said, "When I was lying. there bleeding in pain and slowly dying, you cradled me in your arms. You even patched my wound and prayed for me to live. But you also know that I have a spirit. I had no more blood, so I left. So now you have my robe here. Now I'm a spirit. So I came back to tell you that for doing that, for patching my wound and praying for me, ·: for your love, I award you this feather. You are going to wear my
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plume. I promise that J will be hovering over you. I'11 be in front of you. I'11 be on both sides of you. I'11 be underneath you." So that eagle spirit promised me that.
I didn't know how that [death] had happened to that eagle, so I asked Tunkashila what had happened. Then I heard the explosion of a high-powered rifle. It sounded like one of those stone-people [hot rocks] had exploded right there in the stonepeople-lodge pit. I could hear that thump hitting the eagle's body. The bullet went through and then hit one of those sapling ribs of the lodge and ricocheted around--ping, ping--like that. Then the eagle said, "Now a wasichu put me on target for no reason at all. But I'm a spirit. I'm sacred. In four days you shall see." If I was educated, I would have asked, "Who? Who? Where? What?" and like that. Well, I'm not educated, so I understood what he meant. Then he told me that he now holds that power, that bang, that explosion, the power of that bullet, how fast that bullet travels. He said he was going to strike with that power.
So I prayed to him that I didn't want my people to get hurt. I prayed to him that way. So when I say "my people," I'm not talking only about my Sioux tribe from the Rosebud Reservation. I don't speak that way. I'm not an Indian from the United States. I don't think that way. I was speaking about the whole universe. I was speaking about all the two-leggeds, the four sacred colors that Tunkashila created. So when I say "my people" I'm talking about the black, the red, the yellow, and the white. That's what I mean.
When I told him that, he said, "That is so. Whatever you say is true. That is true. So I'm going to help. I promise I'11 be above you, and I'11 continue to watch over this land. And that threat of nuclear destruction, I will hold it there until there will be a time that your people will come together and decide not to toy around with this planet." So he promised me that.
So I wanted to repay my sympathies to Tunkashila. So I took the claws of that eagle and promised to keep them for one year. After one year from that day, I promised to pierce with those claws in the Sun Dance. The spirit came and said that that was good. He came over to me and with a human hand used the heel of it to wipe my tears. Then he rubbed my heart and back with
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both palms. He told me to take up courage and do what I had promised to do.
Four days later I was going along the same road where I had found that eagle. I saw a pickup alongside the road, and two elders were standing there. I stopped and got out. This man was lying there dead alongside a rifle. Those old people saw this man stop his pickup. There was an eagle sitting there on this haystack, and he got out of the pickup to shoot that eagle. His rifle was lying in the front seat. He pulled back and forth on his rifle by the barrel, and it went off. It shot him through in the same place the eagle I found had been shot through. So I knew it was the same man. So four days later I saw this, and it was sacred.
So we know these things. But there was a time that we couldn't talk about these powers. That was back in the 1920s and 1930s. At that time you would get in trouble for saying those things. But after I came back from World War II, 1 decided to talk about these powers. So one day I got up, and I was tired of this. So I said to myself, "I'm going to get up, and I'm going to tell the world that this Chanunpa is sacred." Just like that. So one day I got up, and I had a Chanunpa in my hand. "This Chanunpa is sacred of sacreds in this universe." So the first people that attacked me were these priests and all their members. So these were my people. They were my relatives.
So they said, "This guy is crazy. He talks about the devil. So he needs help." So they all signed a piece of paper that I needed to be examined by a psychologist. "We need a psychologist or psychiatrist to examine his head. If they find that he is crazy, then I think this guy needs help. So we are going to send him to a hospital to cure this guy. They know how to take care of him. So we'll just do that." So they went and told the judge. He told them, "So you sign a complaint." So they did that, and they made out a warrant for my arrest. So the sheriff delivered the warrant, and they arrested me.
So they brought a sack, and they put me in a sack. The sheriff said, "I'm sorry, but I have to take you in because there is a complaint. So I have to put you in a sack. They say you must be awfully crazy, insane. So they advised me to put you in a sack so you won't harm yourself or harm anyone, so you won't be a
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harm to the public. So I'm sorry, but it's just that I have a dirty job." So they put me in a sack. They call it a strait jacket.
So when they put me in that sack, they started kicking me around because I couldn't help myself. They threw me on the floor and kicked me and said, "You dirty Indian." Anyway, they started kicking me, and they cussed me; they pushed me. They sat me down in a chair, and somebody came and kicked that chair and kicked me over here. I couldn't help myself, so I hit my head on the floor. They were doing all this because the Christian people had complained about me. So it's a law. So they kicked me around because they hated Indians. So those police treated me really rough.
That Catholic priest and another minister were standing there by the door. I saw that one smile at the other priest. They were enjoying it. Anyway, they hauled me before the judge, and a doctor came there and started asking me some funny questions.
"So you think you're seeing something. Do you hear them at night? Do you see them in the daytime? What are they? Do you see snakes? Do you see animals?" He was talking like that.
Then he turned around and told the judge and the sheriff, "Well, this guy needs help. He doesn't even know he's sick, but he's sick in his mind. I think some of the things he went through might have caused this. Like he was in the war, and he helped to kill a lot of people. His record here shows that he was shell-shocked, so that might have done some damage to his brain. So that might have caused him to see things. Also, he's a medicine man, so he's been taking all kinds of drugs, and that's affected his mind."
Well, that's not the way it is. I don't eat those medicines. When that spirit comes in, he brings health and help. So when that spirit brings a medicine that you are supposed to administer, you have to isolate that person for four days and nights. That's really hard. Ninety-six hours is a mighty stretch. So when a person goes to vision quest you have to go four days and four nights without water or food. And that's where the medicine man is going to come to you. So that isn't a pill. You're not going to be sitting there eating dope or roots or those leaves they turn into the drugs that they are selling over here, like that cocaine. So they
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might think I'm sitting up there eating cocaine leaves or like that, but I'm not touching food or water when I'm out there. I'm not smoking marijuana or hashish or taking LSD. I'm not taking anything. But this doctor accused me that, because I'm a medicine man, I'm taking all sorts of drugs. So he said that all went to my head and made me haywire. That's what he told the judge.
So they talked it over, and then the judge said, "Well, you'll be sentenced to a mental hospital. When the doctors think you are clear, they'll release you. When your mind has been cleared, they'll release you to the public, or you might remain there for the rest of your life."
So they decided to send me to the funny farm. So then they said, "Okay, come on." Then they started shoving me again. I tumbled out of there and down the stairs. They opened the car door and threw me in the back. Nobody was there. Nobody said good-bye. Nobody prayed for me. Nothing. Those priests were there, and they started laughing. They didn't sprinkle those holy waters on me or burn that incense or say, "Jesus, cast this demon out and bless this man." Nothing like that, they were just laughing. So I was treated by Christian people that way.
So I was in the funny farm. Now a funny thing happened there. They threw me down in the basement. There was a room there. They took me out of that sack and shoved me in there. Then they slammed that steel-mesh door closed and locked it. There was a second door there that had a little window in it. They slammed that shut and locked it also. It had a big latch on it with a big padlock. So I looked around and began to crawl around in there. There was a bench in there, so I pulled myself up onto it. 1 hurt everywhere. My shoulder and elbows hurt. My knees hurt.
Everywhere I got kicked, it hurt. Everywhere it hurt. I was sad. \ 1 was hungry. 1 was cold. Inside there the mats, Boor, and everywhere was rubber, like little rubber points. And the bed was bolted down, and there was a mattress. There were no blankets ; or anything; it was just all one piece. The lights were imbedded into the wall.
So when I was inside, somebody came and started talking to me. He started comforting me, "Don't worry. Pray. Don't cry. Pray." I had heard this many, many times before that. This same
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spirit always came and consoled me. I'm here. I'm a spirit. I'm here to help you. So don't worry. All the things you have been talking about are true. So you are a courageous boy. You have to take this route to bring the people you so love. No matter how bad they are, they are Still people. You still love them. No matter what they did to you--they take things from you; they hurt you; they kill your people; they kick you around--you still love them. You're a courageous boy. So I'm here to help you." So h@ was talking that way. It seemed like some of the things he mentioned I knew or had heard before someplace, but I couldn't recall where it had happened. So I couldn't remember where it had happened or who told me, but it seemed like I knew before. Like somebody told me before or somebody said it before. I sort of had that feeling.
Then he said, "Come, I'11 show you that I'm a spirit. Come on." Then he kind of brushed me. Then he unlocked those doors and pushed them wide open. So we walked out into the hallway. There were some little steps there that went up to a door to the outside. So we went up there and stepped outside onto the surface. There was a patch of ice there, crust, and snow. It was daybreak, and there was a black cloud there in the sky, and you could see the morning star. SO We walked out there onto the snow. I couldn't see him, but you could hear him walk on that Snow--crunch, crunch--and you could see his footprints there in the snow beside my prints as we walked along. So when we got out there, there was a man coming down from the clouds. So he came there, and those two met and started talking. So I was standing there and 1ooking around--breathing and enjoying what all was around me. It was really good to take a breath and see all what Tunkashila had created and what Grandmother had given me. So this other spirit came from the morning star, and they started to visit. I heard them talking.
While I was looking around, each turned around and started back. So he brushed me and started walking back to the building-crunch, crunch. When I went down the stairway into the hallway, there were two doctors coming from one way and a nurse from the other way. They yelled, "Hey, Chief! You are not supposed to go out! Who opened the door? Who let you out?"
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So I walked across the hallway and went back into that cell. Then those doors shut, locked, and that spirit that let me out was gone. Those two doctors came there, and one started to jiggle that lock. So the other one asked, "Did you lock it?" He answered, "No, I didn't."
Then that nurse came there, and she started to jiggle that padlock. She asked, "Did either of you snap this lock?" "No, we didn't."
Then she said, "But it's locked." So they were jiggling it around to see if it would come unsnapped.
Then they started yelling at me, "Who let you out? Who was it? You've got to tell me. Speak up! Who was trying to bail you out? Was it a white guy or was it an Indian? Who was it? How many people? Was it a woman or was it a man?" They were hollering like that.
SO I said, "This man."
So they started looking around, but nobody was there. "What man?" "Well, this man."
So they went somewhere and came back. Then Dr. Strong, the head of the department, came there with them. They came in and said, "We're not going to hurt you. You need help. You're a sick man. You don't know you're a sick man. We're going to help you." And that nurse kept telling me, "Think hard. Think hard." Anyway, they took my pulse; they put a flashlight in my eyes; they looked into my ears and this and that. Later they took me upstairs. Then they all came there--all these psychologists, psychiatrists, "red cross" nurses, and staff--for a meeting.
Then the head of the department, asked me, "Did you go out?" So I said, "Yes." So he said, "Who took you out?" I said, "That man." "What man?" "That spirit." "What spirit?" "That two-legged spirit." "Well, who had the key? Did you have the key?"
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I said,'? don't know. He just opened the door, and we walked
out." "Did you go outside?" "Yeah."
"Who was out there? Was there a car out there? How many people were out there?" I said, "Two." "Who were they?"
"Oh, they came from a star. This guy came from the morning star, and they were talking. Then I came back in. Then those two doctors and the head nurse saw me. I heard them say, Chief, you're not supposed to go outside, so I went back in. Then they came there and jiggled that lock." Then he asked, "Who snapped it?"
I said, "I don't know. You should ask them, because I'm insane."
So after that meeting they decided they should bring an expert burglar to check those locks. So they brought this guy there and locked him in that cell. He had a little box there with all his little probing tools in it. So he tried to hook around and snap it open from the inside. But he couldn't get his hands through that wire mesh. So he fooled around there for about ten minutes, then he gave up. So Dr. Strong got really mad. So he said, "Okay, we're going to go back down there, and we're going to reenact the whole event."
So they did that. "Okay, where were you standing! Okay." So they put a little tape there.
"Okay, you stand there. Now were you taking long steps or short steps or fast steps?"
They were going on like that. So he got all those people in place, and then he took out a stopwatch.
"Okay, when I say start everybody start walking towards the door. Okay, start."
Those three people came to the door and started jiggling that padlock. So that took seventeen seconds. So now an expert burglar had to use those tools to snap it shut in seventeen seconds, but that would be impossible.
So now Dr. Strong got even more mad. He said, "Okay, who
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is crazy? Is Chief crazy or are these three people crazy?" So then they took me to another room. While I was there, they did a lot of research. That's where they were doing their science. They talked about hallucinations with drugs, the chemistry language, and all this medical science--all that had been written. They were probing around there on guinea pigs or dogs or monkeys or Indians or whatever they were using for experiments. They wanted to know how people behaved. So they had all your history there, what war you were in, and like that. So nothing was left out.
Anyway, they finally got all the information there together. They even went over to the reservation and checked into my background, all what I had done. They found my dad, mom, sisters, uncles, cousins, and some of those people testified that they had come to the lodge and got well. So there were some witnesses out there. So when they came back, they put all this information together.
At the same time, they had a lodge for me back on the reservation. That gourd came over from there to visit me. He came right into that cell. He said that in four days I would be behind that altar with four classes of people there to judge if I was insane or not. So they were going to bring those people to a Chanunpa ceremony, and that spirit said he would be there to help me. So that gourd was going all over and talking at the same time. I was lying on that mattress, so he went this way and down to my heel, then up to the small of my back. When he got there, the doctors and nurses came there on their rounds, so he stopped and didn't say a word. He just laid there real still like. Now, how did he see them when I was lying on top of him? So he laid still. Then the doctor said, "How are you?" I said, "Oh, I'm okay."
Then he marked on his chart and left. When they went out, he started crawling up again. Then he said, "The medicine man is out there. We'll see you there." When he left, I looked out the window. I was on the second floor, but there was an Indian standing out there. He came over to the window, and the next thing he was standing inside.
He came over and said, "I'm a medicine man. I'm going to stay
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with you. We'll go back to the altar. I'11 take you back to the altar. And we are going to bring these four classes of people there, and they are going to see for themselves that this Chanunpa is sacred. I'm a spirit. I'm a medicine man, and we're going to show them that this power is true."
So they had to bring four sane people to observe me, because I was classified as insane. So that's what happened. They released me from the hospital. They gave me a ticket and put me on a bus to go home. They had me under surveillance to see if I would try to escape. If I tried to escape, that would mean that I was insane. But I went back. They had notified my mom and dad, so they were waiting for me when the bus arrived. My sister came there crying, "Brother. Brother." My mom was saying, "Oh, my son. My son. Good to see you back here. I know you'll make it. You're courageous. Whatever it takes, I know you'll make it. You took a lot of beating, but you have the courage, patience, endurance, alertness, and all that it takes. All this was given to you. Now you have the power to bring all these brains that we have feared for hundreds of years. Now you bring them to the altar. I'm really proud of you. We're really scared, but you made us feel really good." Then my sister said, "Let's go back. You know, really important people have come here. They all came in big shiny cars wearing suits. They're wearing white shirts and neckties and carrying briefcases. There are really important people here. Even white people came to see you. There's even a priest here. He's an archbishop. He came to see you. There's a doctor also. I heard that they lire very important. There's even a scientist here. They said you were going to take them into a Chanunpa ceremony." So I said, "Oh, good. Let's go."
So we went there, and all those people were there. There was even a representative from the legislature there. So all four classes I were there--the scientific, the psychological/medica1, legal, and religious-speaking people. So my dad let me fill the Chanunpa and display the altar. So I was setting up the altar, and there was .a buffalo skull there and a little bunch of dirt. That dirt we go out
R and get from a mole hill. Then we put that dirt on the altar in a little circle like a pancake and place the tobacco ties around it.
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Then we draw a picture in that dirt. There was also an eagle tail feather and an eagle plume there. And we had some claws hanging there and some robes hanging there on sticks. Also there was a shell there and a deer tail. And we had a piece of wood and a piece of stone. It's called Chanunpa, or "Sacred Pipe." We offer a little green in there.
So this priest was there, and he was checking everything out. He had a slurky smile on his face, and then he said, "You know, it seems like you're educated, but what you are doing here is 150
years behind civilization. You're going to have to change your tune, Black Elk, because we're living in modern times. We're living in the civilized, Christianized world now. We're living in the nuclear age. We're in the space age." He was talking like that.
So I said, "I don't know about being in the space age. It seems to me like we were airborne in the beginning. This earth, this rock is just floating around in space, floating around all the time. So I don't know about this being the space age." So those scientists started laughing at that.
Then he said something real funny. He said, "So why are you accumulating all those dead animals?"
It was really funny the way he said it, because I had never thought of it that way before. So I had a buffalo skull there and a deer tail and claws hanging there, but I never realized that I was
accumulating dead animals.
So I laughed and said, "The day Tunkashila created them they are very much alive, so they will be here directly." So he sat down. So we began. We turned off the lights and started playing that noisemaker, that drum--Chanunpa, honoring song, Four Winds, calling song, medicine song. Then--boom--a bolt of lightning, and that spirit came in. There was lightning and thunder inside and outside, and that eagle just swooped right in, flew right in.
You could hear it and feel that wind. And there was rain also on the inside. Water dropped right through the ceiling, and it was raining on top of us. And there was a stove there that was still hot, and you could hear those drops of water hit that hot plate and go shooosh, shooosh,like that. Somebody said, "There must be a hole in that ceiling." When he landed, you could see this man
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in the pitch dark. But this priest, he was the most scared one there. He yelled, "Stop it! That's enough! I said stop it!" He was screaming at the top of his lungs. Next, that buffalo came in.
"Oh, thank you, Tunkashila." You bless yourself by touching him.
"Oh, good. You're alive now. Thank you. Let us touch you and get well."
So he went over to that Christian guy and started poking him with his horns. That priest could feel something poking him, so he grabbed it and started feeling around in the dark. He could feel those horns. Then he felt this shaggy head and a shaggy hump. So he started yelling that there was a shaggy hump in there. I heard him.
"What is this? A buffalo! Get this thing out of here!" He was yelling that way.
So it was dark, pitch dark, but he could touch those buffalo horns and feel that shaggy head. That was really something for him, but we're used to it that way. I was educated in these spiritual ways, so I started thanking that buffalo for being there. So now you talk about Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Now that ghost came in. But in this other educated way you have to see it and touch it first before you believe it. That priest, he believed it, but it really scared him to believe it.
Then the deer came in. His horns were lightning. He whistled and started pawing the ground. So that priest started grabbing those horns again and started feeling around. So that deer had come to the altar also. Then the gourd-people came in. They came to comfort and welcome everybody. Then they said, "The reason we brought these people is because of you. You prayed so hard. We told you when you were little about these powers, so now you took up the courage to tell the world that this Chanunpa is sacred. You had to go underground because all these people have been rolling over you. Religion, science, technology, military powers, and politicians all rolled together like a rolling pin rolled over this Western Hemisphere. So we came here to help you." After I performed that ceremony those scientists said that maybe in 150 years modern civilization would understand these
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sacred powers. So I advanced 300 years in that ceremony, and those four sane people decided that I wasn't insane. So it's really funny. We've had a ceremony with a Christian, a scientist, a psychologist, a doctor, and even law-making people like a representative and a senator. It's really funny when you have those people inside. Even when they touch it and believe it, it really scares them. They're scared to go into Congress and say, "Well, a buffalo came in and an eagle swept right through the house." If they say that, they'll be sent real fast to the funny farm. But that's the way the spirit educates you.
Anyway, I kept those eagle claws. There is a ritual [Sun Dance] that goes with that piercing. There is a lot of preparation for it that must go on for a whole year in advance. By the following year everything had been prepared. We had the ropes, sage, buffalo skulls, prayer ties, and everything else was ready. We cut the sacred cottonwood tree. It took fifteen people to carry it up to the site. Then the site was laid out. The spiritual foods--water, corn, berries, and meat--were all in order. Everything was facing west. The tree and altar were aligned from east to west, the way the sun moves. I lay down from north to south. Then my brother pierced me. I want to recommend to you that you never do this out of curiosity because it is connected with death and life. So when he pierced me with those eagle claws, it seemed like there was this force pressing against me. There was this cracking sound, and I felt like he had broken one of my ribs. Then it felt like this pin piercing my heart. I knew then what piercing the heart meant. My heart stopped, and I stopped breathing. I couldn't blink my eyes. I couldn't move. I lay there frozen, like I was petrified, but I was conscious.
Then I looked in the direction of the sun. It appeared really huge and bright. Then the sun became a black polka dot, and it dilated. Different colors began to appear--blue, green, orange, red, and like that. Each time a different color appeared until there was a complete rainbow that appeared around the sun, a circular rainbow. Then as I looked up into the blue sky, a hole appeared in the sky like a big window. Then a man appeared in the window. He had both arms stretched out full. And I could see feathers in between. There were also tail feathers that fanned out and
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came down. They were coming down real slowly, like sinking. He wore a red robe. It slid over his shoulders and tied around his waist. Then out of nowhere a cloud vapor formed, like dust and smoke. It started getting thicker, and I could see lightning and hear thunder. Then a bolt of lightning that was rapidly moving up and down began to slowly descend to the ground. Then that man started walking down the bolt of lightning and landed right beside me.
Then he said to me, "Tunkashila heard you, so he sent me here to deliver a message. Tunkashila sends the news that this long island [North and South America] still belongs to you Earth People. This Chanunpa that you are holding is very, very sacred. This
land is still sacred. So tell it to each other, that you shall live forever." So I got that blessing for honoring the spirit of that eagle that was shot to death.
The first time I experienced thunder, lightning, and those clouds all around wan on
was on a vision quest. Those clouds bellowed up to about sixty thousand feet in height. Then a black cloud rolled in underneath, like a black robe. It spiraled around and formed a doughnut. There were different colored lights all around--green, pink, orange, and yellow lights. The wind made a tremendous Sound, and you could feel this suction like a giant vacuum. Hot air would come, then cold air would come, and sometimes it was still. When it was hot, I would be standing there sweating and wringing wet. Pretty soon it would shift. First, kind of a lukewarm air, then it would get ice cold. Then it would shift back.
At the same time there was this sound like gravel sliding down a tin chute. The sound was like that. I was praying, and then all of a sudden I looked up. I saw lightning, and it began to spiral down. As it started coming down, all the clouds wrapped around it. It was a spirit coming down. I heard a voice say, "Now [the power of] Tunkashila. They are going to show you a power. So be steadfast. Pray." So I was standing there praying as that black robe wrapped around and spiraled down. When that black robe came down, it brought the black light, and it was pitch dark. Pitch dark. There was a light on top, like a floodlight. Then a man appeared. He jumped right in. He was a figure like us, only he was all black like a shadow. And his eyes were purple. They were
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blazing--blue, green, orange, and like that. So I was scared.
Then he said, "Tunkashila hears you, so the Thunder-Beings elected me. They appointed me to come here and see you and show you a power." So I said, "He. Thank you."
Then he came over and said, "That Chanunpa you hold is very sacred. I am a spirit. I am sacred. I was appointed and elected to come to see you and show you a power." I answered again, "Hi-he."
Then he came over and touched my eyes. Then he touched my nose, touched my arms, touched my fingers, and touched my toes. When he let go of me, I could see everything as though it was broad daylight. And that scares me! So that was the power that he showed me.
Then he said, "You pray to the bright light. You pray to this
black light. I'm a spirit. I'm sacred." Then he went back up into the clouds and disappeared. As soon as he left the altar, that black light came back. So I learned these things that way. So I realized that there was a black light as well as a bright light.
So now I have that eagle power. It took a long time to get that power. I prayed for seven years. Each year I went on a vision quest for four days to pray for the people. So on the last vision quest, the first three days and nights there was nothing. Everything was quiet. Normally at our place there are lots of owls and coyotes. They sing songs, bark, and howl every day. We see them every day. You could see those owls sitting on a tree, but even they were quiet. Even the wind was quiet. I didn't hear or see anything. When the fourth day came, boy, now J was going down. I was standing out there in the sun. Boy, it was hot. Later, they told me that it was 115 degrees that day. So that's really tough. You stand out there in the sun for just three or four hours, and you'll find out how tough it is. I had been there for four days. So I began to pray. While I was praying, I heard a whistle. I heard it way up there someplace. I looked up, but I couldn't see anything. So I kept praying. Then I heard it again. I scanned the blue sky but saw nothing. About the third or fourth time I heard it, I could see it coming. It was an eagle. Now my heart started pounding. I knew he was coming to me. I could see him coming
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closer and closer. He was coming down in circles. When he tilted this way, he disappeared. Then as he banked around, I could see him again clearly. So I prayed and prayed.
He landed in front of me about twenty-five or thirty yards away. Then he started walking towards me kind of wobbly like. His wings were half folded. Then all of a sudden I saw him lift his face. He rose up, and he was like us. He walked fast and came up to me. The first thing he said was, "Tunkashila hears you, so he sent me here. I'm a spirit. I'm sacred. That Chanunpa you're holding is very wakan. " Then he said, "I was here. The powers of the Four Winds wear those robes. They are standing all around you. They are converging around you. These past days they have been watching you. They have been listening to you. That's how come they were quiet. They honor you."
To prove that, he revealed everything I had said on the first day. He even answered my prayers. Then he revealed every word I had said on the second day, then the third day, then the last day. So he repeated and answered every word I had said there up to then. Then at the end he said, "Now you are going to begin to pray." Well, I thought I had been praying like heck for the past four days. Now he said I was going to begin to pray. I never questioned it-Why? Why? Why?--like that, but I caught it. I heard it loud and clear. So I prayed silently. Then he said, "They're coming after you now. That is so." So he started running. Boy, he was really going. Just then my dad and grandpa came to get me, so they saw that eagle taking off. He went back up and disappeared. They said, "Oh, good. You did well." So they took me back down to the lodge. Everyone was milling around there waiting for me to be brought back down. They all wanted to hear the spiritual news. They were eager to hear the firsthand information. So we went into the lodge. When I prayed inside that eagle spirit came in. If you have any questions, that's
the time he will explain things to you. So then it was explained to me what he had meant. When he had said, "start to pray," I thought he meant I hadn't been praying. But that was the educated way of thinking. So what he meant by "start," we have a word for that, was to carry out that prayer. What he meant was that I was to walk pray. Pray walk. Walk with my prayers. So
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everything I prayed for, I would have to walk with those prayers, not lay them down and walk on them. What I prayed for, I had to live with. Everything I prayed for would fall in line--in place
one at a time. So I explained how I understood it then.
Then the spirit said, "That's good. You understand. Good. Thank you" the last word he said was, "From East to West those wasichu are flooding this land with bad water [alcohol]. The four ways of life, the four colors, are all becoming friends to that bad water. The first thing that does is distorts and twists people's minds. It hurts people's feelings. Then it destroys their brain cells and does damage to the organs and structure. It weakens the spirit. So it makes bad relations. People hurt each other by shooting and stabbing. Some commit suicide. Then some homes, nests, are broken. People get divorced. People die on the road. They create orphans. Others end up behind prison bars. Hatred and jealousy are threaded into those steel bars, those steel doors. But there will be a time I will come and pull the thread out, and there will be no more prison doors. So for that, I denounce the taste of that bad water. I don't even like the smell of that bad water. So you are going to be my friend."
So I said, "How. Thank you." I agreed because I understood. It was all packaged and explained. Everything was scientific and logical. Everything was self-explanatory. So I agreed. Then he thanked me and left.
So it took me seven years, seven vision quests to obtain that, power. I gave that back to my people, because I had prayed for the people. So it's kind of hard to pray for people with the Chanunpa I want to help people. I want to do something good for them. I want to learn something good, too. At least one time in my life, I want to do something good for people So I have one little credit to my name, or in his name, in his power. So when he comes, I've done something good, or I saved somebody's life that way. So I have the prayers and answers with it. So all the blessings were given back to me many times over. They even filled over. So these powers that were given to me, they can't be evaluated in terms of money. They cannot be measured. So I say thank you. I thank my grandpa, dad, mom, my relatives that way.
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That way my people will live to see another day or another moon or another year or another generation. I want to keep that nuclear destruction standing by, so we'll live another generation. So my prayers were answered. Otherwise, some idiot could push a button and annihilate everything. Then we wouldn't have a home. So now it's on standby. We're standing by because our lives are at stake.
So in my request, praying for the people, Tunkashila was good enough to send a delegate, a representative of his power to communicate that what I said was true. What our prayers demanded was right. It is true. That's the way Tunkashila wants us to be. So he never gained anything back from us. We create that bad among ourselves. We create it; then we try to call it devil, Satan, or evil. But man creates it. There is no devil. Man creates the devil.
So when you go to vision quest, you go there because Tunkashila is the Creator, and [for] Grandmother. She gave birth and life to all the living. So Grandfather and Grandmother are one. When you understand that, when it is fully organized in your mind, then you make your commitment. Those spirits will come and reassure you. But I don't command anybody. I can't say, "Hey, you go there for four days." I can't say that. I don't do anything. I don't bless feathers. I don't bless the Chanunpa. I don't bless anything. But I pray for people that are going to carry that feather, because I know that that eagle is sacred. He is wakan. But I can't make him wakan. I don't have that power. I'm just barely making ends meet, so I can't make an eagle more sacred. But I do pray for people, and I instruct them, because with the little experience I have, just like the blink of an eye, I understand that power of the eagles. That's why they gave me that sacred name, Little Eagle. So Little Eagle is my spiritual name.