In his youth, Black Elk was an Oglala, Lakota healer. Later in his life, he was a practicing Roman Catholic. When Black Elk was 67, he collaborated with John Neihardt to write his biography. His biography captures the essence of Lakota life during the pre reservation and the Native American Sioux religion that was the beginning of Lakota life experience. Black Elks quote “the Circle of life” is a description of how the circle or sacred hoop held significant power and protection for the Lakota people. The following paragraphs well show how Black Elks Primal religious worldview and later his Christian worldview have guided him through his life.
The unity of the Lakota people was evident in their use of circle formation. The circle is a symbolic of unity and social solidarity, as in the formation of their teepees and Lakota camp. The camp circle or sacred hoop is a place where everything is safe, knowledgeable, and Oglala. Outside the circle, it is a world filled with enemies, evil spirits and the white man. Just as then, as it is today, communities have the same unity and social solidarity as the Lakota people did. They feel safe knowing the people of their community, but some still fear the outside boundaries. The traditional Oglala Sioux way of life conceived mutuality between man and nature. Honor for the circle of seasons and all living things life was necessary in order to obtain food, clothing, and shelter. When the Indians lived in partnership with nature, those necessities were available to them in such abundance that their sheer existence seemed evidence of the concern of the Great Spirit, which had taken guardianship of them for so long. Along these lines, in the Lakota, religion is Wakan Tanka or Grandfather referred to as mother or father. The four supreme gods of the Lakota created both thunderstorms and wind....
References: DeMallie, R. The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk’s Teaching Given to John G.
Holler, C. (1984). Lakota Religion and tragedy: The theology of Black Elk Speaks. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 52(1), 19-45, 32.
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