Orginal Publication Date
Ethnic Studies Review
Few, if any, American Indian individuals are more widely known in the United States than the Lakota holy man, Black Elk (1863-1950). His story, particularly as presented by John Neihardt in Black Elk Speaks, has been required reading for legions of students taking classes in literature, religion, anthropology, and American Indian Studies. Scholars in those fields have generated a body of critical literature which has taken on a life of its own as Neihardt's book, originally published in 1931, has been reprinted in paperback editions many times since 1960. During the 1970s, Neihardt appeared on the Dick Cavett show and, along with Black Elk, became something of a cult hero. Meanwhile, heated debates have arisen as to whether Neihardt's book is ethnographically or historically accurate and whether it is a faithful as-told-to autobiography or a novel. Clyde Holler's book is the most recent major work in this controversy. It deals with the question of Catholicism in Black Elk's life and the role of Christianity in contemporary Lakota culture, specifically regarding the Sun Dance.
Copyright ©ESR, The National Association for Ethnic Studies, 1997