This book was carefully complied from a great many audio tapes of Grandfather Black Elk talking. The result is remarkably close to sitting near him as he quietly talks directly with you. (And I'd know, I once spent a weekend doing just that.)
Wallace Black Elk invites you to share his feelings about the beliefs of his people and brings you into the rites and ceremonies of his spiritual quest.
Few people make others so generously free with their inner lives. More than a good read, it's an experience!
It is rather interesting to see the controversy surrounding Wallace Black Elk and his activities. Although Wallace is a Rosebud medicine man with impeccable credentials, he has become too well known and that means he has broken an unspoken taboo that cannot be forgiven within his community. Many Native Americans, like so many other peoples (indigenous or not) simply cannot tolerate the success of one of their own and are prepared to do anything to bring them down. After all, a true member of the tiospaye is supposed to be self-effacing, humble, generous... and poor.
I cannot be a judge of Black Elk's character. But I know a good thing when I see it. Anyone who has had even remote experience of Lakota healing ceremonies will know immediately that with this book we are given a great gift. The book will be useful to all who want to understand social and ceremonial aspects of Lakota life and the practical manifestation of their worldview and religious practice. God knows that our country and our planet are in need of these teachings. We get highly useful descriptions of major rituals, such as the Kettle Dance, the sweat lodge and the "vision quest"; more importantly, we get an intimate glimpse into a Lakota medicine man's relationship with his spirit helpers and guides and with his sacred pipe (Chanunpa). The book bristles with the reverence for the pipe and with acknowledgement that the medicine man is only a channel ("a hollow bone") for the Spirit. There can be no question about Black Elk's credentials, about the validity and importance of his experiences and his ability to heal people through sacred Lakota ceremonies.
The book is also funny in a way that Lakota themselves can be funny by being at the same time self-deprecatory and self-congratulatory. Black Elk obviously enjoyed the process of describing his experiences; he also inserts a few pages on his encounters with unindentified flying objects and their denizens but I suggest the reader checks this out for herself.
In short, this is a warm, informative and rewarding book that addresses crucial elements of Lakota religious life through the words of an authentic practitioner. It glows with gratitude to Great Spirit, Mother Earth and the Chanunpa. I recommend it.