Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wisdom of Black Elk

In the early 1930s the medicine man Black Elk told his life story to the historian John G. Neihardt. Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux who was related to Crazy Horse and fought in both the Battle of Little Big Horn and at Wounded Knee, related his remarkable life to Neihardt and the following excerpts share some Lakota wisdom.

Anogete or Woman with Two Faces from the Lakota Sweatlodge deck
"You have noticed that the truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs: but it is the same face, laughing or weeping. When people are already in despair, maybe the laughing face is better for them; and when they feel too good and are too sure of being safe, maybe the weeping face is better for them to see."

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 Ion Zupco, Untitled, March 6, 2004
"You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round...The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation's hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.

But the Wasichus [white man] have put us in these square boxes. Our power is gone and we are dying, for the power is not in us any more...When we were living by the power of the circle in the way we should, boys were men at twelve or thirteen years of age. But now it takes them very much longer to mature."

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"The Six Grandfathers have placed in this world many things, all of which should be happy. Every little thing is set for something, and in that thing there should be happiness and the power to make happy. Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other, thus we should do, for this was the wish of the Grandfathers of the World."
  Black Elk 
"Hey-a-a-hey! Hey-a-a-hey! Hey-a-a-hey! Hey-a-a-hey! Grandfather, Great Spirit...All things belong to you--the two-leggeds, the four-leggeds, the wings of the air and all green things that live. You have set the powers of the four quarters to cross each other. The good road and the road of difficulties you have made to cross; and where they cross, the place is holy."

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