Black Elk was one of the greatest religious thinkers produced by native North America, and the Sun Dance the central religious ritual of his Lakota tradition. Beginning with a review of the recent critical work on Black Elk by Paul B. Steinmetz, Julian Rice and Michael K. Steltenkamp, Holler reconstructs the history and development of the Lakota Sun Dance, essential background for understanding Black Elk's thought. His analysis is a comprehsnive study of the dance, which was banned by the government in 1883. Holler shows how Black Elk adapted the dance to the conditions and circumstances of reservation life, reinterpreting it in terms commensurate with Christianity. His firsthand account of the dance associated with Frank Fools Crow at Three Mile Camp near Kyle, South Dakota, shows how the contemporary Sun Dance reflects Black Elk's vision. Holler's book offers a philosophical engagement with native North American religion, carried out in close dialogue with anthropology. Readers who were captivated by John G.
Neihardt's gripping portrait of Black Elk in "Black Elk Speaks" may be surprised to learn that he was a vital and creative leader until his death in 1950, not the broken, despairing old man made famous by Neihardt. Holler establishes that Black Elk was both a sincere traditionalist and a sincere Christian, seeing the two religious traditions as expressions of the sacred. Students of religion should be stimulated by Holler's interpretation of Black Elk as a creative thinker, rather than a passive informant on his people's past. Those interested in Native Americans, especially the Lakota, should appreciate his authoritative reconstruction of the Sun Dance, which proposes new understandings of this central Lakota religious ritual. The book also includes a glossary of terms.
Publisher: Syracuse University Press