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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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On buying this book, I was surprised that it had put in a catergory of 'Philosophy', as I imagined it to be simply an Indian history of the Sioux wars of Black Elks lifetime. However this book proves to be more than a history, it offers a look into the mind and beliefs of the Indian and his sorrow with the loss of his native life. One must read this book with a very open mind as, at first, it will seem far fetched etc. though the one gets into the book the more they would read into Black Elks words.
This book on a historical note is very good for a student of American West history, if paired with a modern book about the conflicts of which Black Elk speaks as one can really explore the attitudes of the Indians and Whites in an interesting detail.
I have always trusted the books I buy from the Nebraska Press and this one has not let me down.
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on 4 November 2003
My gut feeling is that at the height of our folly we have been killing the goose that lays the golden egg - in this case killing off those with the vision and wisdom to get us out of our present predicament. Solomon, when given the opportunity to choose anything he wanted, asked for wisdom - wisdom alone. But with that gift he became the wealthiest man of his era and everything else was given to him. We also lack vision and Proverbs tells us that a nation without vision shall perish. Today our shortcoming is that we lack vision and wisdom and what is more we are so ignorant that we don't even suspect that we lack vision and wisdom. And in that ignorance and the greed, arrogance and contempt that it generates we have almost destroyed the last remaining semblance of a people who had the vision and wisdom that the wise would have traveled the earth to receive. Fortunately, we have this book and through these most wonderful writings the wise of today can tap into that vision and wisdom.
Humans have two natures - the materialistic and the spiritual. In the west today our materialistic side has grown big and bloated while our spiritual side has shrunk to an almost imperceptible size through non-use. Black Elk was a person where the materialistic and the spiritual were in balance. We, too, can regain that balance if we are willing to listen to Black Elk. As the back cover tells us this book was named one of the ten best spiritual books of the 20th century, I am not alone in thinking that this is a good book to read, study, absorb and implement - but only if we are wise enough to understand that, of course.
Black Elk had visions of the unity of humanity and the author tells us of his first visit in August 1930: "It was not of worldly matters that he spoke most, but of things he deemed holy and of 'the darkness of men's eyes'" and that "from early youth he had lived in and for a world of higher values than those of food and shelter, and his years had been one long, passionate devotion to those values as he conceived them" and that Black Elk had said "As I sit here, I can feel in this man beside me a strong desire to know the things of the Other World. He has been sent to learn what I know, and I will teach him." At this point I could not help but think that the author and Black Elk were both exceptional people. How is it that a near-blind man could feel the author's goodness radiating out?
Having arrived at noon and with the sun now setting, Black Elk said: "There is so much to teach you. What I know was given to me for men and it is true and beautiful. Soon I shall be under the grass and it will be lost. You were sent to save it, and you must come back so that I can teach you." Neilhard returned the following spring and listened to the old man talk because he wanted this great vision to be saved for you and me. The author then faced the difficult task - and the sacred obligation - to re-create for us in mood and manner the old man's narrative.
Stephen Covey in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" told me to imagine that I have just died and people are gathered together to talk about me, reflect on my life and provide ideas of what might be written on my tombstone. What, in a few words, would I want a visitor 100 years from now, to know about me? I think that I would be content if my gravestone said: "Here lies a man who lived the vision and wisdom of Black Elk in his every thought, word and deed."
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on 13 April 2014
I chose this as I was looking to study Native American rituals and spirituality and I wasn't disappointed. There are not many books on this subject and it gave me a clearer insight into one man's journey into spiritual leadership, it was just what I was looking for :)
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on 7 January 2016
I have owned two copies of this book in my life and gave them both to people I know as it is a book that should be read by every human being. This copy I bought as a Christmas present for my brothers girlfriend and ask her kindly if when she had read it could I borrow it to read again as it's been a few years since I last downloaded the wisdom of the great Black Elk. ENJOY, ENJOY ENJOY my friends.
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on 23 March 2016
Yes I enjoyed this read, one has to remember when reading that this is the experience of on particular brave man's great vision and how he lived his life in the pursuit of the vision given to him. Always attempting to follow this for the benefit of his people, the Lakota, giving himself over to the vision when the time came, no matter the outcome for him personally. People on the outside reading this book should take into account that the Americas are vast continents and the Spirit ways of the Lakota are not necessarily the ways of other people in these lands. One thing that is held in common is a deep reverence for the elders and a core understanding of humanities inseparable part of life.
The ways of our modern 'civilised' society where incomprehensible, even mad, to young Black Elk, just as they were/are to Native peoples the world over. What we can take firstly from this book is respect for Black Elk, sympathy or empathy for the first nations, an elder people who have been and in many ways still are abused. What we can do also is to reflect upon these writings and say, is there any way in which I can restore some of the innocence lost, how is this relevant to my life?
Sure these people were not Christians nor did they hold to the values and moralities of these now dominant societal ways, they knew death was a part of life and were honest about it, they did not speak one way and act another, what you saw was what you got.
Was Black Elks vision Fulfilled. Did he find the solution or resolution he first sought for his people? Maybe this is still ongoing through the pages of his book, just as his Uncle Crazy Horse sought to solve the dilemma and free his people, this book does the same for us all. Here can be considered another piece of the solution, the book is another Brave left behind for us to find and in turn to teach us. Whilst we grow and mature as a people the Book remains here, a message from the past for us now, to pick up, learn and grasp in turn what it is that our people never saw all those years ago, as we rampaged and ravaged, as a bull in a china shop, throughout this our sweet and sacred earth. For it was not Black Elk, Crazy Horse or for any other to solve this mess alone, they and many other visionaries of many a hew are a part of the work, which must be done if we are eventually to turn things around and save our world. Even the wisest of us is still very small in the grander vision, all we can do is try to follow in their foot steps so as we too can grow and play our part.
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on 7 September 2002
What a great man black elk was and still is through this book,
john has done a great job writing this account of a great nation
of people that if we followed today the world would be a better place,it is a beautiful book i loved every part of it.
not for "wasachus".or maybe so?
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on 3 June 2016
The last thing I expected to find in this book was an account of a Lakota medicine man getting lost on a night out in Manchester town centre (it happened while he was part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show). That bit, though, I believe; I also believe the following anecdote where he meets 'Grandmother England', Queen Victoria, and wishes she had been ruler of America - such a sacrilegious thought would not even have entered the head of a white American. The part I have trouble believing is the supposedly most important part, the part that claims to make this book a 'religious classic': the 'Great Vision'. It is full of Biblical phraseology and ideas, bearing not the slightest resemblance to other accounts of shamanic visions I have read. Did a certain folklorist, fancying himself as some kind of latter-day Homer creating an American mythology, make the whole thing up - or at least embellish it considerably? If he had it's hard to see how Black Elk, not speaking English, could have challenged it.

Does it matter (asks one Vine Deloria Jr in the Introduction - and that in itself is suspicious)? Of course! There's nothing intrinsically amazing about the ideas here. They matter if, and only if, they authentically represent native American culture.

As for the historical side, a lot of what is here has passed into the culture - or at least the counter-culture - and feels very familiar. It even appears to be the source of the 'white man speak with forked tongue' line.
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on 9 June 2014
Black Elk speaks arrived in double quick time, in great condition and is a great read for anyone interested in seeking an alternative to western ideology and religious theory. It is, in the opinion of a white man still a great read for Native American youth who want to make a difference without being completely dominated by The White House and any political dogma..
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on 13 October 2015
The most inspiring book I have ever bought. The narrative brings you right to the center of everything, carries you along on an amazing journey, and leaves you with a plethora of new knowledge and new ideas. What more can you ask of one book!
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on 2 December 2012
Book came as described within the time scales. This is a great book that takes us back in time, into world lost to an oppressive land grabbing people, following the oppression of a complete race of people and the destruction many peaceful nations.
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