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heap big hokum
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.