Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research 4:2 (August 1994). Copyright © 1994 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


The classic accounts of the Oglala holy man, Nicholas Black Elk, are three: Black Elk Speaks (1932) by John Neihardt, The Sacred Pipe (1953) by Joseph Epps Brown, and the later re-edited and annotated notes of the original Neihardt and Black Elk interviews published as The Sixth Grandfather (1986) by Raymond DeMallie. Michael Steltenkamp's (1993) account of Black Elk's years on the reservation after his conversion to Catholic Christianity is an essential fourth work that completes the circle of Black Elk's remarkable spiritual life. Working with a variety of sources, but primarily his notes and interviews of Lucy Black Elk, the holy man's last surviving child before her death in 1978, Steltenkamp has assembled a compelling narrative of Black Elk's life as a Catholic catechist, teacher, prayer-leader and spiritual adviser to the Lakota people.