Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1991


Published in Great Plains Research 1:2 (August 1991), pp. 351–353. Copyright © 1991 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Lewis' new book on Oglala ceremony and healing brings together observations and interpretations of his encounters with Lakota healers from the Pine Ridge Reservation during his stay there in the 1960s and 1970s. Lewis was readily incorporated into the community and entrusted with details of conceptions and sources of power which reflect both the relaxed political and social climate and the attitude of openness the Lakota then held about sharing knowledge of their traditions with outsiders. This is fortunate, both for Lewis and the reader, for much of the substance of what Lewis learned is fast disappearing as are the elders who possess such knowledge. The post-militancy period today discourages ethnographers from inquiring into such spiritual matters and, when they do, this hesitancy rightfully inhibits their willingness to write about and publish such data. Lewis returned to Pine Ridge in the late 1980s to recheck his data and ultimately published his observations. It is well that he did, for Lewis has provided invaluable documentation of many aspects of Lakota healing and belief, among them, yuwipi, bear and eagle power, the Horse Dance, Sun Dance, ghost power and the heyoka cult, and the more contemporary styles of religious worship, including peyotism and Christian evangelism. Lewis also devotes considerable attention to herbalism and the uses of plants in native medicine.