Lakota Belief and Ritual

Lakota Belief and Ritual

Lakota Belief and Ritual

Lakota Belief and Ritual

Synopsis

Raymond J. DeMallie, director of the American Indian Studies Research Institute and a professor of anthropology at Indiana University, is the editor of James R. Walker's Lakota Society and of The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk's Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt, both available as Bison Books. Elaine A. Jahner, a professor of English at Dartmouth College, has edited Walker's Lakota Myth, also available in a Bison Books edition.

Excerpt

Today more than ever before, people are trying to understand both their own and others' traditions; they are learning to appreciate that each way of life has its own value and particular capacity to tap the creative resources of human consciousness. As people the world over seek to learn about the many ways in which others have related to their immediate and to their cosmic environment, they are turning toward American Indian tribal traditions. They are listening to tribal wisdom that has survived in oral tradition and are seeking those documents that record accurately past ways of thinking and relating. Part of the world's heritage of authentic documents is the famous but until now almost inaccessible James R. Walker collection of traditional Lakota knowledge. The collection records teachings by men whose statements of belief show the energy, depth, and imaginative intensity characteristic of the Lakota response to specific cultural, social, and ecological challenges.

James R. Walker spent eighteen years in South Dakota as agency physician on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the home of the Oglala Sioux. From 1896 until 1914, he collected material relating to almost every facet of the old Lakota way of life. He also arranged to have Lakota people write for him and conduct interviews. The creation of a record of the spiritual and philosophical bases of the buffalo-hunting way of life became a quest for Walker. Beginning as a total outsider to the Oglalas, through his medical work and his expression of interest in the traditional ways he eventually became a trusted friend.

The old men at Pine Ridge instructed Walker in their traditional religion, first of all, because, in the words of George Sword, "the Gods of the Oglala would be more pleased if the holy men told of them so that they might be kept in remem . . .

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