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FAITH AND CULTURES SERIES

Black Elk
Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism

Damian Costello

FAITH AND CULTURES SERIES


An Orbis Series on Contextualizing Gospel and Church
General Editor: Robert J. Schreiter, C.PP.S.
The Faith and Cultures Series deals with questions that arise as Christian faith attempts
to respond to its new global reality. For centuries Christianity and the church were identified with European cultures. Although the roots of Christian tradition lie deep in Semitic
cultures and Africa, and although Asian influences on it are well documented, that original diversity was widely forgotten as the church took shape in the West.
Today, as the churches of the Americas, Asia, and Africa take their place alongside
older churches of Mediterranean and North Atlantic cultures, they claim the right to
express Christian faith in their own idioms, thought patterns, and cultures. To provide a
forum for better understanding this process, the Orbis Faith and Cultures Series publishes books that illuminate the range of questions that arise from this global challenge.
Orbis and the Faith and Cultures Series General Editor invite the submission of manuscripts on relevant topics.

Founded in 1970, Orbis Books endeavors to publish works that enlighten the mind,
nourish the spirit, and challenge the conscience. The publishing arm of the Maryknoll
Fathers and Brothers, Orbis seeks to explore the global dimensions of the Christian faith
and mission, to invite dialogue with diverse cultures and religious traditions, and to
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Copyright 2005 by Damian Costello.


Published by Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York 10545-0308.
Manufactured in the United States of America.
Manuscript editing and typesetting by Joan Weber Laflamme.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any
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Box 308, Maryknoll, New York 10545-0308.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Costello, Damian.
Black Elk : colonialism and Lakota Catholicism / Damian Costello.
p. cm. (Faith and cultures series)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 1-57075-580-9 (pbk.)
1. Black Elk, 1863-1950. 2. Oglala IndiansBiography. 3. Oglala IndiansReligion.
4. Indian CatholicsBiography. I. Title.
E99.O3B5353 2005
978.004'975244'0092dc22
2004023733

Contents
Acknowledgments

vii

Introduction

1. The Story of Black Elk


Uncovering the Historical Black Elk
8
The Essentialist Black Elk or the Catholic Black Elk?
Postcolonialism and Post-Western Christianity
15
Relocating the Black Elk Debate
18

5
13

2. Missionaries, Colonialism, and the Internal Dynamic


Lakota Language and the Jesuit Missionaries
27
Religious Conflict and Correlation
32
Social Organization and Catholicism
36
Humanity of the Lakota and the Lakotization
of the Missionaries
37
Economic Factors
42
Political Ambiguity
44
Explicit Dissidence
46
Evaluation: Forging a Third Way
48

22

3. Traditionals and Christian Conversion


The American Indian Movement and the Urban Lakota
54
Fools Crow and Other Traditionals
55
Americanization and the Rejection of Christianity
58
Differing Interpretations of the Sun Dance
60
Symbolic Ethnicity, Lakota Speakers, and the Internal Dynamic
Outsider and Insider Views of Black Elks Catholicism
68

51

4. Redescribing the Lakota World


The Internal Dynamic of Black Elks Conversion
Violence and the Lakota Tradition
81
The Christian Claim of Universality
82
Lakota Tradition and the Old Testament
83
Wakan Tanka and the Christian God
85
Fools Crow: The Black Elk Tradition Embodied
Retelling the Story: Black Elks Agency
89
v

62

72
80

87

vi

CONTENTS

5. Black Elks Vision: The Incarnation of the Lakota Christ


Multiple-Source Evidence of Biblical Themes in the Black Elk
Sources
94
Black Elks Great Vision
97
The Prayer at Harney Peak
125
6. Misinterpreting the Vision
Neihardts Cultural Limitations
135
The Historical Context: The Great Depression
139
Financial Concerns
140
The Third-World Tourist IndustryA Model of Neihardts
Project
142
The Wild West Show and the Duhamel Pageant as Tourism
Black Elk: The Focus of Cultural Tourism
148
Black Elk Responds to Black Elk Speaks
150
The Great Depression Compromise
155

91

133

145

7. Colonialism and the Lakota Catholic Black Elk


Colonial Sources of the Essentialist Black Elk
162
The Rastafari Appropriation of the Christian Narrative
166
William Apesss Appropriation of the Christian Narrative
168
Black Elk, Catholicism, and Colonialism
171
The Lakota World and the Christian Narrative
176

158

Conclusion

179

Bibliography

183

Index

189