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The book Black Elk Speaks was written in the early 1930s by author John G Neihardt after interviewing the medicine man named Black Elk Neihardt was already a published writer and prior to this particular narrative he was at work publishing a collection of poems titled Cycle of the West Although he was initially seeking infor- mation about a peculiar Native American religious movement that occurred at the end of the 19th century for the conclusion his poetry collection Neihardt was instead gifted with the story of Black Elks life Black Elks words would explain much about the na- ture of wisdom as well as the lives of the Sioux and other tribes of that period The priest or holy man calling himself Black Elk was born in the December of 1863 to a family in the Ogalala band of the Sioux Black Elks family was well known and he counted the famed Crazy Horse as a friend and cousin Black Elks family was likewise acknowledged as a family of wise men with both his father and grandfather themselves being holy men bearing the name Black Elk The youngest Black Elk soon experienced a vision as a young boy a vision of the wisdom inherent in the earth that would direct him toward his true calling of being a wichasha wakon or holy man like his predecessors Black Elks childhood vision stayed with him throughout his life and it offered him aid and wisdom whenever he sought it It is from the strength of this vision and the wisdom in his heart that Black Elk eventually realized his place as a leader and wise man in the Ogalala band of the Sioux The wisdom possessed by Black Elk is immediately present in his recollections of various lessons learned by himself and by others These stories ran the whole gambit of life experiences from the most innocent acts of
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