Rock Art, image via CC0


Black Elk was a holy man of the Oglala Sioux.  The following quotes are from Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux:



“The Sun Dance…We hold it during the Moon of Making Fat, because this is the time when the sun is at its highest and the growing power of the world is strongest. We select the sacred tree. The people come to it singing, with flowers all over them. A brave warrior strikes the living tree, counting coup on it [from the practice in warfare of hitting a fallen enemy with a stick, which then counted him as a casualty], because the spirit of the sun loves everything that bears fruit. Then maidens chop it down. We carry it home, stopping four times, once for each season and direction, to give thanks for this gift of life. Then the sacred tree is set down at a place in the center. We plant it in the earth; we make a vow to the Great Spirit, Wa-kan Tan-ka.


“This tree is the center of the living universe. It holds the power of the world. It is the centerpiece of the four directions.


“The East brings peace and light; the South, warmth; the West brings rain; and the North, strength and endurance.


“The sky is the great circle that surrounds us. The earth is the circle that supports us. The sun comes and goes in a great circle just like our lives.


“Everything in life is a great circle; the tipis are round like the nests of birds —they hold the children who are the guardians of our immortality. And we are, in turn, embraced by the Earth Mother who in her roundness provides us with the fruitfulness of life.


“On the morning before the Sun Dance, nursing mothers bring their little ones to be blessed at the base of the tree of life, here at the center of the universe. Grow up and be brave; make your people proud…”



Glenda Taylor’s note:  “I pulled these quotations today from the book The Dancing Healers, A Doctor’s Journey of Healing with Native Americans by Carl A. Hammerschlag, M.D., but he took the quotes from one of my favorite books, Black Elk Speaks, by John Neihardt.”

The book Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux is available at, or for a brief summary of information on Black Elk, see Wikipedia

For information on Carl A. Hammerschlag, MD, or to order his book, go to

Image:  Rock Art, image via CC0