On it’s surface this is a first-hand account of the life of the famous Sioux holy man and leader Black Elk, as told in translation through a series of conversations to the poet John G. Neihardt. This occurred in 1930, when Black Elk was one of the few still-living witnesses to both the death of Custer and the massacre at Wounded Knee. So on that level it’s already quite fascinating. What is transcendent is the beautiful space the seemingly simple elegance of the prose creates. It’s no accident.
I just now turned at random to a page where Black Elk ends a chapter on the killing and unknown final resting place of Crazy Horse:
“It does not matter where his body lies, for it is grass; but where his spirit is, it will be good to be.”
I say this as an agnostic: that’s beautiful.
Get it here.