Wallace Black Elk

Wallace Black Elk
Wallace Black Elk

Robert here.  In the summer of 1980, while attending Southern Oregon State College (now University), I had the privilege of taking a three course series of classes on Native American history.  The series had three areas: the political, the social, and finally, a study of the sweat lodge.  Wallace Black Elk*, a descendant of the Oglala Lakota medicine man, Black Elk (author of Black Elk Speaks) was invited to attend and guide the class.  The class was to build a pair of sweat lodges and then perform sweat ceremonies (except the women in their period).  We had to build the sweats from the ground up and everything we did was discussed in its importance to the sweat.

It was a fascinating experience, even though I was unable to complete a sweat – very few were because it’s very, very hot and humid once the doors are closed and the temperatures get up to 120 degrees and more.  The whole purpose is to push you beyond your limits in your vision quest.  I’ll put captions on the images to explain what’s going on – something we don’t normally do, but this was an incredible experience and one I’ll never forget.

*Wallace Black Elk (1921-2004), a traditional Lakota Elder and spiritual interpreter, was a Channupa (sacred pipe) bearing descendant of the legendary Nicholas Black Elk whose visionary experiences were recounted in the book “Black Elk Speaks.” Wallace Black Elk was born and raised on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota and was trained since childhood in the sacred ways of his people. He died January 25, 2004.