Black Elk Speaks

Another year,  another Games For Change rant – perhaps also somewhat opaque.  But as Black Elk himself said as reported by John G. Neihardt in his book  Black Elk Speaks:  “When the part of me that talks would try to make words for meaning it would be like fog and get away from me “.

Here then is the text for this year’s Game For Change rant:

black elk in black hills

Hey a a hey, Hey a a hey, Hey a a hey, Hey a a hey


‘Revealing this, they walk

A sacred herb – revealing it, they walk

The sacred life of the bison – revealing it, they walk

A sacred eagle feather – revealing it, they walk

The eagle and the bison – like relatives they walk”


I am happy to be with you here in the moon of the fat making

Here on the island of many hills or Manna-hata named by my brothers the Lanape of the Algonquin nations.

When I was in my 9th year, now many many moons ago, I had a great sacred vision not only for my people, the Ogallala Lakota Sioux but also for all peoples even including you the Wasichas.

My vision came at a time of the start of great change for the Lakota nation, but at a time when the grass was still tall and our brothers the bison were many, and all the footed, winged and rooted beings were living in harmony.

In my vision, six grandfathers told me of 4 ascents that were coming, each of greater difficulty for my people.  They also told me of a red road north and south leading to prosperity and happiness, and a black road east and west, that was full of war and unhappiness.

Though I tried for many moons to help my people find the red road, it is hard to follow one great vision in this world of darkness and many changing shadows.  Among those shadows men get lost

I am here to tell you when I got lost because I fear you may be lost in the same way.

In the year of the blue man, who dried up all our rivers and grass, my people were starving as the promises of the Wasichas chiefs were empty and all the buffalo were gone.  At the height of our desperation, we heard of a new powerful vision coming from a Paiute Medicine man named “Wovoka”, that a new world would soon start.  In this vision, if Indians danced the ghost dance, with red paint – they could get on this new world and the Wasichas couldn’t and would therefore disappear.

When I first heard of it, I thought it was foolish talk someone had started somewhere.  I thought it was of despair that made people believe just as a man who is starving might dream of plenty to eat.  But when I went myself to ghost dance, I came to believe that my vision and Wovoka’s vision were the same.

I started making ghost shirts, which I believed would make our warriors not feel the white mans bullets.

The last ghost dance for my people was at Wounded Knee – where the ghost shirts did not protect our warriors and the Wasichas wagon guns murdered many of our people including women, old men and children.  I did not know then, how much was ended.  At Wounded Knee – my nation’s great hoop was broken and scattered.

So I am here today to warn you about the false promise of ghost shirts.  This was my great mistake, because I lost sight of my great vision and focused on little visions instead.   In times of great change, it is easy to think that a ghost shirt will protect old institutions from the coming ascents.  But Digital Ghost shirts will not protect you from the revolution happening all around you just like my ghost shirts did not protect our warriors or our nation.

However, in this case, I do not understand what the digital ghost shirts are intending to protect.  For my people, change destroyed a people and many beings in harmony.  For you, digital ghost shirts are covering a system that is not in harmony, and has failed to uplift certainly the children of my nation and many of the children of your own as well.

Square boxes, like the ones that the Wasichas make us use, and the ones that we make for our children, are a bad way to live.  In these square boxes our power is gone and we die.  Because there is no power in a square.  The power of the world works in circles and everything tries to be round.  The sky is round, the earth is round, the wind in its greatest power swirls around.  The sun goes up and comes down in an arc; the life of all peoples is a circle, from childhood to childhood.

And birds, who have the same religion as we, and who the great spirit tells use to use as a guide to raise our children, raise their children in round nests.  Our teepees are round like the nests of birds.  The tepees in our villages are placed in the round, so the community as a whole can nurture, protect and educate our children, and the great hoop of our nation was round nurturing all.  Things that are round have many possible connections and are not easy to control.  This is why the Wasichas took away the tepees of our own making and that we could move where we wanted when we wanted, and put us in square houses that can not be moved.

And we have put our children in boxes, in rows all facing forward, and all in lock step.  There is no roundness in that.  Further, what you would have our children do is also not round, but square.  Games that lead children by the nose to what you want them to know and believe.  Many of the digital ghost shirts I have seen, are like this, fundamentally reflecting the structure they seek to protect which is not the right structure.  Not round and connected, free and open but closed and square.

But, there is a new way – while many moons ago the new way was not better for my people, the new way I see now is a new version of my vision.  It is children connecting and connected to everyone in the community, no longer in rows in boxes.  Children playing real games to learn including those of their own making, with each other, and their grandfathers and grand mothers. Children with the opportunity to learn their own way, make their own connections – their own circles, connected to all our circles.

And this is important, boys of my people began very early to learn the ways of men. And no one taught us, we just learned by doing what we saw. And we were warriors.

This is the old way, and I believe it will be the new way.  While, in the end, there was no protection for my people from the bullets of the Wasichas.  I do not believe that there is any way to protect these old institutions from replacement by something round not square.  We must stop building square things – and stop protecting square things.  It is time to finally seek the red road and get off the black road  –  and build a new hoop together.

“Grandfathers, behold this pipe In behalf of (our) children I offer this pipe, that we may see many happy days”

Hetchetu aloh  (good indeed)


Haho  (thanks)

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