SAAP Annual Meeting 2014

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Native Hermeneutics: Reverse Typology and Remythologization, or: The Theological Genius In Black Elk’s ‘Dual Participation’

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Despite the recent focus on Native American thought as a part of the American philosophical tradition, scant attention has been paid to the unique contribution to the history of American thought made by Black Elk, the preeminent wicasa wakan (holy man) of the first reservation generation of the Oglala Lakota. I argue that Black Elk developed two original, sophisticated, and uniquely indigenous theological strategies as a response to the forced confrontation with Christianity. Understanding these strategies – reverse typology, and remythologization – help us make better sense of Black Elk’s complex religious position, described by Holler as “dual practice,” and recommend the view that Black Elk was a far more complex and important thinker than he has typically been given credit for.


S. Joshua Thomas    
St. John's University
United States


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