Vision and Experience in Oglala Ritual

William K. Powers

113 pages


August 1984


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April 2014


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About the Book

A profoundly spiritual book, Yuwipi describes a present-day Oglala Sioux healing ritual that is performed for a wide range of personal crises. The vivid narrative centers on the experience of a hypothetical father and son in need of spiritual and physical assistance.

The author combines the Yuwipi ceremony with two ancient Sioux rituals often performed in conjunction with it, the vision quest and the sweat lodge. Wayne Runs Again, suffering from alcoholism and worried about his father’s health, seeks out a shaman who, while bound in darkness, calls on supernatural beings to free him and to communicate. While the young man undergoes purification in a sweat lodge and waits on a hill for a vision, the community prays for him and his father. The ceremony serves not only to cure the sick but also to reaffirm the continuity of Oglala society.

Author Bio

William K. Powers was adopted in boyhood by a Sioux chief and has spent thirty-five summers on the Pine Ridge, South Dakota, reservation. In an essay, he traces the origins of Yuwipi to Crazy Horse's spiritual mentor, the medicine man Horn Chips. Powers is the author of Oglala Religion (1977), also published by the University of Nebraska Press.


". . . Powers achievement is significant and subtle: he preserves the most important words of a dying culture and makes a disguised, aching plea for its continuance."—Village Voice

"Yuwipi is the present-day Oglala Sioux version of an ancient and widespread ritual in which a shaman is bound and, in the darkness, calls spirits to come and free him and to communicate with his audience. The author, who has a long and intimate acquaintance with the Oglala, shows how this ritual is related to two other old institutions, the vision quest and the sweat lodge. He does so through a vivid account of how the shaman Plenty Wolf guided an anguished young man to a vision, cured the boy's father, and gathered communal support for them through these ceremonies."—Choice

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