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THE LAKOTA RITUAL OF THE SWEAT LODGE: HISTORY AND CONTEMPORARY PRACTICE.

THE LAKOTA RITUAL OF THE SWEAT LODGE: HISTORY AND CONTEMPORARY PRACTICE. By Raymond A. Bucko. Studies in the Anthropology of North American Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1998. Pp. vii + 336. $14.95.

With more experience in the field than most academic scholars can hope to attain, Bucko, a Jesuit priest and anthropologist, illuminates a ritual that is today universally practiced within the world of American Indian religion (achieving such widespread acceptance largely through the Lakota, a group referred to in earlier literature as the "Sioux"). Unfortunately, his book's bland title reflects its origin as a doctoral dissertation, and initially will appeal just to specialists who seek a more in-depth historical, sociological, and theological understanding of a Native ceremony popularly referred to as a "sweat" (or "sweat lodge"). However, word-of-mouth should give this work the large audience that it richly deserves.

Although the first two chapters provide a historical analysis of the sweat lodge ritual, attention is throughout directed at a consideration of how the ceremony's enactment today reflects its tradition as reported by "missionaries, civil servants, anthropologists, and popular chroniclers" (14). Early accounts show the roots of contemporary practice but there is, contrary to what many might assume, no "definitive formulation of tradition or rules for ceremonial behavior" (101). Within a social setting that simultaneously values continuity with the past while fostering innovation, Lakota ceremonial production is shown to be "dynamic" and not simply an inherited tradition undertaken by self-appointed practitioners.

Personal accounts, especially those in Chapters 5 and 6 make this anything but a dry analysis of religious ritual. Rather, the work is an exemplary demonstration of how ethnography should be written. Transporting readers into the Lakota world by means of insightful reflection, B. shows why contemporary Native peoples enter the sweat lodge. So compelling is the Lakota vision of sacred things that spiritually inquisitive readers might be moved, if invited, to accompany them.

MICHAEL F. STELTENKAMP, S.J.

Wheeling Jesuit University, W. Va.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:STELTENKAMP, MICHAEL F.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2000
Words:326
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