Opinion

Dick Cavett: Leonard Crow Dog's ceremony in New York City






The late Russell Means, left, and Leonard Crow Dog at Wounded Knee in 1973. Photo from KeeperofStories

Talk-show legend Dick Cavett recalls the time Lakota medicine man Leonard Crow Dog performed a ceremony in New York City:
It all happened in an apartment on West End Avenue in New York City. It was the time of what was then called “Wounded Knee #2”, the Marlon Brando one where Indians and government forces clashed as they had in the tragic Wounded Knee of 1890. And, as with the original “Knee,” people again died on both sides.

My adventure was on a hot night in midsummer in a living room properly prepared for the ceremony. The apartment belonged to a woman whose name I recall only as Mary, who back then ran the shop in the old Museum of the American Indian, since moved to the Battery. Mary was white, amusingly feisty, and clearly an old hand at dealing with Indians.

Our group, apart from Crow Dog and me, was made up of Mary; Richard Erdoes, the great Indian authority and author; and four or five young male Sioux who had come with Crow Dog from the Rosebud reservation.

All windows were sealed shut and covered with black paper. The spirits brook no light, no outside noise, no disturbance of any kind. It was dead summer and the temperature outside was flirting with 100 degrees. Unhappily for us participants, the spirits are vehemently averse to air-conditioning. The room was soon a sauna.

Get the Story:
Dick Cavett: Bury My Heart on West End Avenue (The New York Times 7/12)