Below is Whisper #11 from my latest book, 48 WHISPERS, which is a collection of photographs and personal meditations created across a decade of travel to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the surrounding northern plains.
One dichotomy on the northern plains is the quiet battle for supremacy between the circles and the squares.The native tribes saw life as a never-ending sequence of circles, while the Euro-Americans constructed their world with straight and measurable lines.
One morning I walked the parade grounds of old Fort Fetterman in present-day Wyoming, which form a perfect square around the central flagpole. The remnants of this outpost serve as testimony to the orderliness of straight lines. Black Elk himself once referred to his reservation dwelling as “the square house they made me live in.”
Black Elk further described his understanding of how the Great Spirit works in circles, not squares:
“Everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. The sky is round, and I have heard the Earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls, birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always coming back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.”
When you learn to see the circles, you will better understand how power flows—including your own.