By: Damian Costello
Damian Costello has taken post-colonial studies to new and exciting heights with his book, Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism. Costello's work examines the life and thought of Black Elk situating this great American Indian figure within his complex cultural, religious, and historical context. Many previous studies on Black Elk see him simply as a paradigmatic American Indian religious leader. Unlike these one-sided studies, Costello takes a more nuanced look at Black Elk's life, employing a much broader view based on cutting edge historical and sociological research.
Costello demonstrates that Catholicism was essential to Black Elk, permeating every aspect of his life. When scholars ignore or dismiss Black Elk's Catholicism, they are ignoring or dismissing what Black Elk considered to be most important in his life. Costello further shows how the Lakota people embraced Catholicism both as in continuity with their past traditions, as well as using their Catholic Christian faith as a means of resisting the colonial project of the United States. Costello provides a very detailed look into the life of Black Elk and the Lakota, as well as at the point where Christianity meets American Indian cultures. This book has far-reaching implications for understanding the role of Christianity in colonized regions of the world. Costello lucidly demonstrates how colonized peoples have appropriated Christianity, living their new-found Christian faith as a way of life, and thereby utilizing the tools with which Christianity has provided them to resist economically and politically driven colonial projects.
Damian Costello completed his Ph.D. in theological studies at the University of Dayton and serves as director of postgraduate studies at NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community.