The Man Who Knew the Medicine: The Teachings of Bill Eagle Feather

Excerpts & Samples

By Henry Niese

Publisher : Inner Traditions/Bear & Company

ABOUT Henry Niese

Henry Niese
Henry Niese has participated in over 100 ceremonies and danced in 37 Sun Dances. He carries on the work of his teacher Bill Eagle Feather by performing healings and giving seminars and workshops throughout the United States on healing and medicinal plants. He is also a professional artist  More...



The teachings of Bill Eagle Feather, Sun Dance chief and medicine man of the Rosebud Sioux, as told by his apprentice.

• Reveals personal accounts of important Native American rituals such as the yuwipi and the sun dance.

• Includes stories and teachings from the last years of Bill Eagle Feather's life.

Lakota medicine man Bill Schweigman Eagle Feather gained widespread recognition as an uncompromising spiritual leader in the 1960s when he defied a U.S. government ban on Indian religious practice and performed the Sun Dance ritual with public piercing. He continued on as Sun Dance chief and teacher of the Lakota way of life until his death in 1980. 

Author Henry Niese met Bill Eagle Feather during a sweatlodge ceremony preceding a Sun Dance on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in 1975. That was the beginning of the relationship between student and teacher that is captured with humor and respect in The Man Who Knew the Medicine. Niese brings readers along on his journey from outsider to initiate to elder, a transformation guided by Bill Eagle Feather. He describes sacred traditions such as the sweatlodge, the yuwipi, and the powerful Sioux Sun Dance, which Niese participated in for 16 years on the Rosebud reservation. His firsthand accounts provide a portal into a sacred reality as well as insight into the struggles of the Indian community to perpetuate its values and religious truths in the context of contemporary America. Above all, The Man Who Knew the Medicine offers the opportunity to experience the unique personality of a fascinating individual and respected healer through the eyes of a friend and a student.

"A wonderful book full of magic, mystery and wisdom. It is a tale of the years the author spent with Lakota holy man Bill Eagle Feather, talking about life and death, laughter and sadness, spirits and the universe. This book is written from the heart.  It will give you an understanding of Lakota beliefs and ceremonies. It will enrich your life."
Richard Erdoes, coauthor of Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

A born storyteller, Henry Niese has drawn a colorful portrait of his Lakota Sioux spiritual teacher with affection and humor and--notwithstanding Niese's own hard-earned wisdom--with humility. From this unique memoir we learn how the author himself has become a dedicated teacher and healer, a man who knows the medicine."
Daniel Mark Epstein, poet and biographer, author of What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay

"A unique and enthusiastically recommended addition to Native American Studies collections, and an invaluable contribution to Alternative Medicine reading lists as well."
The Midwest Book Review, January 2003