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This entry is about the Lakota holy man; for the town, see Lame Deer, Montana.

Lame Deer, (in Lakota Tȟáȟča Hušté; 1900 or 1903-1976, sources differ), also known as John Fire, John (Fire) Lame Deer and later The Old Man, was a Lakota holy man. He belonged to the Heyoka society.

Lame Deer was a Mineconju-Lakota Sioux born on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. His father was Silas Fire Let-Them-Have-Enough. His mother was Sally Red Blanket. He lived and learned with his grandparents until he was 6 or 7, after which he was placed in a day school near the family until age fourteen. He was then sent to a boarding school, one of many run by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs for Indian youth. These schools were designed to “civilize” the Native Americans after their forced settling on reservations.

Lame Deer's life as a young man was rough and wild; he traveled and rode the rodeo circuit as a rider and later as a rodeo clown. According to his personal account, he drank, gambled, womanized, and once went on a several day long car theft and drinking binge. Eventually, he happened upon the house where the original peace pipe given to the Lakota by White Buffalo Calf Woman was kept; much to his surprise, the keeper of the pipe told Lame Deer she had been waiting for him for some time. This served as a turning point in Lame Deer's life. He settled down and began his life as a wichasha wakan (“medicine man”, or more accurately, “holy man”).

Making his home at the Pine Ridge Reservation and travelling around the country, Lame Deer became known both among the Lakota and to the American public at a time when indigenous culture and spirituality were going through a period of rebirth and the psychedelic movement of the 1960s had yet to disintegrate. He often participated in American Indian Movement events, including sit-ins at the Black Hills, land legally belonging to the Lakota that had been taken back by the United States government after the discovery of gold. The Black Hills are considered to be the axis mundi or center of the world by the Lakota Indians.

Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

Lame Deer related an account of his life and Sioux life and culture to Richard Erdoes, the author of many books on Native Americans. Other well known Sioux such as Pete Catches also took part in this account. In 1972, a book drawn from this account, Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, was published.

Erdoes's recorded interviews with Lame Deer, conducted as research for "Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions," are part of the Richard Erdoes Papers at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Lame Deer was a Heyokah only for a short time, according to his own words in the book, "Lame Deer - Seeker of Visions."



  • Lame Deer, John (Fire) and Richard Erdoes. Lame Deer Seeker of Visions. Simon and Schuster, New York, New York, 1972. Paperback ISBN 0-671-55392-5


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