The interest of nineteenth-century Lakotas in the Sun, the Moon, and the stars was an essential part of their never-ending quest to understand their world. The Spirit and the Sky presents a survey of the ethnoastronomy of the nineteenth-century Lakotas and relates Lakota astronomy to their cultural practices and beliefs. The center of Lakota belief is the incomprehensible, extraordinary, and sacred nature of the world in which they live. The earth beneath and the stars above constitute their holistic world.
Mark Hollabaugh offers a detailed analysis of aspects of Lakota culture that have a bearing on Lakota astronomy, including telling time, their names for the stars and constellations as they appeared from the Great Plains, and the phenomena of meteor showers, eclipses, and the aurora borealis. Hollabaugh's explanation of the cause of the aurora that occurred at the death of Black Elk in 1950 is a new contribution to ethnoastronomy.