Black Elk Speaks


BlackElk Speaks


BlackElk Speaks

Thefeeling of separation happens after Black Elk is given a vision tolead and minister to his people while he is nine years old. He feelsstrange since the vision grants him a unique destiny that isdifferent from that of other young men in the society. As a result,he feels separated from his peers. At some moment in life he feelsunworthy of the power that he possesses to a point where he specifiesthat the power is not his own and that he is just an instrument of agreater power that works through him. The vision enables him tominister to the people and maintain the attachment within the membersof his society. In addition to creating coherence, his teachingsprovide an identity of the society- values that the community appliedin its daily livelihood. As he advances in age, he developsconfidence and begins to perform public rituals such as healing as away of establishing his tribal role (Neihardt, 1988).

Similarto other heroes, Black Elk undergoes through trials as a test of hispersonality. The first trial involved his survival from illness atthe age of nine whereby he lay unconscious for twelve days. Duringthe period of his sickness, a great vision of six grandfathers whopresented him with powers of cleansing, healing, awakening, vision,eternal youth and growth possessed him. Further trials occur when heparticipates in the suffering of the entire tribe in the battle atRosebud while he was 13 years old. The battle is recorded as thefirst time that Native Americans had united to fight in large numbersand as one of the greatest battles of the Indian Wars. It lasted forsix hours and was exceptionally significant since the Indians foughtwith high intensity to defend their traditional land and. Theinvasion of the whites in search of more land causes more suffering.It brought hunger to the Sioux community by eliminating the Bisonthat served as a source of food. Consequently, there was an end totheir way of life, which involved hunting, butchering, foodpreparation singing, and dancing as thanksgiving rituals. Black Elkremained cheerful and uncomplaining despite the sickness andsuffering (Neihardt, 1988).

BlackElks efforts to share his vision included his travel with the BuffaloBill Wild West show, his bravery in battle, participation in theGhost Dance and involvement as a catechist in the Catholic Church.These were efforts to pass his intimate religious awareness tocultural outsiders. Further, the involvement of Neihardt was agesture to initiate individuals into the secret and sacred knowledgethrough literature. His efforts have been transformational tointernational attention. However, there is still a question as to howsignificant the concept of great vision has been to the averagereaders (Neihardt, 1988).

Inhis afterlife, Black Elk met with his mentor John G. Neihardt on thepine bridge reservation in South Dakota. He was a distinguished poet,writer and critic. Black Elk recognized that Neihardt was anunderstanding listener. Further, he was someone fascinated by thespiritual realm and in Indian history. Black Elk felt the need totell the story of his life and his vision in specific because he felthe would soon die. Neihardt served as the mentor in the creation ofthe greatest gift to the Lakota people by writing the book- Black ElkSpeaks, a story of the Lakota visionary and healer (Neihardt, 1988).

BlackElk emphasizes that the purpose of telling his story to John Neihardtis because it tells about both his personal history and reflects thestory of his tribe. He thinks of himself entirely in the context ofthe communal nature of the Indian experience (Neihardt, 1988).


Neihardt,J. (1988).&nbspBlackElk speaks:Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.