Check out my Black Elk Speaks book summary and review that I created to help you understand the basics of this great book. Black Elk Speaks is a 1932 book by John G. Neihardt, American poet and writer, which tells the story of Black Elk, shaman and mystic of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe.

Black Elk Speaks book

During the interviews between Neihardt and Black Elk that took place for the production of the celebrated book, Black Elk spoke in Lakota and his son, Ben Black Elk, who was present during the conversations, translated his father's words into English. Neihardt took notes during these meetings, which he later used as the basis for his book.

  Black Elk Speaks book summary

 Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa) (1863 - 1950) is an autobiography of Black Elk Speaks, who famously named Wichasha Wakan (Medicine Man or Holy Man) from the Lakota Tribe (Sioux Indians).

 He was a cousin of the famous boss Crazy Horse. The autobiography was published in 1932, recorded by author John G. Neihardt from interviews with Black Elk.

In the book Black Elk tells the story of his life, beginning with his childhood as a member of the free Oglala Sioux in what is today known as the American West (or the West Central).

 He received spiritual rebirth as a young man and became Wichasha Wakan, one of the holy men who led their people in spiritual matters. He had a vision of the Six Nations of the Indian nation (native Americans), and sought to lead his people along the good "red path".

As well as being an exceptional and unique autobiography, the volume is important because it provides an insight into the history of the "Wild West" in the 19th century from the perspective of the natives living on the Great Plains. The tribes were repeatedly forced to fight for their country and their lives against the white man and his armies.

 The turbulent years of the Oglala and others of the Indians are described as they fought the American army and armed colonists, gradually losing ground and being constantly tortured by the United States Government.

 Memorable descriptions in the book include memories of Black Elk, a then 12-year-old boy, of the Battle of Little Big Horn, when Custer and the Seventh Cavalry were defeated by the Sioux led by Sitting Bull and others. There is also the tragic story of the Knee Injury massacre, when Black Elk was injured.

Black Elk describes his time with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and his trip to Britain, and how he had to come to terms with the white man's way.

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