Black Elk Speaks: Analysis

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Black Elk Speaks
Black Elk Speaks is an autobiography of a Sioux Indian that shared his story to author John Neihardt. As you read through this novel it becomes clear that Black Elk gave Neihardt the gift of his life’s narrative, including the visions he had and some of the Sioux rituals he had performed. Black Elk tells a story about his family, his tribe, his people, and the circle of life. But most of all Black Elk speaks about his life and his spiritual journey. This is a story of a Lakota holy man that, as he speaks, we go deeper and deeper into his visions. From his colorful words we are able to catch a glimpse of Native American religion and their spirituality. By the symbols and Black Elk’s words, we are able to get an idea what his religion is about and how it affects them in their daily life. But Black Elk Speaks is not just the story of one man. Black Elk himself said that if it were, it would not be a story worth telling. It is also the history of the Sioux during his lifetime: 1863-1950. Since Black Elk wasn’t old enough for some of the early battles described in the book, he gives the chance to other Lakota Indians to share their experiences. Black Elk Speaks covers the Sioux’s transition from pre-reservation life to reservation life.

Black Elk speaks about his culture and how the traditional Sioux Indian’s way of life created interdependence between man and nature. Appreciating nature, giving thanks to mother earth and taking care of their own was what the Native American lived for, unlike the white man or “Wasichus” as Black Elk called them, who came to America looking to take control of the Sioux land, using all the natural resources while looking for their precious metal, gold. The Native American was about balance and only taking enough so there would be more for tomorrow. Appreciating earth and nature is where most of their religion and symbols came from. Respect for the cycle of the seasons and the animals’ lifevwas necessary in order to...
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