Essay on Black Elk Speaks

Topics: Native Americans in the United States, Translation, Lakota people Pages: 3 (1225 words) Published: October 9, 2012
Not Forked Just New Form
In the article, Black Elk Speaks with Forked Tongue, Couser is giving his opinion on how he thinks that Neihardt was in actuality suppressing the Lakota way of life and Black Elk’s story. His opinion is backed by some good points from the text and as well as other scholars who have the same opinion as himself. Couser does believe that Black Elk Speaks is a well written book and he even respects and commends Neihardt in his attempt to honor Black Elk, “before detailing the short comings of Black Elk Speaks I would like to acknowledge the considerable efforts Neihardt made to honor Black Elk’s narrative” (Couser). Couser then dives into the idea that this book as an autobiography should be a thing of the past. I think Couser then gets carried away with an opinion about how Black Elk was being censored and the truths were kept secret. Couser’s argument is good but his tactic and tangent near the end could have been left out; it does not hurt the argument but it also is too absurd to help the argument as well.

Couser states that one of the problems with Neihardt is just the sheer fact of the language barrier; he uses DeMallie as an example of a person who thought the same thing. While there is good translation at times there are horrific and even completely made up parts in the book; this goes back to Couser’s argument that the book is not qualified to be called a Native American Biography. Neihardt had Black Elk’s son translate while Neighardt’s daughter would take notes; this action alone makes it inevitable that there will be some miscommunication and misinterpretation. It was then Neihardt who, in order to fill in the loss in translation, put in his own creativity and somehow turn a story into a piece of literary work.

Due to the language barrier it was inevitable from the very beginning that Neihardt would have to change things around for literary purposes. Couser seems to only point out the bad parts of the book and...

Cited: * Neihardt, John. Black Elk Speaks. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1932. 1-316. Print.
* Couser, Thomas. "Black Elk Speaks with Forked Tongue." Studies in Autobiography. (1988): n. page. Print.
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