The division in the world among the races always was and will be one of the
biggest issues that the people have to deal with and solve. Many cultures, Indian culture
is one of the examples, were affected by the persecution of the people who were though
to be “superior” to others. Indian culture was persecuted by whites, which wanted to
wipe off the Indian civilization from the face of the world. The Native Americans
wanted the same as anyone would, peace and freedom for their people. The Native
Americans did not consider “white way of living righteous” for them, they were spiritual
and had a different outlook on life, and did not want interference from outside world.
In the book Black Elk Speaks, being the life story of a Holy Man of the Oglala
Sioux as told through John G. Neihardt, an Indian boy then a warrior, and Holy Man
describes the life his people had in the lands that belonged to them that were seized by
As a little boy, Black Elk witnessed his village being invaded by Wasichus, a term
that was used by Indians to designate the white man, but having no reference to the color
of his skin. Black Elk describes the life of Indians, which is very spiritual and could be
very unattainable to understand to the naked eye of a regular person who did not know all
the Indians’ beliefs. While still young, at the age of nine, Black Elk had a vision where
he was the leader of all his people. Where he was given a gift from Great Spirits to save
the Indian civilization by driving a way the Wasichus from their native land. After the dream, he was courageous and willing to go fight the barbarians.
The deep spiritual significance of the dream came to him when he was older and wiser. The rituals and traditions of the Indians evince their beliefs in spirits and afterlife. Indians believed that there would be a better life for them after they die, because many of them did not see a way out, but people were still fighting for their lives.
Growing up Black Elk and his friends were already playing the games of killing the whites and they waited impatiently to kill and scalp the first Wasichu, and bring the scalp to the village showing how strong and brave they were. One could only imagine what were the reasons that Indians were bloody-minded and brutal to the whites. After seeing their own villages, where they were born and where the soul was, burn down to ashes, their hatred and dispiteous actions towards whites just grew stronger and stronger, and all they wanted was revenge and death of whites.
Throughout Black Elk’s life, their community was moved from one place to another, when they reached other destinations after awhile they had to fight whites and to live through loses and hard times. Black Elk always had the visions of the people dancing and the Grandfathers that were symbolizing villages in many dreams that he had to save. By telling the dreams to the village, they powered themselves and were going to fight in small groups relying on spirits to help them in, saying “today is a good day to live”. The Black Elk realized in having the power to cure people as few other spiritual leaders could. Black Elk, being a little afraid, always influenced his friends into fighting believing and thinking always about his vision, which seemed reality to him. All his life he was getting more strength after losing someone close to him, this was a sign of the flow of powers to him from the spiritual world. Going through sorrow and despair, Indians had to stand up for themselves. Indians were proudly keeping on fighting the Wasichu, many times left with two horses and wounded.
The book showed that the Indians’ destiny was to roam through the world in finding a better life, which they could not find anywhere, because they were persecuted and being destroyed.
When Black Elk was older and wiser, he started to realize how wrong he was in following his visions that were not as significant as the one he had when he was young. But the perception of the vision he had was only a dream and when he was looking back at it, he remembered how the last battle was, where he saw dead bodies of women and children scattered all over the ground and the soldiers pointing their guns. Black Elk realized that it was all a beautiful dream and it was over.
The most important aspect of the book shows how young Indians aggressively try to overcome all of the harsh reality and attain the one point that would substantially change their lives. The book shows how spirituality and unity among the people of the specific Indian tribe, Oglala, gave them strength for trying to overcome the people’s superiority that spoiled many of the natives’ lives.
Nevertheless all the descriptive lives of the Indians and how much they suffered, and how terrible was the extermination, the actions of Indians is not explanatory of the brutality in their hearts, not only to the whites but other Indian tribes.
Anyhow, the book portrays the life with extensive battles and struggles with the environment, enemies and the individuals themselves. The book shows that a diversion in the world gives bad vibes between societies, where both has its own best interest at heart not caring about the other, and would do anything to progress in the stages of life aiming for predominance over everything. This gives off the example of the white race over the Indians, not even in the way of whites wanting to destroy Indians, but the possessive feature of the whites wanting to expand to the territory that they believe is theirs.
In analyzing the book, I would not say that the author was not persuasive, it was more of him not giving the straight facts that would induce us of real horror. Although the author was just describing the day-to-day life with all the rituals and traditions it did t portray the feeling they had towards the whites. This book differs from other works, in a way that the author gives exact experience one Indian had, and the biggest difference is that the book is written from the person words that actually experienced it. The author gives a good background of the relationship white settlement and Indian cultures had, which supported by the life experience. An author depicts all the emotions of struggle and happiness at the times when it is hard to imagine it. And it actually not the author who is persuasive, but the Black Elk himself, because he is the one that actually can convey the exact feeling and images to the reader.
The ways in which the author could strengthen the book, in my opinion, is instead all the descriptive, to me meaningless points as how they were coloring themselves, the author should have put a little bit more facts in there to make it more documentary. Anyhow, overall the book has strength in letting the reader understand the history from both sides, whites and Indians. Many people have different views on the persecution of Native Americans, some think that it was all Indians’ fault and that they caused their own suffering, which I think is absolutely ridiculous, because they were not the ones who invaded. And Native Americans had every right to stand up for the land that was theirs.
Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt