The Full Wiki

Black Elk Speaks: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Black Elk Speaks is a 1932 story of Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux medicine man, as told by John Neihardt. Black Elk's son, Ben Black Elk, translated Black Elk's words from Lakota into English[1] .



In the summer of 1930, as part of his research into the Native American perspective on the Ghost Dance movement, Neihardt contacted an Oglala holy man named Black Elk, who had been present as a young man at the 1876 Battle of the Little Big Horn and the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. As Neihardt tells the story, Black Elk gave him the gift of his life's narrative, including the visions he had had and some of the Oglala rituals he had performed. The two men developed a close friendship. The book Black Elk Speaks, grew from their conversations continuing in the spring of 1931, and is now Neihardt's most familiar work. The current popularity of the book shows the growth of interest in the social and ethical analysis of Native American tribes.

The Indian Reader, a publication of the Native American Church, claims to have interviewed Wallace Black Elk, Black Elk's grandson, also a medicine man [2]. It is claimed [3] that a copy of the book interested scholars in Germany, including the psychologist Carl Jung and that it was republished in 1961.

Ben Black Elk and the oral legacy

In 1931, Ben Black Elk translated his father's words for John Neihardt. Afterwards and increasingly after his father's death in 1950, Ben Black Elk visited local schools to tell the traditional stories of the Lakota history and culture. Some of those sessions were recorded by a Lakota educator called Warfield Moose, Sr., who entrusted the tapes to his son, Warfield Moose, Jr., in 1996. Warfield Moose, Jr. made a CD of these recordings [4]. This won the award for "Best Historical Recording" at the 2003 Native American Music Awards [5].

The Premier Edition

Published in 2008 by SUNY Press under its Excelsior Editions imprint, the premier edition provides the first-ever annotated edition of the story, done by renowned Lakota scholar Raymond J. DeMallie, the original Standing Bear illustrations and new commentary on them, new maps of the world of Black Elk Speaks, and a revised index[6].

Publication data

  • Black Elk Speaks, 1932, William Morrow & Company; 1961 University of Nebraska Press edition with new preface by author, 1979 edition with introduction by Vine Deloria, Jr., 1988 edition: ISBN 0-8032-8359-8, 2000 edition with index: ISBN 0-8032-6170-5.
  • Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, The Premier Edition, 2008, SUNY Press, Albany, NY, ISBN 978-1-4384-2540-5.


Because the book shows John Neihardt as the author of the book and not just the editor, there has been controversy in academic circles and native circles, significantly that of Indiana University professor Raymond DeMallie,[7] as to the accuracy of the story from Black Elk's point of view. To make this book, Black Elk spoke to his son who translated the story into English for John Neihardt and his daughter to record. [8] The primary argument made by DeMallie and others[9] is that Neihardt, being the author and editor, was able to exaggerate or change some parts of the story and did so to make the story more palatable and marketable to a white audience in the 1930s.

See also


  1. ^ Kaye, Frances W. Interpreting the Legacy: John Neihardt and Black Elk Speaks (review)Studies in American Indian Literatures - Volume 17, Number 1, Spring 2005, pp. 98-101
  2. ^ A Moment with Wallace Black Elk
  3. ^ [ Interview Introduction to Interview with Wallace Black Elk
  4. ^ Ben Black Elks Speaks
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ SUNY Press Premier Edition
  7. ^ The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk's Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt, Introduction and notes throughout the book. ISBN# 0803265646
  8. ^ For an online discussion, see this Cliff Notes article [2]
  9. ^ academic arguments on authorship, translation, and interpretation for prospective audiences have been written by Carl Silvio, [3] among others

External links



Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address