Black Elk Speaks Essay

1792 words - 7 pages

Undoubtedly, reading a primary source or a personal account of a person's life offers a higher degree of insight and emotional impact, unmatched by that of any other source. A primary source in a sense personifies fact-based sources, as they include emotions, opinions, universal truths, and realities unspoken in other sources. Thus, primary sources are essential for the better understanding of any topic, as not only do they reveal black and white, but all the colors that reside in-between. However, a primary source is only as valid as the word of its author. In addition, it offers only one perspective of the situation, as it is told in a manner that suits the authors' bias, ignorance and state of mind. Finally, as a primary source brings situations closer to life, truths are often stretched for that more intimate look. In an attempt to uncover the elements used to write and decipher primary sources, Neihardt's "Black Elk Speaks" will be the root of our examination. Names such as Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Wounded Knee, and Little Big Horn are names commonly associated with the Westward Expansion and with battles fought between the Americans and Native Americans. However, as read in a textbook, they are essentially statistics and funny names in which we often neglect to find any relevance to ourselves. So with the exception to maybe a couple questions on a history quiz, these people and their stories will once again perish from America. Now it is only Neihardt's "Black Elk Speaks" that may prolong the second annihilation of the Native American culture. "Black Elk Speaks" is about the life of Oglala Sioux, warrior and medicine man, (Nick) Black Elk. This warrior saw his Indian nation prosper as a child, collapse as teen, and diminish as an adult. He lived his early life as any normal Indian child, learning the ways of the sacred hoop and religion of his tribe, aided by a sacred vision. He fought to protect his tribe against the westward expansion of the Americans, but most importantly for their livelihood. Finally as an adult he is left only to look back on his now, almost non-existent way of life. In 1931, Black Elk leaves his story by word of mouth, to his son, Ben Black Elk who translates the story into English, so that Neihardt can share this last vision with the world. Although Black Elk has his life's story published to the world, he is not too keen on the idea of sharing his vision, especially with other whites. The vision is something sacred that belongs to Black Elk, but more importantly to his culture. He sees that he cannot relate to and become a part of the white society and feels whites will be just as incapable of relating to Sioux Culture. However, he shares his vision to help preserve the Native American culture, allowing his grandfathers and other spirits live on. He refuses to tell his story to other whites, but justifies his decision to tell Neihardt as if he had been...

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