Form and Content
Black Elk Speaks is written in chronological order beginning with Black Elk’s early boyhood in 1866 and concluding with the end of his people’s dream at the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890. The early chapters focus on Black Elk’s great vision in which he sees the demise of the buffalo and the need to help his people gain new strength. It is during this experience that Black Elk is physically cured and given great spiritual powers. The vision and developing powers are integral parts of Black Elk’s descriptions of buffalo hunts, ceremonies, and battles. For example, in the chapter “The Horse Dance,” Black Elk details the ceremony and chants that are part of the Sioux tradition. In addition, he describes a vision and explains how his powers became greater as a consequence of the Horse Dance.
The various chapters in Black Elk Speaks include the history, traditions, and symbolism related to the Oglala Sioux. The chapters chronicle the history of the people as they are forced to change from hunters of buffalo to unwilling residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The description of this change in-cludes details of living freely in the beautiful Black Hills, the reports of the tribe’s interactions with soldiers and various government agencies, accounts of battles, and a depiction of life on the reservation. Black Elk’s interpretations of various symbols add to the understanding of the Sioux culture. For...
(The entire section is 547 words.)