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Black Elk Speaks

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,984 Ratings  ·  450 Reviews
Black Elk Speaks is a 1932 book by John G. Neihardt, an American poet and writer, who relates the story and spirituality of Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota medicine man. It was based on conversations by Black Elk with the author and translated from Lakota into English by Black Elk's son, Ben Black Elk, who was present during the talks. Neihardt transformed his notes to convey ...more
Paperback, 238 pages
Published 1972 by Pocket Books (first published 1932)
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This is a haunting and moving transcription of interviews with the revered medicine man Black Elk of the Oglala band of the Lakota Sioux in 1930 at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The editor, John Neihart, was a poet who was writing an epic poem about Messiah movement in the 1880’s among diverse Plains Indians and was seeking Black Elk’s perspective. Black Elk, then in his mid-60s, reflects back on a life spent trying to heal his people as a whole, not just individuals with medical p ...more
Joan DeArtemis
This was my third time reading this book, and every time I come away with something new. I highly recommend this to anyone studying religion. I highly recommend this book to every single American citizen. It should be required reading in public schools. The Lakota people have a vibrant, exciting, living religious tradition, and the fact that Black Elk's story was recorded is a gem and a blessing. Not only is it because of the religious tradition is this book important. It is also important becau ...more
Feb 11, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Grandfather, Great Spirit, once more behold me on earth and lean to hear my feeble voice. You lived first, and you are older than all need, older than all prayer. All things belong to you --- the two-leggeds, the four-leggeds, the wings of the air and all green things that live. You have set the powers of the four quarters to cross each other. The good road and the road of difficulties you have made to cross; and where they cross the place is holy. Day in and day out, forever, you are the life o ...more
Jul 13, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-us, biography
I read an edition of this book which lists where the contents of Black Elk's telling of this portion of his life was greatly enhanced emotionally and symbolically by Neihardt. Were I not aware of these changes until after reading it, I would feel cheated and as though this book were a fake. Despite these added notes, however, the book is still fantastic, most of the perversion of the text being whiny, emotional additions and romantic lamentations Neihardt adds in his cultural guilt and ethical f ...more
Jan 28, 2016 Jimmy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
An abridged cd with a magnificent reading by Fred Contreras. The other day as I went to a car repair appointment, I arrived all misty-eyed and runny-nosed. Very sad story. Black Elk speaks of the creatures with roots, legs, and wings. I add the creatures that crawl and swim. And any other creatures that are left out. I hope to read the full unabridged version in book form some day so I can copy down a few quotes.

Riding home from my appointment, I noticed the melting snow. The seven-day forecast
Jun 26, 2011 Marielle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the Premier Edition, which is wonderfully annotated with historical references and clarifications on the interpretations and additions that are Neihardt's and not in the transcripts of Black Elk's words. I have had this on my "to read" list for years — everything in its time. I read this while in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Black Elk's homeland. It seemed especially powerful to read it in the very hills where he lived and walked, had visions, dreams, and went about the work of a holy ...more
Barnaby Thieme
John Heihardt's classic is a problematic read to be sure. On the one hand, Neihardt was a sympathetic interlocutor who elicited a fascinating account from an extraordinary man who lived through several major episodes in late-19th-century history. On the other hand, his poetic pretensions led him to rearrange and dress up that testimony, adorning it with his own mediocre neo-Romantic insight, and altogether distorting the historical and cultural record.

Readers of Black Elk Speaks may be surprise
C.g. Ayling
Apr 15, 2014 C.g. Ayling rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“History is written by the victors, not by the vanquished.”

Rarely do we have an opportunity to view history from the perspective of the vanquished. “Black Elks Speaks”, by John Neihardt, gives us another window through which we may look at the past. Neihardt’s window shows us a completely different view of history. A view in which honor and dignity belongs not to the victors, but to the vanquished.

“Black Elk Speaks” grants a Lakota medicine man named Black Elk a voice, and every reader an opport

I don't exactly know how to 'star' this book, so I won't.

All of the metaphorical + verbal clichés used relative to the time period this was written in are extremely annoying to read repeatedly & makes this feel even more inauthentic & embellished than I already know it is.
A Native American man who could not speak English would not be speaking in these clichés that were completely foreign to him & his culture. Not only is this annoying to me, it is offensive. Even though Black Elk's
Jul 08, 2011 Carolyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This expands my knowledge of the Native American culture. Black Elk's vision of the sacred tree and the hoop tend to go along with some of my thoughts. However his vision was from a very masculine perspective and had only little reference to the feminine aspects. Black Elk lived in the time of the battle of The Little Big Horn and the slaughter at Wounded Knee. He went to Europe with Buffalo Bill and met Queen Victoria. His experiences with the Ghost Dance were intriguing. The fact that he ended ...more
Jan 05, 2011 Liz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life-history
At first glance, this is an interesting book, though personally not particularly my favorite topic. But if you look further into the book, there are just too many discrepancies between Black Elk's life and the story that is written. In writing a life-history it is very important to take into consideration the producer (Neihardt) and the process, in order to understand the product. Neihardt sought Black Elk because Neihardt was writing an epic poem, and he needed to talk to an old spiritual leade ...more
Sep 21, 2009 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Black Elk’s was an atypical member of the Sioux Nation, due in large part to his youthful visions and eventual emergence as a Sioux Medicine man with prophetic and healing powers. His remarkable experiences provide a deep insight into the Sioux relationship with nature. By the time John Nehring, author of Black Elk Speaks, interviews Black Elk, he is near the end of his life. Black Elk is risking much in revealing the sacred details of his life story to a white man, but feels it necessary in ord ...more
Laura Cowan
Mar 17, 2013 Laura Cowan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not really sure I have words to describe what this book means to me. It is just an autobiography of a Sioux holy man, and yet it is a blueprint of the mystic life in any culture that honors the spiritual world at the source of their lives. I'm not that surprised any more, after reading other stories like this, that it lines up with my own experience of the spiritual realm so well, because it is the same spiritual world. But from the description and timing of Black Elk's visions, even down to ...more
Aug 06, 2013 Gail rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a powerful story. Black Elk agreed to interviews with the author, and revealed for the first time a series of visions he had while ill as a 9-year-old child. He carried the weight of the visions for the remainder of his life, and continued to experience visions for most of his adult life. Black Elk describes, with help from some old friends present during some of the interviews, the coming of white settlers to the land held by native Americans, the selling out of some tribal leaders and the ...more
Aug 11, 2012 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of the life of the Oglala Sioux holy man and the ways, culture and late 19th century history of his and surrounding Native American tribes. This was told by Black Elk himself to the author. Black Elk had a vision as a young boy while very sick that influenced him throughout his life. The book’s descriptions of his unfolding interpretation of this vision and his experience of the difficult events marking the history of the USA’s relationship with native Americans provides insigh ...more
Jul 16, 2007 Brandon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
wha? i read this in a class where the blond/blue eyed professor thought he was native american.
Derek Davis
Feb 22, 2013 Derek Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's a danger when the words of a native are arranged and tidied by a non-native that you can end up with a strange and suspicious amalgam. Though Neihardt did not speak Black Elk's Lakota dialect and Black Elk spoke no English, I don't see that here. If Neihardt embellished or skewed, he left no traces. What we are left with are the reminiscences of an aged, dispirited but honest and upright Native American who lived through the worst of our country's almost indifferent genocidal onslaught y ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this work was produced under conditions that make a modern historian cringe (Black Elk to translator to transcriber to editor - decades after the events), it remains a core work for both modern natives and historians alike. Black Elk was one of the most influential natives of his generation and this story, recorded when it was, helped to bridge the gap of knowledge and declining native spirituality across the 'lost generations' of the reservation and boarding school Indians through to t ...more
Laura (booksnob)
John G. Neihardt met Black Elk in 1930. When they met, Black Elk recognized Niehardt as the man he must teach his vision to, so that it might be saved before he died. Niehardt reflects, "His chief purpose was to 'save his Great Vision for men.'"pg. xix At this time Black Elk was old, going blind and he lived on the Pine Ridge Reservation where the Wounded Knee Massacre took place in 1890. Black Elk was a holy man, a visionary and a healer. He was also related to Crazy Horse through his father.

karlito delacasa
Sep 29, 2011 karlito delacasa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Vous avez remarqué que toute chose faite par un indien est dans un cercle. Nos tipis étaient ronds comme des nids d'oiseaux et toujours disposés en cercle. Il en est ainsi parce que le pouvoir de l'Univers agit selon des cercles et que toute chose tend à être ronde. Dans l'ancien temps, lorsque nous étions un peuple fort et heureux, tout notre pouvoir venait du cercle sacré de la nation, et tant qu'il ne fut pas brisé.

Tout ce que fait le pouvoir de l'Univers se fait dans un cercle. Le ciel est
Mar 21, 2008 Kat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Shelves: 5-stars
I'm trained to be suspicious of stories like this: an old Lakota shaman decides to tell all about his previously secret visions to a white poet so he can write them in English and publish them. ??! But a shallow-digging internet search does not turn up anything suggesting against this, so okay.

So, okay. Black Elk fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn AND the Wounded Knee Massacre, AND travelled to Europe with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, AND he was a powerful shaman who was taken on numer
Dale Hansen
I probably saw this book a thousand times in the libraries of my middle school and high school but only until now have I chose to read the book. The history from Black Elks point of view is very good. The dream and vision sequences, to be quite frank, are boring. While I am sure they were real to Black Elk, you have to question what spirits he was listening to. While it is a fact that Oglala Sioux where the victims and lied to and abused, they were not innocents or noble savages. Despite worship ...more
David Monroe
The story of an Oglala Souix Shaman, Black Elk, cousin of Crazy Horse. He witnessed the battles of Big Horn and Wounded Knee. He tells his story through a translator, to the poet Neihardt.

I read this in High School and again when I worked as the historian for the Pres. Benjamin Harrison Home. Harrison was the Pres. during the Wounded Knee battle and I needed to refresh the story and started an educational program using some quotes from this, Harrison letters, tlelgrams, news paper reports, ets.
Jan 25, 2016 Ryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The life story of Black Elk, a Lakota healer, during the Indian Wars of 1860-1890. Black Elk grew up in the thick of it all, constantly moving away from the Wasichus with his people, watching his land disappear, and having visions about how he could help the people save their way of life. He had a pretty interesting life: he joined up with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show for a few years, he was involved in several battles, and he was at the massacre at Wounded Knee all before he was thirty. The be ...more
Aug 23, 2007 Rob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is one of those books that would be sort of boring if it were fiction. but knowing that it is the true, personal account of Black Elk, a real native american holy man, makes it somehow become somewhat amazing. an interesting feature is that most of the story is from the childhood of black elk, so the descriptions of battles and massacres are told as he remembers experiencing them through the eyes of a child. i especially loved his profoundly human descriptions of some of the famous warriors ...more
"Black Elk Speaks" Is an enthralling look at the last American Indian Wars through they eyes of a participant. Through his narrative we see the end of the tribal way of life as bit by bit it became hampered by American expansionism. Black Elk’s is more than the story of a warrior. He was more importantly a medicine man and he includes in his narrative several of his spiritual visions; visions as poetic, vivid, and mystifying as some to be founnd in the Bible. This is the sort of book that, for r ...more
Nov 20, 2011 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. And I believed it. I mean I believed that Black Elk really had these visions and performed these wonders. There does seem to be a spiritual power and insight revealed in this book, one which resonated with me, but which I had not experienced articulated before.

Of course, it is also a sad book, relating the history of the Lakota in the final decades of the 19th century. But, especially as we see the implosion of our own culture, one wonders if the Lakota vision isn't
Jessica Barkl
Oct 26, 2015 Jessica Barkl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book back in 1997, when I had John Wilson's Theater History class at Cornish College of the Arts. I started teaching Theater History last spring, and I added this to the curriculum, but I wanted to re-read it. It took waaaaaay too long to finish because I've had five major dramaturgy research projects, in between, that have culminated in reading no book wholly, but many books, partially. Anyway, I was mad at myself for not finishing anything, that I forced myself to finish it last we ...more
Oct 14, 2015 Arlene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This edition of the classic Black Elk Speaks gives the reader context to perhaps the greatest degree, of any of the editions.

Besides the classic text of the interview, this edition also includes letters Neihardt wrote to confidants just as he was initially working out the idea of interviewing Black Elk; maps; footnotes that, in this edition, provide a greater perspective into what Neihardt 'inserted' into this famous work, himself, (i.e. phrases in the text appearing as Black Elk's words), and
Mike Maxwell
Something about this book didn't resonate with me the way I was hoping for. Perhaps this has to do more with my expectations than with anything else; it is, as the back cover states, arguably the most important religious work of the 20th century. However there is much less in here in the way of detail about the religious practices of the Olgala Sioux than I had anticipated, and perhaps this can shed some light on how it fell short in my estimation.

Black Elk Speaks is a biography of Nicholas Blac
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Have a secret I don't think they have one 1 4 Jul 05, 2015 09:24PM  
connection of black elk to mother nature 12 26 Jun 29, 2013 07:20AM  
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“Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that one.” 74 likes
“You have noticed that the truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping. When people are already in despair, maybe the laughing face is better for them; and when they feel too good and are too sure of being safe, maybe the weeping face is better for them to see.” 36 likes
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