Black Elk's Journal Journal

Excerpt from Journal :

Black Elk's Journal

The offering of the pipe

Black Elk believes himself as a symbol of his tribal values. According to him, he embodies the spiritual forces which have been bestowed upon him by the superiors of his tribe. In the first chapter, he has mentioned how the sacred pipe came to his tribe and the values borne by it.

"Behold!! She said. "With this you shall multiple and be a good nation. Nothing but good shall come from it. Only the hands of the good shall take care of it and the bad shall not even see it." Then, she sang and went out of the tepee; and as the people watched here going. (Niehardt 3)"

In most of the religions of the world, there is always a character who is message bearer. It is amazing to see this similarity in the tribal history of Black Elk as well. The cow who turned into a woman was the bearer of the pipe which is quite similar to the stories attached to other religions. Here, arises confusion if this story is actually influenced by other religions or does it actually have any substance. Like Christianity, Islam and other religion, there are proofs in the form of religious books and other evidences that there was a messenger from God. But as far as Black Elk's story is concerned, despite the spiritual lessons that it contains, logical evidence is missing which decreases the authenticity of this story.

Chapter 2: Early Boyhood

I said: "When the scouts come back from seeing the prairie full of bison somewhere, the people say the Wasichus are coming; and when strange men are coming to kill us all, they say the Wasichus are coming. What does it mean?' And he said That they are many. (Niehardt 7)

When this part of story arrived, it was obvious that there is going to be lengthy discussion about the battle combats that Black Elk's tribe fought against the Whites, accompanied by a detailed account of sufferings brought by the war. It was the era of late 18th century. Considering the historic background, one can relate the Black Elk's story to the other narrations provided by African-Americans. There are many stories elaborating how the African-Americans were deprived of what was rightfully theirs.

The following details provided by Black Elk regarding his survival in winters and also after the brutal attacks by White men, the reader may relate this story to the present global situation as well. Constant wars between nations such as America and Iraq or India and Pakistan, despite serving their purpose, also bring terror and fear to the citizens of these lands. War only takes away life and gives nothing in return. Black Elk suffered because of war and today's world is suffering from it too.

Chapter 3: The Great Vision

"While I was eating, a voice came and said: It is time; now they are calling you." The voice was so loud and clear that I believed it and I would just go where it wanted me to go. So I got right up and started. As I came out of the tepee, both my thighs began to hurt me and suddenly it was like waking from a dream, and there wasn't any voice (Niehardt 17)."

This first revelation of Black Elk was followed by his detailed journey to the heaven where he met many spiritual forces shaped as horses that were present in different dimensions of the world. These horses were responsible for keeping balance in the nature. The story of Black Elk reminds me of a story told by one of my Muslim friends about their prophet Muhammad.

My friend told me that the prophet Muhammad was taken by a horse to the heaven and in between that journey, he met many angels who were responsible for keeping a balance in the nature and during this journey, the prophet was taught many things. Now Islam and Christianity follow the same God and recognize each other's religion. A concern arises whether this vision of black Elk was just a result of the trauma caused by war and his deep connection to tribal spirituality which made him seek for evidences that would assure presence of mighty forces. Secondly, the inclination of Black Elk towards Christianity also appears to have an impact on the narration of his first vision which he saw at the age of nine. It is difficult to identify the original emotions of Black Elk since the present narration is highly influenced by what he has learnt in the later part of his life.

Chapter 4: The Bison Hunt

"One day during this time I was out with the bow and arrows my Grandfather had made for me and as I walked along thinking of my vision, I suddenly felt queer, and for a little while it seemed that the bow and arrows were those that the first grandfather in the flaming tepee had given to me (Niehardt 39)."

The sentence shows how a little boy who had an unusual spiritual experience feels distant from everything around him. The sentence also indicates that the chapter is going to reveal how the Black Elk feels unattached to the rituals of his tribe and everything around him would made him remember his vision. The minds of little boys are highly creative and they do not let go of their memories that easily.

The feeling of Black Elk is understandable by me. I remember having a terrible accident when I was nine. Me and my parents were in the crashed which was hit by a truck from the hindsight. Since I was sitting on the backseat, major jerks and bruises were the outcome of this accident. Although, the damage was not much and I recovered from it very quickly but for a very long time everything around me reminded me of that accidents. Street numbers, drunk drivers, trucks, even people passing by reminded me of what had happened to me. Sometimes, I felt as if I was reliving the same moment again and again. Same was the case for Black Elk. He just could not let go of the memories.

Chapter 5: At the Soldiers' Town

"Then the queer feeling came back and I said without knowingly why I said it: "No father, stay here; for they are bringing them to us." He looked at me hard and said:" who is bringing them?' I could not answer." (Niehardt 50)

The above mentioned dialogue of Black Elk is followed by an account of good times that he had with his friends while hunting. It is apparent that he is highly accustomed to the ways of his tribes when it comes to dealing with nature. He is living the life that a boy of his age would live But at the same time, his vision keeps coming back to him. And, he appears to be stuck between being a bearer of sacred powers and an ordinary boy.

The then, Black Elk is no different than a regular teenager of today's age. It is very common for teenagers to be frustrated while transforming from a child into an adolescent. This period of transformation is highly confusing since the childhood keeps pulling them back yet they are expected to act as per their age. On the other hand, Black Elk is expected to be an ordinary boy but he is more than that and that scares him sometimes and leaves him answerless.

Chapter 6: High Horse's Counting

"You know, in the old days, it was not so very easy to get a girl when you wanted to be married. Sometimes, it was hard work for a young man and he had to stand a great deal." (Niehardt 52).

The chapter is a simple narration about the tribal customs about marriage however this starting sentence is rather striking in its effect. Black Elk is referring to a time in late 18th century. Interaction between men and women was rather restricted and adultery was a punishable act back then. Considering this fact, if we evaluate present day's scenario, we would realize how much changes have been inculcated into the world in terms of intimate relations. Where almost all the religions and even social practices advocate having single and legit partners, adultery is so common these days. One can see how lack of adherence to basic moral values result into spread of unethical activities like adultery.

Chapter 7: Wasichus in the Hills

"These people were in their own country and were doing no harm. They only wanted to be left alone. We did not hear of this until quite awhile afterward; but at the Soldiers' Town we heard enough to make us paint our faces black. (Niehardt 69).

Black Elk manages to raise voice for the rights of his tribe here. The red Indians or African-Americans had the rightful ownership of that land. What Black Elk wrote forces me to question if the Whites had any…

Cite This Journal:

"Black Elk's Journal" (2012, October 13) Retrieved January 17, 2018, from

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"Black Elk's Journal", 13 October 2012, Accessed.17 January. 2018,