Black Elk Speaks

by

John G. Neihardt

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Black Elk Speaks can help.

Black Elk Speaks: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Black Elk’s people stay near the Bighorn Mountains for about a month. Black Elk’s father tells him that their fighting was for nothing, because the Hang-Around-the-Fort people are still planning on selling the Black Hills to the Wasichus. More and more Indians leave to live on the agencies the Wasichus created for them. Black Elk’s people move down the Rosebud, toward a sacred spot along a bluff where pictures that tell the future are known to appear. On this occasion, there is a picture of soldiers’ heads hanging downward, which some say appeared before the Battle of Little Bighorn. 
The agencies that existed during this time were Red Cloud (for the Ogalala), Standing Rock (for the Hunkpapas, Blackfeet, and Yanktonais), Cheyenne River (for the Minneconjous, Sans Arcs, and Two Kettles), Spotted Tail (for the Brules), and Lower Brule. The creation of separate agencies for separate tribes is an example of how colonization destroyed a once united, strong Lakota people.
Themes
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
By the Moon of Black Cherries (August), Black Elk’s people hear that the soldiers are returning. They move camp, burning the grass behind them so that the soldiers’ horses will starve. Sitting Bull, Gall, and others leave for Grandmother’s Land, and many others flee elsewhere, but Crazy Horse refuses to surrender their land.
“Grandmother’s Land,” named after Queen Victoria of Britain, refers to Canada. Sitting Bull and Gall’s move to Canada shows how Indians who chose not to cooperate with the Wasichus contributed to the disunification of the Lakota people.
Themes
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
In the Moon of the Black Calf (September), when Black Elk’s people are camping near the head of the Grand River, a battle breaks out between Three Stars’s soldiers and American Horse’s people, resulting in American Horse’s death. Crazy Horse assembles some warriors and chases the soldiers away. The soldiers continue to kill Black Elk’s people, following them wherever they go. More and more Indians leave the war path and surrender to the Wasichus. There were once thousands of Indians fighting the Wasichu, but now there are only 2,000. The winter is rough; ponies starve and die, and Black Elk’s people eat them.
Black Elk’s reality now reflects his vision more than ever, with his people travelling down a path (black road) of increasingly treacherous tragedies and misfortunes. Interestingly, Black Elk gives no mention of Indians eating ponies in the transcript—this seems to be a detail that Neihardt included, which emphasizes the different perspectives of the Lakota and the Wasichu.
Themes
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
Unrealized Dreams  Theme Icon
In the Moon of the Falling Leaves (November), Black Elk’s people learn that the Black Hills and the land west of the Hills—where Black Elk’s people currently reside—have been sold to the Wasichus. The Wasichus apparently got some chiefs drunk and tricked them into signing the 1876 Black Hills Agreement.
The 1876 Black Hills Agreement essentially reverses the conditions laid out in the Laramie Treaty less than a decade earlier: now, Wasichus are free to follow their greed into the Hills and mine to their hearts’ content.
Themes
Nature Theme Icon
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Get the entire Black Elk Speaks LitChart as a printable PDF.
Black Elk Speaks PDF
Near the end of the Moon of Falling Leaves (November), soldiers attack Dull Knife and his band of Shyelas at their camp on Willow Creek, attacking the camp as the people slept. Dull Knife and his surviving, starving people join Black Elk’s camp, but Black Elk’s people are starving and have no food to offer them. The Shyelas leave and go to the Soldiers’ Town to surrender.
Circumstances beyond their control prevent Black Elk’s people from helping the Shyelas in their time of need. This scene shows how Wasichus indirectly forced American Indians into displacement by starving them off their native land so that they would have no choice but to live on agencies. 
Themes
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
Crazy Horse begins to act strangely after this, rarely staying in the camp, choosing to wander off alone. It is a bad, sad winter. In the Moon of the Frost in the Tepee (January), General Miles attacks Crazy Horse’s village on the Tongue River. The Indians fight the Wasichus, but they have little ammunition and are forced to retreat to the Powder.
The Battle of Little Bighorn weakens Indian forces to the extent that they are now drastically ill-equipped to fight back, again demonstrating the brutality of Wasichus against the Indian people.
Themes
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
In either February or March, Spotted Tail, Crazy Horse’s uncle, tries to convince Crazy Horse to surrender to the Wasichus. Spotted Tail was a good chief before he surrendered to the Wasichus, but Black Elk doesn’t like Spotted Tail because he is fat with Wasichu food while the rest of them are thin and starving. In the Moon of the Grass Appearing (April), Black Elk’s people make their way ahead of Crazy Horse and the others toward Red Cloud Agency, which is near the Soldiers’ Town, and in the Moon When the Ponies Shed (May), Crazy Horse and the rest follow. Crazy Horse arrives and takes off his war bonnet and sits down. In the Soldiers’ Town, there is enough to eat—but the soldiers watch them all the time, and Black Elk’s mother and Black Elk’s father wish they’d gone with Sitting Bull and Gall to Grandmother’s Land.
To Black Elk, Spotted Tail’s fatness is a visual reminder of Wasichu greed and excess. The takeover of their land by Wasichus leaves Black Elk’s people with a few equally unpleasant choices: stay in their land and starve, seek refuge in the Soldiers’ Town and be monitored as if they are prisoners, or leave their rightful land and venture out into the unfamiliar in Grandmother’s Land. 
Themes
Nature Theme Icon
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
Related Quotes