Black Elk Speaks


John G. Neihardt

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Black Elk Speaks: Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

After Black Elk finishes his narrative, he points to Harney Peak and identifies it as the place where he had his initial vision. Black Elk wants to return there before he dies, so Black Elk and those who listened to his story arrange a trip to the peak. It’s a sunny, clear day, and the country is in the midst of a drought. Black Elk tells his son Ben that if there is thunder, it will be proof that he still has some remaining power.
This chapter is written in the first person from Neihardt’s point of view. This final episode is important because it gives Black Elk’s story a life beyond the pages of the book, offering the hope that Black Elk and his culture will live on, despite the violence done to them over the period of time that the story covers.
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When the group reaches the peak, Black Elk, dressed as he was in his initial vision and holding the sacred pipe, faces to the west and addresses the Spirit. He acknowledges the Great Spirit’s power and thanks him for sharing it with him and allowing him to help his people. Despite this, Black Elk tells the Spirit, he has been unable to save his people: the tree has never bloomed. Black Elk asks the Great Spirit for a final opportunity to help his people. Suddenly, clouds form in the sky and it begins to thunder and rain. Black Elk cries silently, and the sky clears.
Neihardt leaves it to his reader to determine whether this scene on the peak is spiritual or merely coincidental, which is indicative of the reverence with which he treats his subject. Black Elk’s final cries are ambiguous: he could be crying happy tears because the Great Spirit has returned his prayers and brought him a storm. They could also be sad tears, as the thunderstorm’s arrival reaffirms that Black Elk has powers but failed to use them to save his people.
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