Black Elk Speaks


John G. Neihardt

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Black Elk Speaks Characters

Black Elk

Black Elk is an Ogalala Lakota medicine man, spiritual leader, and the narrator of the Black Elk Speaks. He begins hearing voices when he is only four years old and he experiences his first… read analysis of Black Elk

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse is a Lakota chief, holy man, warrior, and Black Elk’s second cousin. Black Elk admires Crazy Horse and grows up hearing stories of his bravery. According to Black Elk, Crazy Horse became… read analysis of Crazy Horse

Red Cloud

Red Cloud is a Lakota chief. In 1868, Red Cloud and chiefs from other Sioux tribes sign the Fort Laramie Treaty with the U.S. government that creates the Great Sioux Reservation and establishes the Black… read analysis of Red Cloud

Black Elk’s father

Black Elk’s father is also named Black Elk; he is a medicine man and a cousin to Crazy Horse. Black Elk’s father was injured in the Fetterman Fight in 1866. Although Black Elk’s… read analysis of Black Elk’s father

White Cow Sees / Black Elk’s mother

White Cow Sees is Black Elk’s mother. She is proud of her son’s accomplishments in battle, which she demonstrates by celebrating when he returns home from the Battle of Little Bighorn with his first… read analysis of White Cow Sees / Black Elk’s mother
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Standing Bear

Standing Bear is Black Elk’s friend; he’s a Minneconjou Lakota. He is present during Black Elk’s conversations with Neihardt. Because Standing Bear is a few years older than Black Elk, Black Elk consults… read analysis of Standing Bear

John Neihardt

Neihardt is the author of Black Elk Speaks. With Ben Black Elk acting as a translator, Black Elk told Neihardt the story of his life. Black Elk Speaks is Black Elk’s life story, as… read analysis of John Neihardt

The Six Grandfathers

The Six Grandfathers are the six wise men who summon Black Elk to the cloud world in his great vision. In his vision, Black Elk finds the Grandfathers waiting for him in a cloud tepee… read analysis of The Six Grandfathers

Wovoka (“The Wanekia”)

Wovoka is a Paiute Indian who pioneers the Ghost Dance movement. Wovoka is called “Jack Wilson” by the Wasichus, and American Indians believe that he is a Wanekia, or messiah. Wovoka’s vision suggests… read analysis of Wovoka (“The Wanekia”)

General George Custer

Custer was commander of U.S. Seventh Cavalry, who were defeated in Battle of Little Big Horn. The Lakota call Custer Pahuska, which is the Lakota word for “Long Hair.” In the summer of 1874… read analysis of General George Custer

Parisian girl

The Parisian girl is a Wasichu (white) girl who takes a liking to Black Elk when she meets him while he’s traveling throughout Europe with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows. While at the girl’s… read analysis of Parisian girl

Grandmother England

“Grandmother England” is Queen Victoria of Great Britain. Black Elk and the other Wild West Show performers meet Grandmother England when they perform for her in London. Grandmother England is kind to the American Indians… read analysis of Grandmother England

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull is a Hunkpapa chief and holy man. Sitting Bull fought in the Battle of Little Bighorn, after which Sitting Bull and Gall, another Hunkpapa chief, flee to Canada to avoid living on… read analysis of Sitting Bull

Yellow Bird

Yellow Bird is a Lakota warrior who is part of Big Foot’s band. When Wasichu soldiers force Big Foots’ people to give up their guns, Yellow Bird resists. His gun accidentally goes off, killing… read analysis of Yellow Bird
Minor Characters
Iron Hawk
Iron Hawk is a Hunkpapa Lakota and Black Elk’s childhood friend. Iron Hawk is present for Black Elk’s conversations with Neihardt and contributes information pertaining to his involvement in the Battle of the Rosebud and the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Fire Thunder
Fire Thunder is Black Elk’s childhood friend. Fire Thunder is present during Black Elk’s conversations with Neihardt and adds clarifying details to Black Elk’s narrative.
Ben Black Elk
Ben Black Elk is Black Elk’s son. He is present during Black Elk’s conversations with Neihardt and serves as translator.
Whirlwind Chaser
Whirlwind Chaser is Standing Bear’s uncle and the medicine man who cures Black Elk when he falls ill and has his first vision. Whirlwind Chaser tells Black Elk’s mother and Black Elk’s father that there is something special about their son.
Buffalo Bill
Buffalo Bill, also known as William Cody, was a U.S. soldier and showman. Black Elk joins Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and travels throughout Europe with the production from 1886-1889. Black Elk also refers to Buffalo Bill as Pahuska, the Lakota word for “Long Hair.”
Watanye is an older Lakota man who teaches Black Elk to fish and tells him the story of High Horse.
Refuse-to-Go is Black Elk’s maternal grandfather. Refuse-to-Go doesn’t appear much in the story, but Black Elk says that he is very close to him.
Plenty Eagle Feathers
Plenty Eagle feathers is Black Elk’s grandmother and White Cow Sees’s mother.
Red Eagle Woman
Red Eagle woman is Black Elk’s grandmother and Black Elk’s father’s mother.
Drinks Water
Drinks Water is a Lakota holy man who has a premonition about the Lakota people’s dire future.
High Horse
High Horse is the subject of Watanye’s tale, “High Horse’s Courting,” a story about High Horse’s attempts to win over a girl he likes.
Red Deer
Red Deer is High Horse’s friend. Red Deer assists High Horse in winning over his love interest.
Crow Nose
Crow Nose is a Lakota horse guard who murders a Crow trying to steal a horse.
Three Stars (General Crook)
Three Stars is U.S. Cavalry General George Crook. Crazy Horse’s warriors defeat Three Stars’s troops at the Battle of the Rosebud in 1876. Three Stars was also involved in the treaty of 1889, which took away much of what remained of the Black Hills for the Sioux people.
Rattling Hawk
Rattling Hawk is a Lakota warrior wounded in the Battle of the Rosebud. Black Elk helps Hairy Chin, an old medicine man, heal Rattling Hawk.
Hairy Chin
Hairy Chin is an old Lakota medicine man who heals Rattling Hawk. Black Elk helps Hairy Chin with Rattling Hawk’s healing ceremony.
Black Wasichu
Black Wasichu is Black Elk’s cousin who dies in the Battle of Little Big Horn.
Gall is a Hunkpapa chief. Gall fought in the Battle of Little Bighorn. He and Sitting Bull flee with their people to Canada to avoid living on agencies.
Dull Knife
Dull Knife is a chief whose Shyela tribe was attacked by Colonel Mackenzie in November 1876.
Spotted Tail
Spotted Tail is Crazy Horse’s uncle; he’s a Lakota chief. Black Elk is critical of Spotted Tail, who he thinks is too cooperative with the U.S. government.
Running Horse
Running Horse is Black Elk’s uncle. Black Elk is hunting bison with Running Horse when he hears a voice that alerts him to a band of nearby Crows, who are enemies to the Lakota.
Hard-to-Hit is Black Elk’s cousin who dies while Black Elk’s people are in Canada.
Bear Sings
Bear Sings is a medicine man who helps Black Elk perform the horse dance.
Black Road
Black Road is a medicine man who helps Black Elk perform the horse dance. He also tells Black Elk that performing his vision publicly will allow him to access the powers it imbues him with and be accepted by his people.
Few Tails
Few Tails is a medicine man who helps Black Elk perform the lamenting ceremony that leads to his dog vision.
Wachpanne is a man with heyoka experience who helps Black Elk perform the heyoka ceremony.
One Side
One Side is Black Elk’s friend who helps him perform the heyoka ceremony and is present when Black Elk finds the sacred four-rayed herb. One Side also helps Black Elk perform the bison ceremony.
Cuts-to-Pieces is a man whose son is cured by Black Elk in his first healing experience.
Fox Belly
Fox Belly is a medicine man who helps Black Elk perform the bison ceremony.
Running Elk
Running Elk is Standing Bear’s uncle who helps Black Elk with the elk ceremony.
Good Thunder
Good Thunder is a Lakota man with whom Black Elk dances the Ghost Dance, and one of the men Black Elk’s people send to report back on Wovoka’s legitimacy.
Kicking Bear
Kicking Bear is a Lakota man heavily involved in the Ghost Dance movement. Black Elk dances with Kicking Bear and Good Thunder.
Big Foot
Big Foot is a Minneconjou Lakota chief. He and his people are killed at the Wounded Knee Massacre.
Dog Chief
Dog Chief is Black Elk’s friend who was present at the beginning of the Wounded Knee Massacre and tells him how the battle began.