Black Elk Speaks

by

John G. Neihardt

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Ghost Dance Term Analysis

The Ghost Dance movement was a messianic movement pioneered by a Paiute Indian named Wovoka (called Jack Wilson by the Wasichus) in the late 19th century. The movement spread across the U.S. and was adopted by various American Indian tribes. Wovoka believed that performing the Ghost Dance would grant Indians entry into the afterlife, allow them to reunite with their deceased relatives, and harness the powers of the dead to rebel against their Wasichu oppressors, take back their stolen land, and restore their traditional way of life.

Ghost Dance Quotes in Black Elk Speaks

The Black Elk Speaks quotes below are all either spoken by Ghost Dance or refer to Ghost Dance. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Nature Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Nebraska Press edition of Black Elk Speaks published in 2014.
Chapter 22 Quotes

I was in the air, with outstretched arms, and floating fast. There was a fearful dark river that I had to go over, and I was afraid. It rushed and roared and was full of angry foam. Then I looked down and saw many men and women who were trying to cross the dark and fearful river, but they could not. Weeping, they looked up to me and cried: “Help us!” But I could not stop gliding, for it was as though a great wind were under me.

Related Characters: Black Elk (speaker), Wovoka (“The Wanekia”)
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

I did not depend upon the great vision as I should have done; I depended upon the two sticks that I had seen in the lesser vision. It is hard to follow one great vision in this world of darkness and of many changing shadows. Among those shadows men get lost.

Related Characters: Black Elk (speaker), The Six Grandfathers
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Black Elk Speaks LitChart as a printable PDF.
Black Elk Speaks PDF

Ghost Dance Term Timeline in Black Elk Speaks

The timeline below shows where the term Ghost Dance appears in Black Elk Speaks. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 21: The Messiah
The Transformative Power of Ceremony  Theme Icon
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
Unrealized Dreams  Theme Icon
...two eagle feathers. He told them that they must paint their faces and perform a Ghost Dance to get to the other world when the time came. Performing the Ghost Dance would... (full context)
The Transformative Power of Ceremony  Theme Icon
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
Unrealized Dreams  Theme Icon
...the following spring, in 1891. Black Elk later hears that Kicking Bear performed the first Ghost Dance at the head of the Cheyenne Creek, and that people who danced saw their dead... (full context)
The Transformative Power of Ceremony  Theme Icon
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
Unrealized Dreams  Theme Icon
...to think about it more deeply. He rides to Wounded Knee to see what the Ghost Dance is all about. There, he sees how closely the dance resembles his vision: for example,... (full context)
Chapter 22: Visions of the Other World
The Transformative Power of Ceremony  Theme Icon
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
Unrealized Dreams  Theme Icon
...for the sacred dance. He thinks of his dead family, cries, and hopes that the Ghost Dance will bring them back to the red road. Black Elk shivers and knows that the... (full context)
Chapter 23: Bad Trouble Coming
The Transformative Power of Ceremony  Theme Icon
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
The Wasichus take measures to prevent Indians from participating in Ghost Dances . When Good Thunder and Kicking Bear return from seeing the Wanekia, for example, the... (full context)
The Transformative Power of Ceremony  Theme Icon
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
Unrealized Dreams  Theme Icon
...American Horse tell the Ogalalas that the Wasichu soldiers want to enforce regulations on the Ghost Dance , though they insist that they wouldn’t take it away from the Lakota; Black Elk’s... (full context)