Black Elk Speaks

by

John G. Neihardt

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Wasichu Term Analysis

Washichu is the Lakota word meaning for “white people.” In the Lakota language, the term also refers to “something holy, incomprehensible.”

Wasichu Quotes in Black Elk Speaks

The Black Elk Speaks quotes below are all either spoken by Wasichu or refer to Wasichu. 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:
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). 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 2 Quotes

Once we were happy in our own country and we were seldom hungry, for then the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds lived together like relatives, and there was plenty for them and for us. But the Wasichus came, and they have made little islands for us and other little islands for the four-leggeds, and always these islands are becoming smaller, for around them surges the gnawing flood of the Wasichu; and it is dirty with lies and greed.

Related Characters: Black Elk (speaker)
Related Symbols: Yellow Metal / Gold
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Our people knew there was yellow metal in little chunks up there; but they did not bother with it, because it was not good for anything.

Related Characters: Black Elk (speaker)
Related Symbols: Yellow Metal / Gold
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

He was a queer man. Maybe he was always part way into that world of his vision. He was a very great man, and I think if the Wasichus had not murdered him down there, maybe we should still have the Black Hills and be happy. They could not have killed him in battle. They had to lie to him and murder him.

Related Characters: Black Elk (speaker), Crazy Horse
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

But only crazy or very foolish men would sell their Mother Earth. Sometimes I think it might have been better if we had stayed together and made them kill us all.

Related Characters: Black Elk (speaker), Red Cloud, Crazy Horse
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

How could men get fat by being bad, and starve by being good? I thought and thought about my vision, and it made me very sad; for I wondered if maybe it was only a queer dream after all.

Related Characters: Black Elk (speaker), Spotted Tail, Crazy Horse
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

I was fifteen years old that winter, and I thought of my vision and wondered when my duty was to come; for the Grandfathers had shown me my people walking on the black road and how the nation’s hoop would be broken and the flowering tree be withered, before I should bring the hoop together with the power that was given me, and make the holy tree to flower in the center and find the red road again. Part of this had happened already, and I wondered when my power would grow, so that the rest might be as I had seen it in my vision.

Related Characters: Black Elk (speaker), The Six Grandfathers, Crazy Horse
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

I can remember when the bison were so many that they could not be counted, but more and more Wasichus came to kill them until there were only heaps and heaps of bones scattered where they used to be. The Wasichus did not kill them to eat; they killed them for the metal that makes them crazy, and they took only the hides to sell. Sometimes they did not even take the hides to sell. Sometimes they did not even take the hides, only the tongues; […] they just killed and killed because they liked to do that. When we hunted bison, we killed only what we needed. And when there was nothing left but heaps of bones, the Wasichus came and gathered up even the bones and sold them.

Related Characters: Black Elk (speaker)
Related Symbols: Yellow Metal / Gold
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Black Elk Speaks LitChart as a printable PDF.
Black Elk Speaks PDF

Wasichu Term Timeline in Black Elk Speaks

The timeline below shows where the term Wasichu appears in Black Elk Speaks. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Early Boyhood
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The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
As a young child, Black Elk hears much talk of how they must fight the Wasichus, who are going to take over their country. He later learns that the Wasichus and... (full context)
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...had lived together harmoniously, and there had been much to eat—but this changed after the Wasichus arrived and destroyed and stole the land out of greed. Black Elk tells a story... (full context)
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...the Moon of the Changing Season (October) to wage war against the growing mass of Wasichu settlers. Fire Thunder describes a bloody battle in which even a dog is shot full... (full context)
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...mother warning him not to play too far away from their tepee, or else the Wasichus would find him. There isn’t much to eat that winter, and many of the bands... (full context)
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That summer, Black Elk’s people camp along the Rosebud. They are far away from the Wasichus, and things seemed peaceful. Black Elk and the other boys play war games, and he... (full context)
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...voices, which scared him. He remembers this period as a time of relative peace: the Wasichus had retreated, and in the Moon of Falling Leaves (November), Red Cloud signed a treaty... (full context)
Chapter 3: The Great Vision
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...Elk until he’s nine years old, and his people observe a relatively peaceful time: the Wasichus build their road along the Platte river and move away, and though the road causes... (full context)
Chapter 5: At the Soldiers’ Town
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...town. It’s during this winter, when Black Elk turns 10, that he sees his first Wasichu(full context)
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...climbs a flagpole in the Soldiers’ Village and chop off the top of it. The Wasichu soldiers surround the pole and want to fight the Ogalalas in retaliation, but their chief... (full context)
Chapter 7: Wasichus in the Hills
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Black Elk’s people spend the winter in the Soldiers’ Town because more Wasichus are coming from the Missouri River to find the yellow metal in the Black Hills.... (full context)
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...In the Moon When the Calves Grow Hair (September) there is a council with the Wasichus and people from the Lakota, Shyela, and Blue Cloud tribes to discuss the gold-digging. The... (full context)
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After the council, the Wasichus arrive in droves and build villages in the Hills. In response, Black Elk’s people decide... (full context)
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...vision gave him power in every battle; in fact, until he was murdered by the Wasichus on White River, he was wounded only twice. Black Elk reflects that if the Wasichus... (full context)
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That winter, Wasichu runners come to Black Elk’s people to order them to come to the Soldiers’ Town... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Fight with Three Stars
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...chiefs like Red Cloud and Spotted Tail would prefer to sell the land to the Wasichus. Black Elk’s aunt gives him a six-shooter gun to use in battle. Black Elk feels... (full context)
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On their way to Crazy Horse, they come across a group of Wasichus on the Bozeman Trail. Black Elk’s people attack, and Black Elk resigns to die in... (full context)
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...Crazy Horse during the battle, describes the scene: two parties set out to fight the Wasichus, who were joined by Crow and Shoshone Indians. A fierce battle ensued. Iron Hawk’s pony... (full context)
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...the ring, and he kept it for a long time. Another man scalped a dead Wasichu and carried the scalp home on a stick. They stayed at camp for several days... (full context)
Chapter 9: The Rubbing Out of Long Hair
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Black Elk describes his participation in the Battle of Little Big Horn. After fighting the Wasichus along the Rosebud, Black Elk’s people camp along the south side of the Greasy Grass,... (full context)
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...for a swim in the river, a crier from the Hunkpapa camp announces that the Wasichus are coming. Everyone gets their horses and prepares to fight. Black Elk’s father tells Black... (full context)
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...him strong: he imagines his people are thunder beings and that they will defeat the Wasichus. (full context)
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...the river, where they continue to fight. A warrior orders Black Elk to scalp a Wasichu, so Black Elk shoots the Wasichu in the forehead and takes his scalp. He sees... (full context)
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...Standing Bear’s group mistakenly scalps a friend’s corpse. The warriors fight until sundown, when the Wasichus retreat into the hills. The next day, the warriors head out to fight the remaining... (full context)
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...around dead soldiers, cheerfully stripping the soldiers’ clothing. He saw two fat women approach a Wasichu soldier, who was wounded and playing dead. The women attempted to castrate the soldier, who... (full context)
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Black Elk continues with his narrative: after showing his mother the Wasichu’s scalp, Black Elk stays with the women. Although they can’t see the battle, they know... (full context)
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...and everyone goes to the top of the hill, where they find dead horses, dead Wasichus, and dead warriors. Black Elk sees Chase-in-the-Morning holding up the body of Black Elk’s cousin,... (full context)
Chapter 10: Walking the Black Road
The Loss of Culture and Community  Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
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...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.... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...(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. (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Killing of Crazy Horse
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...them turn around, as he feared there would be trouble at Spotted Tail’s camp. The Wasichus had recently made Spotted Tail chief of all the Lakota because they knew he would... (full context)
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...and Black Elk hears that he has been hurt. Black Elk learns later that the Wasichus had told Crazy Horse that they would not harm him if he went willingly to... (full context)
Chapter 12: Grandmother’s Land
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The Wasichus order Black Elk’s people to move to a different agency. The band splits up, half... (full context)
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...night. Everyone feels homesick for their own country and for the old days before the Wasichus invaded. (full context)
Chapter 15: The Dog Vision
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...have appeared from the dust while thunder beings cheer. Suddenly, the dogs’ heads turn into Wasichu heads. The vision ends, and a storm grows closer to Black Elk, who continues to... (full context)
Chapter 17: The First Cure
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...also found in nature, such as in birds’ nests or the moon’s rotation. But the Wasichus make them live in square boxes, so that is what they must do. (full context)
Chapter 19: Across the Big Water 
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The fall after Black Elk performs the elk ceremony (1883), the Wasichus kill the last bison. Unlike the Lakotas, who hunted the bison for their meat, the... (full context)
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Black Elk continues to cure people for three years. In 1886, he hears that the Wasichus want a band of Ogalalas for a show that will be put on “across the ... (full context)
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...Black Elk performs in many shows that winter. He likes performing, but he dislikes the Wasichus’ involvement. He also has yet to find a way to help his people, observing that... (full context)
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...spring, some of the performers go home. Black Elk and the remaining performers accompany the Wasichus on a big fire-boat. The journey is long and miserable. One night there is a... (full context)
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...very close together. The Indians spend the night on the boat. The next day, the Wasichus unload them and take them to the place where they will perform their next show,... (full context)
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...house. Black Elk sees seats arranged in a circle full of people yelling, “Jubilee!” The Wasichus put the Indians in a place near the bottom of the seats and they watch... (full context)
Chapter 20: The Spirit Journey
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...he and some others get left behind. They find another Lakota who can speak the Wasichu language and who tells them that they can earn the money to go home by... (full context)
Chapter 21: The Messiah
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...has gotten much more dire during his time abroad. Now, nothing will grow, and the Wasichus have killed all the bison. The most recent treaty that Three Stars forced them to... (full context)
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...Great Spirit in a vision and learned how to take back their country from the Wasichus. Black Elk’s people send Good Thunder, Brave Bear, and Yellow Breast to see if the... (full context)
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...the other world when the time came. Performing the Ghost Dance would also make the Wasichus disappear. Black Elk had initially been skeptical, but he begins to see the similarities between... (full context)
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...overseas, and now it’s only his Black Elk’s mother and himself. He works at a Wasichu store so that they can afford to eat. (full context)
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...the sacred man is the son of the Great Spirit who was killed by the Wasichus long ago: in other words, he is a Wanekia, or messiah. They say that Wovoka’s... (full context)
Chapter 22: Visions of the Other World
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...center, where the blooming holy tree stands. A good-looking man who is neither Indian nor Wasichu stands against the tree. The man is painted red and wears an eagle feather in... (full context)
Chapter 23: Bad Trouble Coming
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The Wasichus take measures to prevent Indians from participating in Ghost Dances. When Good Thunder and Kicking... (full context)
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The Wasichus continue to lie to the Lakotas, giving them less than half of the food they... (full context)
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...White Clay. Fire Thunder, Red Wound, and Young American Horse tell the Ogalalas that the Wasichu soldiers want to enforce regulations on the Ghost Dance, though they insist that they wouldn’t... (full context)
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...next day, a policeman stops by to inform Good Thunder and Black Elk that the Wasichus are going to arrest them. That night, they flee to the Brule camp. Black Elk... (full context)
Chapter 24: The Butchering at Wounded Knee
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...wrestle the gun away from Yellow Bird, which caused the gun to go off. The Wasichus insist that the gunshot was intentional, but Dog Chief, who was right there when it... (full context)
Chapter 25: The End of the Dream
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...his people need him. The Lakotas are almost victorious, but then a band of “black Wasichu soldiers” arrive, and they are forced to retreat. (full context)
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...Black Elk learns that there will be another chance to fight, as there are some Wasichu soldiers stationed at Smoky Earth River. Black Elk and some others head out to Smoky... (full context)