Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Black Elk Speaks

The history note on Wounded Knee brought to mind that great book, Black Elk Speaks, edited by John G. Neihardt.  It made such a big impact on me when I read it in college.  Great example of oral history being transcibed.  Interesting to see there was a play based on the memoir.


  1. There's a great quote from Black Elk on the Little Big Horn interpretive center:

    Know the power that is peace.

    I've always loved that.

    Unfortunately, I think Neihardt may have been more of the author than the editor of Black Elk's story. Same with a lot of what we consider the great Native American speeches -- a white interpreter may have taken great liberties in translating them for white audiences.

  2. ''a white interpreter may have taken great liberties ''

    That's something I hadn't considered when reading that book all those years ago. Back in the 60s and 70s it was held to be a great book though it is largely forgotten nowadays. But to me it remains timeless.

  3. Apparently that was pretty common practice. The "I Will Fight No More Forever" speech is also suspect. Great speech, and entirely memorable, but probably not what was said, if Joseph said anything at all when he surrendered.

    The interpreter was a military man and frustrated poet who admired Joseph and went on to befriend him. He insisted they were Joseph's words, but there are no records to support that.