Black Elk Speaks

Almost as soon as the Constitution was ratified, the United States federal government has seriously fucked over the American Indians pretty hard by constantly violating their treaties with them. From the Northwest Indian War to the Black Hills War, the federal government have forcibly displaced many Indian nations (as evidenced by such documented horrors like the Long Walk of the Navajo and the Trail of Tears), and ceaselessly encroached on their land, like they did with the Mandans. Perhaps before the Patriot Rockstars continue to spew their hollow rhetoric about the patriot faction leading the Second (or Third) American Revolution, it would be wise to first learn about the trials and tribulations of these original American guerrillas.



I honestly don’t know why most reviewers pontificate about how “spiritual” this book is supposed to be. Sure, Black Elk does make numerous references to his visions as asides when he’s talking about something else, but otherwise, it’s not really germane to what is really a dictated autobiography. If you only read chapter three, The Great Vision, then that pretty much sets whatever “spiritual” tone you may think it has for the rest of the book.

Instead of a some indescribably vague religious tome, what I think Black Elk offers is some good ol’ Native American wisdom, particularly with regard to 19th century warfare. As a participant in the Battle of Little Big Horn, Black Elk describes the onset of armed conflict with people of European ancestral lineage, which he calls Wasichus, on that day in June:


“When the Wasichus saw us coming, they put their wagons in a circle and got inside with their oxen. We rode around and around them in a wide circle that kept getting narrower. That is the best way to fight, because it is hard to hit ponies running fast in a circle. And sometimes there would be two circles, one inside the other, going fast in opposite directions, which made us still harder to hit. The calvary of the Wasichus did not know how to fight. They kept together, and when they came on, you could hardly miss them. We kept apart in the circle. While we were riding around the wagons, we were hanging low on the outside of the ponies and shooting under their necks. This was not easy to do, even when your legs were long, and mine were not yet very long. But I stuck tight and shot with the six-shooter my aunt gave me. Before we started the attack I was afraid, but Big Man told us we were brave boys, and I soon got over being frightened. The Wasichus shot fast at us from behind the wagons, and I could hear bullets whizzing, but they did not hit any of us…I do not know whether we killed any Wasichus or not. We rode around several times, and once we got close, but there were not many of us and we could not get at the Wasichus behind their wagons; so we went away. This was my first fight.” [emphasis added]


The tactic here seems to be to create whirling targets, which makes it hard for enemy forces to actually aim and hit anybody on your side (imagine if that were done nowadays with cars or motorcycles!). Iron Hawk, a hunkpapa at the time this book was written in 1932, recalled this incident during the battle:


“I ran on foot, leading my horse, who was hopping on three legs. Then I saw smoke coming out of a deep gully where there was a creek. I went over to the smoke, and there were three Lakotas who had killed a bison and were having a feast right there while all the fighting was going on over the hill. They invited me, so I sat there and ate, for I was bout fourteen years old and I was always hungry. We had to watch out while we ate…[a]fter we had been eating there a long time, a Lakota came upon his horse with blood and dirt all over his facc, and he was angry. He said: ‘What are you doing here? We’re fighting! All you think of is to eat! Why don’t you think about the helpless ones at home? Come, make haste! We have got to stand our ground!’ I felt ashamed, so I got on my horse and we started.”


I must say I find it remarkable that those three Lakota men found time for lunch during the battle, but considering some stories I’ve heard from Vietnam veterans, perhaps things like that shouldn’t be too surprising. Black Elk details how he scalped the calvary soldiers:


“Soon the soldiers were all crowded into the river, and many Lakotas too; and I was in the water awhile. Men and horses were all mixed up and fighting in the water, and it was like hail falling in the river. Then we were out of the river, and people were stripping dead soldiers and putting the clothes on themselves. There was a soldier on the ground and he was still kicking. A Lakota rode up and said to me: ‘Boy, get off and scalp him.’ I got off and started to do it. He had short hair and my knife was not very sharp. He ground his teeth. Then I shot him in the forehead and got his scalp.”


Keep in mind that Black Elk was twelve years old when he was systematically scalping adult men. His exhaustion at the conclusion of the battle, as well as his attitude about the entire affair, is summed up when he said:


“After awhile I got tired looking around. I could smell nothing but blood, and I got sick of it. So I went back home with some others. I was not sorry at all. I was a happy boy. Those Wasichus had come to kill our mothers and fathers and us, and it was our country.” [emphasis added]


So, just like anybody else defending hearth and home, Black Elk believes he was doing nothing different. Later, when he was twenty-six, Black Elk was injured during the Wounded Knee Massacre. Paraphrasing an eyewitness who was there earlier that day, Black Elk elaborates:


“In the morning the soldiers began to take all the guns away…[t]he people were nearly surrounded, and the wagon-guns were pointing at them. Some had not yet given up their guns, and so the soldiers were searching all the tepees, throwing things around and poking into everything…[a]n officer came to search them. He took the other man’s gun, and then started to take Yellow Bird’s. But Yellow Bird would not let go. He wrestled with the officer, and while they were wrestling, the gun went off and killed the officer. Wasichus and some others have said he meant to do this, but Dog Chief was standing right there, and he told me it was not so…[t]hen suddenly nobody knew what was happening, except that the soldiers were all shooting and the wagon-guns began going off right in among the people.”


Ah, so the federal government was already confiscating firearms from Americans as far back as 1890! Sounds like the US Army’s 7th Cavalry Regiment (who was also the primary foe of the Lakota during the earlier Battle of Little Big Horn) has more in common with the BATFaggots than they do with, say, the leathernecks. Black Elk continues to paraphrase what Dog Chief told him:


“Many were shot down right there. The women and children ran into the gulch and up west, dropping all the time, for the soldiers shot them as they ran. There were only about a hundred warriors and there were nearly five hundred soldiers. The warriors rushed to where they piled their guns and knives. They fought soldiers with only their hands until they got their guns. Dog Chief saw Yellow Bird run into a tepee with his gun, and from there he killed soldiers until the tepee caught fire. Then he died full of bullets.” [emphasis added]


Apparently, executing American civilians in cold blood is nothing new for the US Army. Maybe running away wasn’t the best tactic to use, especially when compared with what Black Elk himself saw:


“There were two little boys at one place in this gulch. They had guns and they had been killing soldiers all by themselves. We could see the soldiers they had killed. The boys were all alone there and they were not hurt. These were very brave little boys.” [emphasis added]


What a revelation that is, isn’t it? So, if you run away from the socialized mercenaries of the US Army, you will be shot in the back, but if you stay and fight, you might very well survive and, if you’re lucky, perhaps not even get injured! Needless to say, there is a lesson to be learned here about warfare, especially in the context of how it has been conducted historically by the United States federal government against Americans.

Black Elk concludes his autobiography by declaring:


“When I look back now from his high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream. And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth, – you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.” [emphasis added]


As he admits, he has done nothing, and for that, his people, the proud Lakota nation, have been completely subjugated under the imperialistic might of the United States federal government. Are the patriot, anarchist, and Boy Scout friendly factions really so sure they can avoid the same fate so easily?

Nicholas Black Elk’s Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux is a eyeopening autobiography, as dictated to John Neihardt. To paraphrase George Santayana, those who don’t learn from American history are doomed to repeat it. If you haven’t yet gotten it through your head that the United States federal government is in fact an enemy rebel government that has abused the Constitution beyond recognition, then perhaps you need to re-read this article again.

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