Black Elk Speaks

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Black Elk Speaks

Category: Culture

Subcategory: History

Level: University

Pages: 1

Words: 275

Social Ethics in Black Elk Speaks by John NeihardtName:
Literature is a reflection of society. It provides an account of the experiences and struggles of people in a particular period. In America, the contemporary readers have used ancient works of literature to understand their history. These writings are based on what the authors felt, saw or experienced during their time. The periods of colonization and slavery, in particular, documents two of the most important periods in the American history. Stories that were written during this time conveyed messages of oppression, conflict, hatred and social injustices. Black Elk Speaks perfectly fits this category. The novel records the life of Sioux’s holy man (Black Elk) from 1863 (the time he was born) to 1890 (the period of the Wounded Knee Massacre, an experience that ended the tribe’s hopes of returning to their normal lives). Through there interaction with the Europeans, the aspect of social ethics is strongly highlighted in the life of Black Elk. Therefore, this study explores the issue of social ethics in the conflict between the European invaders and the cultures of Black Elk and his tribesmen.
Key Words: Sioux, Black Elk, Europeans, Social Ethics
Social Ethics in Black Elk Speaks by John NeihardtThesis Statement
Black Elk Speaks is a personal account. It has the distinctiveness of several genres: elegy, autobiography, and testimonial. However, the account of the narrator (Black Elk) presents a picture of the Sioux people during a period of great conflict between the European colonizers and the Lakota Sioux cultures. The minutiae of this clash highlight several factors that helped in defining the American society. It was a time when the Europeans were trying to invade the Native Americans, an act that led to a heated tension between the two cultures. For instance, the conflict is emphasized by Black Elk when he refers to the loss of the “black hill” at the hands of the white people (Black & Neihardt, 2000). He describes how the white man’s desire for gold led to their ancestral land’s invasion. However, the focus of this novel is on Black Elk. He is regarded as a holy visionary and religious man.
As part of Sioux’s culture, healing people and social groups was a respected practice. People who practiced it were referred to as holy men- a title that was associated with Black Elk. Because of his reputation, he was called on numerous occasions to prescribe public policy remedies for the people of the Sioux tribe. However, Elk’s story encompasses the story of the people he served (his office cared for Sioux’s people). This means that the account of his experiences reflects that of the entire tribe. His narration highlights several factors that were associated with Sioux’s tribe: religion, customs and value for the land. One of the most significant factors in their relationship with the European, however, is the social ethics. Through Black Elk’s experiences, social ethics is manifested in different aspects such as populations, interpretative themes, description of experiences of the past and present, projections of future circumstances predicted from the past and present experiences, and the visions of the ideal future.
Black Elk, & John Gneisenau Neihardt. (2000). Black Elk speaks: Being the life story of a holy man of the Oglala Sioux. U of Nebraska Press.

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