Black Elk Speaks Study guide Introductions and prefaces



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Black Elk Speaks

Study guide

Introductions and prefaces


  1. When did Niehardt interview Black Elk?


  1. Where did Black Elk live at the time of the interview?


  1. Why does Black Elk agree to tell his Story to John Niehardt?


  1. Who else was present at the interviews?


Chapter One


  1. What are the four colors associated with the four directions? With which direction is each color associated?



  1. How did the pipe used in the chapter come to Black Elk’s people, according to the tale Black Elk tells?




  1. What did the woman in the white buckskin dress turn into when she left the lodge?

Chapter Two


  1. When was Black Elk born?


  1. What is a ‘wasichu?’



  1. What does Black Elk mean when he says, “Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking.”



  1. What caused the conflict known as the ‘Winter of the Hundred Slain.’



  1. Who tells the story of his part in the battle?



  1. What game do the older boys play to prepare them to be warriors?




  1. What tactic do the wasichus use in the battle known as ‘Attacking the Wagons?’



  1. How old is Black Elk when the voices first come to him?


Chapter Three


  1. What kind of animal is central to Black Elks vision?



  1. What do the ‘Grandfathers’ represent?


  1. What gifts does receive from the Grandfather of the West? What do they represent?


  1. What does the Grandfather of the North tell Black Elk he will accomplish?


  1. What gift does the Grandfather of the East give Black Elk? What does it represent?


  1. What does the Grandfather of the South say Black Elk will accomplish?


  1. What power does the Grandfather of the Sky say Black Elk will have?


  1. What predictions for the future does the Grandfather of the Earth make?


  1. What does the ‘blue man’ that Black Elk kills represent?



  1. What do the four ascents (upward journeys) represent?


  1. Explain why the third and fourth ascents are so difficult. What parallels can you draw from history about those time periods?



Chapter Four


  1. What was happening with Black Elk’s body while his spirit was experiencing his great vision?


  1. Why did Black Elk tell no one of his vision at first?


  1. After he gets well, how does Black Elk feel around the people of his family and tribe?


  1. What event causes Black Elk’s people to stop talking of his illness?


  1. What game do the young boys play after the meat is butchered?


  1. What characteristics are valued in the young males of the tribe?


Chapter Five


  1. Where do Black Elk’s people head in late July?


  1. What event nearly causes bloodshed between the soldiers and Indians, until Red Cloud calms things down?


  1. What does Black Elk say to his father about the deer that shows he listens to the voices?


  1. What do Black Elk and Iron Bull do to try to make the tribe think highly of them?



  1. Why do people want to make Watanye laugh?

Chapter Six


  1. Describe two of the methods Black Elk mentions for a man to talk to a woman he likes.



  1. Why did the parents in the story value their daughter so highly, according to Black Elk?




  1. What does High Horse offer the father for his daughter?



  1. What goes wrong the first time High Horse tries to steal the girl?



  1. What goes wrong the second time High Horse tries to steal the girl?



  1. After failing to steal her twice, what does High Horse decide to do?



  1. What convinces the old man to let High Horse marry his daughter?



  1. What does this story tell you about the Ogalala viewpoint toward women?

Chapter Seven


  1. What happens at the beginning of Ch. 7 that reminds Black Elk of his vision?



  1. What causes Black Elk’s people to hurriedly pack and leave their campsite?



  1. Who are they running from? (give both the Ogalala and English name for this person)



  1. What do the Wasichus discuss with the Indians at the council on the Smoky Earth River?



  1. According to Black Elk, how did Crazy Horse get his name?



  1. List five of the details Black Elk gives about Crazy Horse.



  1. Explain the act of Counting Coup.



  1. Why do Black Elk’s people paint their faces black?

Chapter Eight


  1. Where do Black Elk’s people go at the beginning of the chapter? Why?



  1. How old was Black Elk when he fought in his first battle against the Wasichus?



  1. What is the purpose of the sun dance?



  1. List 3 details about the sun dance that stand out to you, and explain why they seem unusual.


  1. With whom does Crazy Horse and his band do battle after the sun dance? (Give both the Ogalala and English name)



  1. Who tells the story of this battle? What emotion fills him during the fight?



  1. What do Standing Bear and his friends find when they dig in the ground? What do they take?



  1. What do they see in the distance from atop the ridge?

Chapter Nine


  1. Why do the Indians keep moving west?



  1. What does Black Elk dress as to help the medicine man cure the injured warrior?



  1. What happens in the camp after the curing ceremony?



  1. What instruction does Black Elk’s father give that results in Black Elk being involved in the battle?



  1. What do the women do as the men return from battle?



  1. Which band of soldiers does Standing Bear go to fight?



  1. What happens that makes Standing Bear say everyone was crazy?



  1. How do the warriors plan to defeat the soldiers who have retreated to the hilltop?




  1. Why do they change their plans and leave?

Chapter Ten

  1. What comes up the Yellowstone River that catches the attention of Black Elk’s people?



  1. What do Black Elk’s people do to keep from starving?



  1. What new weapon does General Miles bring with him to battle Crazy Horse?



  1. What does it mean when Black Elk says that Crazy Horse “untied his pony’s tail?”



Chapter Eleven

  1. Why does Crazy Horse decide to lead his people away from the Soldiers’ Town?



  1. How do the soldiers convince Crazy Horse to return?



  1. What happens to Crazy Horse when he returns?



  1. Where does Black Elk think Crazy Horse is buried?

Chapter 12

  1. Where are Black Elk’s people going at the beginning of this chapter?




  1. What event shows that Black Elk’s power is growing?




  1. Why do the bison not notice Black Elk and the other hunters?




  1. Why do Black Elk’s people feel homesick?


Chapter 13

  1. What does Black Elk see that causes his band to flee from their village?




  1. Why does Black Elk believe his power is growing?




  1. Why does Black Elk grow anxious and unsettled in this chapter?




  1. What does the medicine man tell him to do to make the fear go away?

Chapter 14 – Draw a sketch of the horse dance ceremony. Show enough detail to show me you understood what you read.
Chapter 15

  1. What month and year did Black Elk turn 18?



  1. Why does Black Elk feel bad about having been given a religious vision?



  1. How did Black Elk build a sweat lodge?



  1. What do the dogs in Black Elk’s vision represent?



  1. What do the wise old men tell Black Elk to do?


Chapter 16

  1. According to Black Elk, why must visions from the thunder beings be presented with humor?


  1. Why does Wachpanne take charge of the ceremony?



  1. What does Wachpanne put in the boiling water? (be specific)



  1. What effect does the dog ceremony have on Black Elk’s people?



Chapter 17

  1. Why does Black Elk say circles are powerful?



  1. How does Black Elk write his name? (draw this in the space below – turn the paper sideways if you need to)



  1. What does Black Elk retrieve from the edge of the clay gulch?




  1. What does he use this item for?

Chapter 18

  1. When does Black Elk say that he began to be able to cure people?



  1. Why does Black Elk say he is now willing to tell his vision, and risk losing its power?



  1. According to Black Elk, where does power come from?



  1. What two ceremonies does Black Elk conduct in this chapter?


Chapter 19

  1. What happens to the bison?


  1. Why does Black Elk agree to cross the ocean with the Wild West show?


  1. What does he learn about the Wasichus and how they treat one another?


  1. What happens while Black Elk is crossing the ocean?


  1. What important woman comes to visit the Wild West show in London?

Chapter 20

  1. What happens to Black Elk when the show leaves England?



  1. Who does Black Elk live with in Paris?



  1. What happens to Black Elk while eating breakfast one day?



  1. What did the family think was happening to Black Elk?



  1. Who helps Black Elk get back home?

Chapter 21

  1. What condition are Black Elk’s people in when he returns?




  1. What strange news comes from the west in the summer of 1889?



  1. What does the Wanekia tell the others they must do?



  1. How does Black Elk react to the Ghost Dance?

Chapter 22

  1. What happens to Black Elk the first day he participates in the Ghost Dance?



  1. What happens to Black Elk the second day he participates in the Ghost Dance?



  1. What does Black Elk bring back out of his vision?



  1. Who does Black Elk see in his second vision?

Chapter 23

  1. What mistake does Black Elk believe he made regarding his visions?



  1. Explain 2 details about the soldiers that cause Black Elk to be concerned.



  1. What is the date of the massacre at Wounded Knee?

Chapter 24

  1. What sound makes Black Elk believe that something terrible is happening?



  1. Where are the women and children trying to take cover?



  1. When he looks around the battlefield, what detail stands out to him?

Chapter 25

  1. What do Red Crow and Black Elk do when they return to the camp at Pine Ridge?



  1. What feeling fills Black Elk in this chapter?



  1. Why do the Lakotas finally surrender to the soldiers?


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