Topics in
Native American Literature (445N/845N)





Last Updated: 18 January 2019

--To the Most RECENT "Class Notes" Updates--
• For TU, 1/22: BES 121-172 (Chpt. 17-26), Phil Deloria's intro (xxix-xxxv)

• For TH, 1/24: (bring back BES!;) "Poetic Interlude #1" [PoeticInterlude1(BES).pdf, in "01 BLACK ELK&Neihardt" folder]—read especially for possible relationships to BES!

• For TU, 1/29: Deloria—For This Land: 1-43, 69-91 (incl. Treat's fairly essential intro! [1-18]); Response #1

Graphics "borrowed" from Google Images;
yes, I know that these words are really Neihardt's;
but today's politics seems to require some
poetic licence/"fake news"/positive propaganda.



NOTE: I am intentionally brief, usually, in the following "NOTES" because I mean them to function as reminders & sources of review rather than to serve in lieu of coming to class: they DON'T. However, this page has a greater usefulness: by "Commentary," I mean that some points in these class notes are expanded upon (and re-organized) in ways that our limited class time—and my rather manic teaching style—disallows. Above all, supplementary material will be provided here, includinghelpful background information in tabular form and links to other Native lit/history resources.

Note: Highlighted author names are linked to each respective author's entry on my Authors & Readings Links page, for further research on your part.



 TU, Jan. 8th::

"Grandma's Photo"
Regarding Black Elk Speaks and the questions of authenticity vs. simulation, my grandmother's photo (from 1943; click photo for larger version) might serve as a clarifying metaphor since it is, in many ways, analogous.
1) Both book and picture are ostensibly authentic, at first glance: "they are both Indians, after all—so why wouldn't their self-representations be valid?"
2) On second glance, however, the fact that Grandma is wearing a traditional male headdress is entirely inauthentic; and I would suggest (as others have) that there are places in BES where just such a second-glance "what the h---?" occurs.
3) Note, too, how both are very much situated in a moment of Western-Civ. history and ideology. Grandma's 1943 public display was no doubt for a (Lewis & Clark!) parade largely spurred by World War II American patriotism: "Hey, let's get some local Injuns all dressed up in full regalia, too!"—as further "moral support" (and with perhaps the implicit understanding that these "defeated people" are fine reminders of the U.S. military's might). Likewise, Black Elk's narrative must be read through the window of Neihardt's own attitude as a Romantic-primitivist poet and "man of feeling" consciously at odds with what he perceived to be an over-civilized Western world.

• If your copy of BES is, say, arriving late from Amazon, there is also a PDF of the full 2000 ed. on Canvas, under "BLACK ELK/Neihardt." (But, w/ diff. pagination and sans DeMallie's commentary, this is a very less than happy permanent solution.)

Important Note: (Most of) DeMallie's running commentary is now unfortunately in the back of the book (299-) instead of in the margins, but consider these notes a central part of the assigned reading: above all, they clarify which parts of the text are Black Elk's original words, and which (from single words & phrases to whole paragraphs) are Neihardt's editorial interpolations.

  * Black Elk Speaks: (some) background info *
*Neihardt, John G. (1881-1973):

first Nebraska poet laureate (1921 to death
[no, wait: "Poet Laureate in Perpetuity"!]);
besides Black Elk Speaks, best known for his
five-part "Old West" epic, A Cycle of the West
(pub. 1915-1949; written in heroic couplets!)


(Plaque commemorating) John G. Neihardt's early writing place, a cottage "study" in Bancroft, NE (TCG, 2008; click photo to enlarge).

*Nicholas Black Elk (Heh'aka Sapa)—1863-1950
—Oglala Lakota—Pine Ridge Reservation: Manderson, SD (N of Pine Ridge & just NW of Wounded Knee)
—suffered from tuberculosis since at least 1912; later, failing eyesight, eventual blindness
—Lakota wic[h]asha wakan ("medicine man")—BUT: conversion to Catholicism, 1904 (ergo, Nicholas as "Christian" name; even became a catechist ["preparer" of converts]!)

• Black Elk as Catholic catechist (photos from The Sixth Grandfather)::::

—At last, there has been great CONTROVERSY regarding what Black Elk "really believed." For one thing—and rather amazingly—it was Black Elk's insistence (elsewhere?!) on the compatibility of "Christianity and traditional [Lakota] religion" that "helped create the context of official tolerance" that led to the end of the U.S. government's ban on the Sun Dance (1883-1934), and its begrudging recognition of the Native American Church (182), another Christian/Native syncretism. But the debate continues: was Black Elk a "traditionalist whose Catholicism was insincere," a "sincere convert who relapsed into traditionalism upon meeting Neihardt," or a sincere "dual participant" in both (204-205)?
    [source: Holler, Clyde.  Black Elk's Religion: The Sun Dance and Lakota Catholicism.  Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1995.]
—Other central sources: DeMallie's The Sixth Grandfather (1984); Joseph Epes Brown's The Sacred Pipe (1953)

        . . . . . . See also "The Two Masks of Nicholas Black Elk" (Bruce A. Peterson)  —essay on Black Elk's religious syncretism

 * Canvas Alert: Under "Course Content"=>BLACK ELK are several supplementary/background essays, including DeMallie's intro to The Sixth Grandfather" (divided into 2 parts) and his intro to BES per se from the same work.

        General Comment on Canvas PDF Files: I've had the English Dept. do most of the PDF files, and they aren't the best scans in the world; furthermore, they're graphic scans, so you can't search for text, and you often have to rotate the page view to even read them. Your best bet is to print them out, depending on interest and paper & ink availability: in this case, be sure to select "print to fit" so that no margins are cut off. (Oh, and of course & finally, some are required for class: yes, print these, read, and bring!)

To the Top

 TH, Jan. 10th::

Of the seven Lakota bands, the most populous & historically important are the—
* Oglala (Ogalala, Ogallala [NE!]) . . . "homed" on the Pine Ridge Reservation . . . Makhpiya Luta (Red Cloud), Tashunka Witko (Crazy Horse [never a CHIEF, officially, but a "shirt-wearer," for a while (Neihart's term: "advisor"— usually 4 of them, kind of "sub-chiefs," if you will, in charge of the logistics of the rituals & ceremonies]), Heh'aka Sapa (Black Elk), Mato Najin (Standing Bear), Afraid of His Horses
* Sicangu (Brulé, Brule) . . . Rosebud Reservation (& Lower Brule ~) . . . Sinte Gleshka (Spotted Tail)
* Mnikoju (Minneconjou, Mnikowoju) . . . Cheyenne River Rez . . . Si Tanka (Big Foot), Tah'cha Huste (Lame Deer); my grandma
* Hunkpapa . . . Standing Rock Rez . . . Tatanka Iotanka (Sitting Bull [like Crazy Horse, never a Chief, officially, but rather a wichasha wakan, like Black Elk]), Gall


From William Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" (1798); compare—especially the phrase in bold—with my discussion of "pantheism" and the Lakota wakantanka:

                        [. . .] For I have learned
        To look on nature, not as in the hour
        Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
        The still, sad music of humanity,
        Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
        To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
        A presence that disturbs me with the joy
        Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
        Of something far more deeply interfused,
        Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
        And the round ocean and the living air,
        And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
        A motion and a spirit, that impels
        All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
        And rolls through all things
. Therefore am I still
        A lover of the meadows and the woods,
        And mountains; and of all that we behold
        From this green earth; of all the mighty world
        Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,
        And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
        In nature and the language of the sense,
        The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
        The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
        Of all my moral being.  (ll. 88-111)

Black Elk Speaks & page numbers:
Since BES seems to get a new edition (w/ different p#'s) every three or four years, like clockwork, I've decided to omit specific page number refs. in the summaries/notes below (w/ a few exceptions). Chapter/section pagination will still be given in parentheses, with the 2014 ed. 1st and the 2008 ed. 2nd (e.g.: 57-64/73-82).

*"FOREWORD"—Vine Deloria, Jr. (1979; [in Bison Books editions only; 2014 ed.: xiii-xvi])  [also {BB PDF}]
—PLUS: it's in our Deloria text, FOR THIS LAND (232-234)!
*—initial reception of BES: a co-optative, reductionist, primitivist attempt to connect the text "with the larger reality of Western civilization"(—but is Deloria eventually guilty of some of this same reductionism?)
*—current society: "strange isolation" of (postmodern) culture; modern age: "industrialism," faith in "progress" . . . reception history: BES more appreciated as "crises mounted"—incl. technological "future shock" and an ecological "silent spring"
*—BES, then, as remedy?
    —Western civilization's new "focus on Indians and some of the spiritual realities they seemed[!] to represent" (—why?)
*—THESIS: "perhaps the only religious classic of this century"; especially for young Native Americans, for whom "the book has become a North American bible of all tribes" [—but: D.'s previous/alternate emphasis on importance to mainstream culture?] . . . perhaps "the emergence of a new sacred hoop" . . . BES, etc. ("the basic works of the Black Elk theological tradition") to be the "core of a North American Indian theological canon which will someday challenge the Eastern and Western traditions as a way of looking at the world"
    —But: Deloria's own religious/Romantic essentialism?—BES "a universal expression of the larger, more cosmic truths which industrialism and progress had ignored" . . . "the universality of the images and dreams" therein . . . "the theme of sacrifice so important to all religions" . . . "great religious teachings . . . encompass everyone" via their "transcendental truth" . . . ultimately, D.'s (problematic) emphasis on "universality" in part an effort to counter "the question of Neihardt's literary intrusions into Black Elk's system of beliefs" . . . Note that DeMallie, in the essay he appends to the 2008 (and 2014) edition of BES, finds similar (& obvious) "universalist" motives in JGN himself (e.g., 245/292, 257-258/306-307).

*Neihardt's 1932 Preface (xvii-xix/xvii-xx)
    —Wise Old Man archetype: "sitting alone," "half blind eyes" (cf. Homer), living in the "inner world" vs. "'the darkness of men's eyes'" (cf. Plato's parable of the Cave); "indubitable seer"; "a saint"; "profoundly" melancholic, with a "look of heart-break in his face"; "almost blind"
    —JGN's "strange" refrain (thruout prefaces): "strange[ly]": xvii, xix, xxiv, xxvii [xix, xxi, xxvi, xxix]
    —JGN's attitude/word choices: BE had lived in the "years of their [the Lakotas'] final defeat and degradation"?!—vs. Deloria's attitude?
    —book's raison d'être/the motives of BE and JGN:
        —BE to tell story "in fulfillment of a duty" . . . BE's first words: "'I can feel in this man beside me a strong desire to know the things of the Other World. He has been sent to learn what I know, and I will teach him'" . . . "What I know . . . is true and . . . beautiful. . . . You were sent to save it (especially my "Great Vision"); so "come back"—in the spring!
        —JGN: remedy to "the present state of affairs throughout the whole scale of human values as our civilization has dealt with them"? . . . "this excessively progressive age"
        —also, psychological interest: "students . . . of psychical research" and "those who seek meaning for in . . . visions"—and scholars of "essential[?!] religion"!?—cf. Jung's interest, below
    —**envelope/"narrative frame": BE->BE's son Ben (interpr.)->JGN's daughter, Enid (transcr.)->JGN . . .
*Neihardt's 1961 Preface (xxi-xxv/xxi-xxvi)
    —JGN's initial interest: Ghost Dance/Wounded Knee Massacre; so his search for "some old medicine man who had been active in the Messiah Movement"
    —BE: a wic[h]asha wakan ("man powerful/holy")—and 2nd cousin of Crazy Horse . . . psychic powers: "'the old man seemed to know you were coming!' . . . he certainly had supernormal powers"
    —earlier (& snubbed) "lady" visitor: Mari Sandoz, eventual author of Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas
    —"Wakon Tonka" (wakan tanka)—represented by one eagle feather (ergo, monotheism?! [no: misleading])
My 1961 edition:    
*Neihardt's 1972 Preface (xxvii-xxviii/xvii-xviii)
    —JGN's own travail: "to re-create in English the mood and manner of the old man's narrative"—no small task! . . . "For the last forty years it has been my purpose to bring Black Elk's message to the white world"—see also 1930 letter to BE, below
    —reception history: 2nd wave of interest began in Zurich, with Carl Jung! . . . revival in 60's & 70's: perhaps "the old prophet's wish . . . is actually being fulfilled"
*Neihardt's 1930 letter to Julius House (181-183/---)
    —Another (condescending) reference to Mari Sandoz, "a bustling lady who had come to get [from Black Elk] a pot or two of local color[!] for some writing that she had in mind"—but was, as we know, turned away.
    —More of JGN's hero-worship—and mystification, and equation w/ the ancient Greeks—of Black Elk, who is "a sphinx-like chap," and like "an old Homeric hero" (182).
    —Finally, the psychoanalytic critic must lick his/her chops at this sentence: "Very often it seemed as though I, myself, were telling the things he told me" (182); hmmm. Symptomatic?
*Neihardt's 1930 letter to Black Elk (237-238/223-225)
    —arrangements for interviews, disclaimer regarding any mercenary motives; and the promise "to use as much of your language . . . as possible"
    —REASON, encore: "I do feel that so much is known by you Indians that our white people do not know and should know"—such as?! . . .
*Relevant quot.? (of a typical Romantic gesture): "Great God! I'd rather be / A pagan suckled by a creed outworn. . . ." (—William Wordsworth)

 TU, Jan. 15th::
*Chapter 1: "The Offering of the Pipe" (1-4/1-5)—(and note Appendix 9 [291-296/---])
2011 Note: these are old "notes" to BES, often mere plot summary, with some added background info. My various emotional reactions must appear naïve, even misguided, in the wake of DeMallie's scholarly interventions. But in most cases, I've let them stand without correction or disclaimer.
    —"Why first"?! Why not "Early Boyhood" instead?: 1st chapter the rhetorical equivalent of preparation for a ritual (that is BES)?! appropriate communal emphasis on the "nation/people" (oyate)? (And note parallels between traditional story of the Sacred Pipe & White Buffalo Woman and BE's own Great Vision.) . . . But of course, the fact that this narrative choice was likely JGN's editorial decision—and NOT the first story BE told!—certainly complicates any answers here.
    —"the story of all life that is holy"—cf. William Blake, Deep Ecology
    —elegiac tone already (framing the book's coda): the story "of a holy tree that should have flourished . . . and now is withered; and of a people's dream that died"
    —Platonic echo/refrain from the Prefaces: "the darkness of their [men's] eyes"
    —p. 2/2: importance of the number four ["why?"] (but the "four spirits" are then monotheistically conflated into "only one Spirit after all" [BE's closet-Christian emphasis?!])
    —pp. 2-4/2-5: recounting of the traditional Lakota story of the Sacred Pipe and the White Buffalo Woman; a Jung or Eliade might point to the archetypal "centering" & "wholeness" of the tale, with the tepee built "in the center of the nation," the repetitions of the number 12 (3x4); I'm more interested in the interchangeability of humans and other species, of the easy transformation of woman to buffalo, etc.
    [—pp. 291-296/---]: "Comparison of the Transcript and Draft for the Origin of the Peace Pipe"]: Note JGN's various "ceremonial-Indian"-esque rhetorical flourishes to his daughter's bare, straightforward transcript, interjecting "a tone of reverence and solemnity, transmuting oral narrative into literature" [291/---]. (This commentary by DeMallie obviously carries some heavy Western assumptions about what "literature" is!)]
    —Lakota language notes:
        —"Grandfather, Great Spirit": "grandfather" = tunkas[h]ila, but in the traditional "religious" connotations of the word, this isn't some "Father in heaven"; the "grandfathers" are plural, including spirit-deities (if you will), human ancestors, and even other species; again, "Great Spirit" (for wakantanka) seems to me a very unhappy choice of phrase by Neihardt.
        —"Hetchetu aloh!": modern spelling—hec[h]etu [ye]lo, an often ceremonial utterance rather like the Christian "Amen." There is also "Ate heye lo"—"the father/s have said this to be true."

Vis-à-vis Chapter 1 of Black Elk Speaks:


My Version of the WBCW Story (made for my interview by a UNL journalism class, "Native Daughters" [Spring 2009])
This is the story of Ptesánwinyan or Ptesánwin, the White Buffalo Woman or White Buffalo Calf Woman. First of all, there are many versions of this story, and they've changed over the years, and keep changing, over time. And that's the way it should be.

But first we have to go back to a different mythic, cosmological figure—or name, anyway—Wohpé, or Falling Star. She was one of the seven sisters of the Pleiades [cf. Momaday's similar Kiowa tale], and one day she fell to earth [like Sky Woman of Iroquois legend]. And so she's also called Mediator, for her role as a connector between the sky and the earth. And it's here, as made clear in some versions, that she manifests herself as White Buffalo Woman. For that's exactly the mediation that White Buffalo Woman performs.

So the story itself. It's a bleak & hungry time for the Lakota, and these two young warriors are out hunting, looking for game, [maybe on their way to rent a video game or somethin',] and at the top of this rise they see this beautiful and—in what I think are some of the earliest versions—naked woman, with flowing "raven" hair. She's obviously wakan, a woman of great power, of numinosity.

Well, one of the warriors has "impure thoughts," as they say, and he's thinking about jumping her bones. But as soon as he moves forward, or maybe even as he's just thinking about it—phrhrhrhr [nighthawk call]—he's immediately turned to bones, to dust. Disintegrated. She then tells the other fellow, [who's thinking really hard now about baseball,] "Go home and tell your people that, in four days, I will bring them a great gift." He leaves posthaste, as you can well imagine.

Four days later, she arrives—and the gift is the canunpa wakan, the pipe of power. (Okay, the Sacred Pipe, to use the common translation. I'm just trying to avoid the Christian anthropologists' Western theological terms as much as possible.) She says, "This pipe is your connection to wakántanka." (That is, the "Big Power," or the force that moves through all things. Okay: the "Great Spirit" or "God." [Yu' happy now?!]) Besides the pipe ceremony itself, she also teaches the Lakota other rituals, although here there's a good deal of disagreement among the versions. But these likely included the Sun Dance, the inipi (the sweat lodge), and the hanblecia (the vision quest). (The fact that most recent sources count SEVEN of these rites, the same as the number of Catholic sacraments, is no coincidence, I think.)

Then something really weird happens. She turns into this buffalo calf; in fact, it's clear from many of the versions that she's also an emissary from the buffalo oyate, or people, sent to codify, as it were, the close connection, [the social contract, as it were,] between these two "nations." First, she's this black buffalo calf, then a yellow one, then a red one, and finally, a white one. Then—she's gone. Poof.

These four colors are important, as the four directional colors of the Lakota, and of the traditional circle, or "hoop." Besides the buffalo "alliance" that she brings, she also gives to the Lakota, probably at a time of great cultural peril, a crucial centering, symbolized not only in this holistic number four, but realized in the various rituals of cultural healing and social integration that she's taught them. She has brought her message to the people; she has brought the message to the tribe. Hechetu yelo.

*Chapter 2: "Early Boyhood" (5-12/7-16)
    —largely BE's memories from early youth of the Fetterman Fight (1866) and Wagon Box Fight (1867), "skirmishes" between the cavalry and Plains Indians climaxing in the Battle of the Little Bighorn
    —the coming of the washic[h]u: the Lakota word originally referred to anything mysterious and powerful (their incredible numbers! their guns!). And thus Fire Thunder later describes their new rifles as "some new medicine of great power." . . . "They told us that they only wanted to use a little land. . . . And when you look about you now, you can see what it was they wanted" . . . Another zinger: "they made a treaty . . . that said our country would be ours as long as grass should grow and water flow. You can see that it is not the grass and the water that have forgotten" (Black Elk—er, Neihardt!—is here referring to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, though the famous "as long as grass should grow and water flow" phrase isn’t from that treaty per se). . . . As I (hope to have) addressed the "green grass & water" historical mistake/mistake in class, I was reminded of a web site ( with its clever bon mot: "Of course, the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) had promised the Great Sioux Reservation to the Indians for 'as long as the grass shall grow and the water flow' - which in this case was about nine years."  [own "eco"-note: but soon we won't have to worry about any growing grass & flowing water stipulation!?]
    —Reservations: "little islands for us and other little islands for the four-leggeds"! (Originally, bird sanctuaries were called "Reservations," too); now stuck in "'square gray houses, in a barren land'"
    —VOCATION: one of BE's earliest references to a Lakota medicine man regards one who derives his power from the dragonfly. (Each wic[h]asha wakan has a particular "spirit animal"—almost always encountered during a vision quest—that aids and guides him.) BE's own "vocational" direction is first evidenced at age four, when "I first heard the voices." Then age five, and the talking kingbird [pictured]: "'Listen! A voice is calling you!'"—and the two arrow-slant men from the sky, who will re-appear in his Great Vision. Fittingly, they eventually turn into geese. Not surprisingly, BE's main "spirit animals" will be avian, especially the "Spotted Eagle."

*Chapter 3: "THE GREAT VISION" (13-29/17-36)
    —C/C with the Book of Revelation!?—e.g., 1.10; 6.2, 8; *7.1*; 10.1; 21.1, 16-17
    *—advent of VISION: illness at the age of 9; fever presumably, in which the "voices" begin calling; see Ellenberger's The History of the Unconscious for the idea that many great visionaries experienced a similar "creative illness" at an early age, including Carl Jung. . . . Note that such a vision-inducing illness is more common to the (specific) shamanist tradition of East Asia and the Arctic (as described by Eliade) than to Lakota tradition, in which the adolescent consciously goes on a vision quest, or hanblec[h]ia, as did Crazy Horse and Lame Deer.
    *—Note how BE's experience fits into the Jungian Joseph Campbell's sequence for the "Hero" archetype: 1) descent (here, ascent); 2) "initiation" (reorientation of the psyche via an encounter with forces of the unconscious); and 3) return. . . . Alternately, the brain physiologist might perceive an OBE (out-of-body experience) or near-death experience in BE's psychic journey: "When I got up to follow [the two arrow-slant men] . . . I was very light"; on his "return," he sees a body "lying like the dead—and that one was myself."

cleansing wind
sacred herb
white giant('s white wing)
white geese
wooden cup of water
bows & arrows
thunder (beings,
& Thunderbird)
"split-tail" swallows

— Black -|- Road —


"daybreak star"
(and sun, of course)
sacred (red pipestone) pipe
spotted eagle
of understanding"
sacred/red/flowering stick
(=>flowering/holy tree)
sacred hoop
    1 RED "is the color that belongs to the Sun. . . . The color is invoked by shamans, and it represents the coming and the going of the sun. When one wears red the Sun is pleased and will listen to such a one. The Indians are red[!], so they are the favorite people of the sun" (James R. Walker, Lakota Belief and Ritual 108). (See also BES 2/2, 121/155, 123-126/158-161 for more on the meanings of the four directions.)


The Sacred Hoop Garden at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari[!], near Ashland, NE (TCG, 2008; click photo to enlarge). BLUE for the west is not an uncommon substitute in Lakota iconography (more colorful?!), although BLACK fits much better the west's "storm-bringer" symbology.

—my nip-it-in-the-bud satire on a Facebook
"game" that's bound to happen.
    *—call to HEALING vocation: BE's several "rehearsals" thereof in the vision . . . usually accompanied by archetypal "rebirth"/fertility imagery: wooden cup of water, flowering tree, "daybreak star" . . . Fittingly, the great healing, especially, of the people, animals, and earth anticipates the main goal of the Ghost Dance religion.
    *—CENTERing imagery (cf. Jung, Eliade): at the "center of the earth" (cf. Eliade's studies of the "Tree of Life" that usually stands at the "center" of the cosmos/world); the sacred hoop; the people's circled tepees/villages . . . including Jung's QUATERNITY ("4"): the interminable reiteration of groups of 4 (and twelve)—horses, generations, chant repetitions, etc.; note that, for Jung, four is number of wholeness, psychic integration, the ego's union with the psychic center of the unconscious "Self"
    *—ceremonial reiterative style—e.g., p. 19/24, where BE seems to repeat the "story" again
    *—HUMAN/ANIMAL interelatedness: again, the boundaries of human and "animal" are porous, and BE himself eventually becomes the Spotted Eagle soaring above the earth & people; the finale of the vision is the eagle "hovering over" him and saying, "'Look back!'"; finally, apparently, alone, there is the "spotted eagle" still "guarding" him. BE's "animal-spirit-helper" thus becomes this eagle—cf. BE's "vision"-name: "Eagle Wing Stretches." . . . Finally, my favorite—"uncanny"—part is the eagle etched on the sacred pipe that comes "alive," with "its eyes looking at" BE (17/22)!
Ornithology Workshop: "What the heck is a 'Spotted Eagle'?!"
As even the most neophyte birder knows, there are only TWO eagle species in the U.S., the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle. But Luther Standing Bear speaks (Like Black Elk) of the Spotted Eagle, and indeed, of FOUR (surprise!) different kinds of eagles (wanbli) in Lakota tradition: the golden eagle of the east, symbol of the sun . . . the spotted eagle of the south; the black eagle of the west . . . and the bald eagle of the north" (Land of the Spotted Eagle 122). (Note that Black Elk places the "spotted eagle" in the east instead.) After months of research, I finally discovered that the "spotted eagle" (wanbli gles[k]ka)—and likely the "black eagle," too—is, in fact, the immature Golden or Bald species, both of which have a more mottled appearance in the first few years of their lives. I also suspect that the species most commonly intended is the immature Golden Eagle [pictured], more the "regal" soaring bird of the plains and hills (rather than the often scavenger fish-eagle that the Bald is). Whatever the case, the "spotted eagle" is the "holiest" bird for the Lakota, the primary intermediary and "messenger of Wakantanka" (William K. Powers, Oglala Religion 88, 165).
LATER ADD: my own photo of an immature Golden Eagle (Grant County [western NE]--23 Dec. 2015):
    *—Prophecy of the "four generations": BE is presently seeing the 3rd ~; he sees bad times at the end of the third—the hoop "broken" and the tree "dying"—and the 4th will be even worse, as he expresses in the famous sentence, "It was dark and terrible about me, for all the winds of the world were fighting." Note that Neihardt's footnote (23/29) reveals a desire to read BE's prophecy as relating to Western political events. And indeed, doesn't the following sound like "modern times," à la Yeats' "The Second Coming"!?: "the people ran here and there, for each one seemed to have his own little vision that he followed and his own rules; and all over the universe I could hear the winds at war like wild beasts fighting."
    *—finally, how much of (at least) JGN's rendition of BE's Great Vision fraught with cultural hybridity? Michael Castro, for instance, suggests that the "circle-within-circle of Black Elk's Great Vision [26/33] as rewritten by Neihardt" bears the influence of Dante's Paradiso (182; emphasis added).
    [source: Castro, Michael.  Interpreting the Indian: Twentieth-Century Poets and the Native American.  Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1983.]
(And of course several of DeMallie's annotations in the new edition also make this point.)

*Chapter 4: "The Bison Hunt" (30-37/37-45)
    —1st memories of Great Vision visceral, numinous, imagistic; beyond "words"; "meanings" & "words" thereof "clearer"[!?] only in later retrospect  [I (hope to have) offered "my own" theory on right-brain/Lacanian Imaginary vs. left-brain/Lacanian Symbolic?]. . . BE wants to return to GV, "homesick for the place where I had been"
    —BE's strangeness, his aura, recognized by medicine man (Whirlwind Chaser): "'there is something special for him to do . . . I could see a power like a light all through his body'" . . . Standing Bear's testimony regarding the recovered BE: "he was not like a boy. He was more like an old man"; and BE's father notes his "'queer ways'"
    —subsequent momentary feelings of "queer"-ness: 1st time, an avian reminder (when aiming at a "little bird") that he "was to be like a relative to the birds," an inkling of ethical eco-relatedness; sure, he kills a frog immediately afterwards!—but the death makes him "want to cry" (31-32/39) . . . for QUEER feeling (of "power"), see also 33/41 ("nation" on "red road"); 38/47 ("thunder"); 40/49 ("spotted eagle" & deer); 48/59 (thunder/swallows/warning "voice"); 66-67/84-85 ("something terrible": Little Bighorn; regarding "something terrible," see also 160/207 [Wounded Knee]); 92/116 (Crows prophecy); 97/123 (Blackfeet enemies); 124-125/159-160 (during first cure); 150-151, 153/193-195, 197 (during Ghost Dance)
    —buffalo hunt per se  [cf. Luther Standing Bear's (even more "exciting") recounting of his first Lakota buffalo hunt, "At Last I Kill a Buffalo," in My Indian Boyhood (1931)]
        —note social appeal to hunters: "'you shall feed the helpless'"—cf. subsequent similar pathos-centered appeals to warriors before battle to the "community" (the hungry, the children, the elderly)
    —"comic interlude": Standing Bear's 1st kill, after which he keeps yelling the "kill" word, until "People must have thought I had was killing a whole herd, the way I yelled" . . . (and cf. Chapter 6 entire for a longer "comic interlude")
    —cultural sexism: playing the Lakota version of "chicken" (lighting sunflower seeds on boys' wrists): couldn't say "Owh!" or they'd "be called women" (37/45; for a similar sexist appeal to machismo, see also 68/87)

*Chapter 5: "At the Soldiers' Town [Fort Robinson]" (38-41/47-51)
    —1st ref. to Crazy Horse, "who would have nothing to do with the" washic[h]u . . . vs. Red Cloud, who was "through with fighting"
    —1st sight of the washic[h]u: "At first I thought they all looked sick"!
    —return of the SPOTTED EAGLE from his GV, whistling, and "hovering over" him: as if "I was in the world of my vision again"; afterwards, 1st prophecy, of the deer coming (and slain)—but BE feels sorry again, beseeches his father to make an "offering" to the "wild things"
    —"comic interlude": Watanye, the laugher—with cracked & bleeding lips! . . . (and cf. next chapter "entire")
        —The "SOLDIER'S TOWN" was Fort Robinson, in extreme NW Nebraska (near Crawford), just southwest of what would become the Pine Ridge Agency or Reservation in SoDak. It was the original seat of that agency (first called the Red Cloud Agency), and the site of Crazy Horse's death. "Memorial" plaques from Fort Robinson (TCG, 2011; select thumbnail for larger photo):

*Chapter 6: "High Horse's Courting" (42-47/53-59)
    —as told by Watanye(?!?), as the book's narrative envelope/frame becomes even more convoluted—"Why does JGN include it at this point?"
    —"Universal" human touch?!: young men's love "sickness" (= BE's [or Watanye's?!] general comments on Lakota tradition/introduction to High Horse's story) [The greater irony/convolution: the story, as DeMallie informs us, was actually by a Cheyenne!]
    —From a Western point of view, the courtship is inordinately sexist, of course; e.g., the father's control, and Red Deer's incredible statement, "'Probably she wants you to steal her anyway'"?!
    —Note oral-tradition framework—the casual/"spoken" tone of introduction, etc.; e.g., "You know, in the old days"; and the series of three plans (the 3rd—successful—one quite accidental, to be sure): this schema lives on in today's "dirty" jokes?!—and the standard comedy formula, of two serious replies/statements and a third, humorous punch-line.
    —Finally, the downright humor:
        —1st plan's execution: "his knife slipped and stuck the girl"!?
        —2nd plan, High Horse's "paint job": he falls asleep!—and his beloved awakes to see "a terrible animal, all white with black stripes on it, lying asleep beside her bed."
        —3rd plan: the 100 horses stolen from the Crows: HH asks "if . . . maybe[!] that would be enough horses for his girl."
    [Textual note: my 1961 ed. has an additional sentence (44/56): "She gave a big, loud yell. Then the old folks jumped up and yelled too. By this time . . . .]

*Chapter 7: "Washicus in the Hills" (48-56/61-71)
    —"thunder . . . from the west" (cf. GV), and trouble: "queer" feeling from the "split-tail swallows" (Barn Swallows) reminding BE of his vision; and his subsequent alarm at the boys throwing rocks at them, for the "swallows seemed holy"
    —Custer [Pahunska = "long hair"], et al.'s, expedition for gold in the Black Hills: ignoring 1868 treaty—for "as long as grass should grow and water flow"! . . . because the "yellow metal . . . makes the Wasichus crazy," while the Lakota know "it was not good for anything"
        Fort Laramie Treaty, 1868
    —outrage of Crazy Horse & Sitting Bull; versus "Red Cloud's people," the "'Hangs-Around-the-Fort'" crowd [cf. the French Vichy?!—the "native" collaborateurs during the Nazi occupation]
    —sad language assimilationism: "Tunkasila" (Grandfather) now applied to the U.S. President! (cf. the Lakota "Flag Song")
    —BE personally sad regarding the plight of the Black Hills because of the GV, in which Harney Peak is the "center of the world," the Hills a special PLACE of his tribe and vision
    —BE's 1st conscious attempt to re-create his vision: "alone," and "under a tree"
    —horse race, and association of the geese of the North ("white wing") with speed—later to be invoked in battle
        —Character: like BE, a "queer man," withdrawn and alone—walking around (as if) unaware of anyone, "except little children"! [Christ analogue!?]; unconcern for material possessions, starved himself when camp low on food: "Maybe he was always part way into that world of his vision"
    —December, 1875: U.S. government's call for all Lakota to go to forts/reservations or be deemed "hostiles" fit to be hunted down as enemies of the state; BE's defense (& eventual refrain): but it's "our own country" and we "were doing no harm"; and we "only wanted to be left alone"
        Crazy Horse's "sacred power" in battle derived from his early vision(s); his family (& BE's) had a tradition of wic[h]asha wakan; JGN offers a rather misleadingly Platonic vision of the "spirit world" versus the mundane "shadow world"; BE refers to CH's later "great" vision on Bear Butte (picts below). . . . CH's 1st hanblec[h]ia/vision quest—circa age 14—included fasting, until, on the 3rd day, he experienced a vision, of a warrior on horseback, with a lightning zigzag on his cheek and wearing a stone behind his ear, with one mere feather in his hair, and no scalps; the man, moreover, was impervious to bullets: CH would later dress (and behave) accordingly in battle. Fittingly enough, the experience included both a visionary and a real "red-backed" hawk (that is, a kestrel, aka sparrow hawk). According to Luther Standing Bear, rather than the single (kestrel) feather of the vision, he wore "the full body of a hawk [kestrel] on the left side of his head" (My People the Sioux 88)—and Hoka he'd away! (Either way, he was not your typical warrior-headdress conformist.)]


Bear Butte, SD (TCG, 2009, 2011; select thumbnail for larger photo)

Crazy Horse Memorial (Black Hills, SD) [TCG, 2011; select thumbnail for larger photo]:

[OLDER] Photos from the Crazy Horse Memorial (and tourist-trap kitsch store), SD (TCG, 2006, 2009; select thumbnail for larger photo)::::

*Chapter 8: "The Fight with Three Stars [General Crook]" (57-64/73-82)
    —that is, Battle of the Rosebud (Montana): just eight days before the Battle of the Little Bighorn
    —BE's father's decision to join Crazy Horse (& a denigration of Red Cloud)
    —"flood" image/motif: "the river of Wasichus"
    —BE's 1st battle: like Crazy Horse?, thinking of his vision "maybe . . . helped"
    —Sun Dance [cf. Luther Standing Bear's more ("painfully") detailed account of the Lakota Sun Dance in My People the Sioux (1928)]
        —fertility motif: time (June); "women . . . bearing children," etc.: "the Sun loves all fruitfulness"
        —emphasis again on "four," and centering
        —SACRIFICE ritual: rawhide strips tied into cut torso; sacrificial "victims" then strain until the "flesh tore loose"  (cf. Deloria's introduction [Bison ed. or pdf], his privileging of "sacrifice"?)
    —"comic interlude": Iron Hawk's narration of battle—not the bravest fellow in the camp!?; spends most of the day of the battle—EATING!; see also IH's "shaky" appearance at the Little Bighorn

*Chapter 9: "The Rubbing Out of Long Hair" (65-80/83-101)
    —BE's 1st partic. in healing ceremony; note "motifs" similar to BE's GV, though Hairy Chin is a "Bear" medicine man
    —Warriors riding like "swallows": the Lakota in battle often invoked swallows, like geese, for their swift flight and—regarding swallows per se—for their erratic motion. Moreover: "Certain birds, such as the swallows, spotted eagles, hawks (that is the grey grouse hawks [goshawk? aka "chicken hawk"]) are mysterious" (Walker, Lakota Belief and Ritual 102).
    —the reader's main impression of the battle one of helter-skelter confusion and mayhem?—exemplified by Standing Bear's "We were all crazy" paragraph, so "crazy" that they accidentally scalp a Cheyenne ally
    —or is the main impression one of sheer horror?—Standing Bear cannot even sleep that night "because when I shut my eyes I could see all those horrible sights again"
    —Iron Hawk's "righteous anger" in battle (as he keeps "beating" a dead soldier): "These Wasichus wanted it, and they came to get it, and we gave it to them" . . . Later, regarding the soldiers killed in the river, trying to fill their buckets: "I guess they got enough to drink, for they are drinking yet"
    —"comic interludes": "Two fat old [Native] women" and the naked (live!) soldier . . . the soldier hiding in the bush, tormented by the Native boys' amateurish bow-&-arrow efforts: "Once he yelled 'Ow'"!
    —BE (finally): initial ignorance about his find, a time-piece, until he found out how to wind it: is there a metaphor here?!
    —suggestion of cannibalism!?
    —Like Iron Hawk, BE isn't sorry for the many dead (but such a strange—uh—translation?!): "I was a happy boy"; moreover, he "knew this would happen," given his people's kinship with the "thunder beings of my vision"
    —chapter's finale: spontaneous "kill-songs," à la impromptu street rap, etc.—not bad for a bunch of "illiterates" incapable of the "literary arts." . . .
    —[later add:] What strikes me more and more when I reread this chapter is the odd/uneven tone (or tones): a mixture of the chaos and smell-of-blood horror of war and a goodly amount of black humor, even slapstick comedy?!

Battle of the Little Bighorn (1876)—Tribal Representation::::
Oglala5 of the 71 bands
of the Lakota ([Teton] "Sioux")
[western SD, etc.]
Crazy Horse; (the elder) American Horse; (the elder) Hump; BLACK ELK
HunkpapaSitting Bull; Gall; Iron Hawk (speaker in BES) [and, BTW, though not at the battle!: Vine Deloria, Jr.]
Mnikoju ("Minneconjou")Lame Deer ("leader of the battle"); Lone Horn; Spotted Elk (Big Foot); (younger) Hump; (Joseph) White Bull (who later claimed to have been the one to kill Custer); Fast Bull; Standing Bear (speaker in BES)
Sans Arc 
SanteeDakota ("Sioux") [Minn, eastern SD]Inkpaduta(?; may have been present)
YanktonaisNakota ([Yankton] "Sioux") [southeastern SD] 
Cheyenne (Shahíyela][Wyoming, etc.] 
[—and some Arapaho]  
    1 Apparently absent were the Brulé (Sic[h]angu) and Two Kettles Lakota bands.
    2 Not to be confused with the Blackfeet/Blackfoot tribe of Montana.

View Larger Map
Photos from the LITTLE BIGHORN Battlefield National Monument, MT (TCG, May 2009; select thumbnail for larger photo)::::
Better Photos? (TCG, 2011; select thumbnail for larger photo)::::

—painting by William Reusswig;
jokes stolen from Vine Deloria, Jr.

—from a series of memes based on the quip, "I could be birding right now";
graphic "borrowed" from Google Images

CUSTER LIVES! (TCG, 2011; select thumbnail for larger photo)::::
    *1. Custer State Park (Black Hills, SD) / *2. Roadside café between Custer township & Custer St Prk /
    *3. Business across the street from Wall Drug (Wall, SD) / *4. Custer National Forest (Montana; just east of the Little Bighorn battlefield)

Ouch, another relevant picture: a 1970's "adult" video game in which CUSTER is allowed to get his revenge on a nubile "squaw" (select thumbnail for larger photo):

THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON (1941): excerpt from the "classic Western" (1941), highlighting Custer's favorite tune (& 7th Cavalry battle song!), the jig-ish Irish drinking ditty, "Garry Owen."

—my photo: Turkey Vulture at Crazy Horse Monument, 2011

 TH, Jan. 17th:: [Substitute: Lydia Presley]
*Chapter 10: "Walking the Black Road" (81-86/103-109)
    —Historical realities (1876): Sitting Bull & Gall to Canada; but Crazy Horse staying in "the country that was ours"
    —Translation realities: Neihardt's choice of translating the Lakota wi as "moon" (81/103) (as in—ugh—"many moons"!?) is rather a poetic (and primitivist) archaicism, since the word just as well means "month" as it does "moon" in Lakota.
        —Canada as "Grandmother's Land": refers to Queen Victoria (cf. the U.S. President as "Grandfather").
    —whisky: mniwakan ("holy[?!] water")—no irony there . . .)
    —"forced" signing of the Treaty of 1876, ceding the Black Hills [As an historical sidenote, one chief of the Mnikoju, Lone Horn, is said to have "died of shame" soon afterwards.]
        —BE's "land ethic": "But only crazy or very foolish men would sell their Mother Earth." Then the incredible plaint, "Sometimes I think it might have been better if we had stayed together and made them kill us all."
    —starvation plight: eating their ponies, many dying babies
    —Crazy Horse's now even "queerer" behavior: even more withdrawn, as if, sensing his immanent death, he is "thinking how to help us when he would not be with us any more"
    —in contrast, Spotted Tail has grown fat on "Wasichu food": "How could men get fat by being bad, and starve by being good?" (The eternal question of Western theology & ethics, too!?) . . . ergo, (JGN claims that!) BE himself begins to doubt his vision: "maybe it was only a queer dream after all"

*Chapter 11: "The Killing of Crazy Horse" (87-90/111-114)
    —Lakotas' suspicion (supported by history) that CH's "impromptu" slaying was planned by the washic[h]u
    —CH's almost Christ-like death: refuses to see the "Great Father" in Washington, D.C. because "'there is no Great Father between me and the Great Spirit'" (cf. Christ's words regarding Caesar); in fact, this whole sentence is JGN's interpolation (as DeMallie tells us), so the influence of the Western mystical tradition seems all the more likely.
    —BE's (er, Neihardt's) wonderfully moving paragraph of tribute: "Crazy Horse was dead. He was brave and good and wise. . . ." At last, "I cried all night, and so did my father."
    —Not only did CH refuse to be photographed while alive, but note how his parents are intent on keeping his body "hidden" in death. BE seems almost joyous that his body "might be lying over there," not far from them; but at last, the place of his remains is no matter: "but where his spirit is, it will be good to be." (Uttered by an old man, whose "dream" has "failed"—and so now looking forward to such a place himself? But again, this is another interpolation by JGN!)

*Chapter 12: "Grandmother's Land" (91-96/115-121)
    —impending doom of reservation life (and assimilation): "they were going to pen us up in little islands and make us be like Wasichus"
    —VOCAB. note: "How" is Neihardt's mispelling of hau, Lakota for both greeting ("hello") & assent ("yes," "agreed")
    Why does the "Injun" say "Hau"?--I mean, "How"?: MP3 excerpt from Disney's "What Made the Red Man Red" (Peter Pan)
    —ergo?—BE becoming more conscious of his visionary calling: "I wondered when my power would grow"
    —finally SPEAKS to another of his visions: tells uncle of his "queer feeling" prophetic of their encounter with the enemy tribe, the Crows; tells Iron Tail that he's "heard a voice in the clouds" and that they should flee (the Crows again) . . . then informs father of the coyote who's told him where the bison are
    —plaintive coda conflating hungry Lakota and hungry porcupines: the porcupines huddle near the camp, for warmth, "crying because they were so cold"—and the humans let them be, feeling sorry for them; and when the "old people" talk of the good old days, BE feels "like crying." (Oh, my poor young porcupine!)

*Chapter 13: "The Compelling Fear" (97-100/123-127)
    —the "grasses": oh, "their tender faces"!
    —"queer" inkling about the Blackfeet, voices of the thunder, etc., confirmation of his growing powers; but another Sun Dance reminds him of his vision and that he has still done nothing about it; now he FEARS the thunder, the very clouds—at last, the voices telling him, "It is time! It is time! It is time!" . . . ergo BE becomes more withdrawn and "queer," as the crows, too, mock him
    —confessing (as it were) his vision to the medicine man Black Road; the man's solution is that his vision needs public praxis: a "horse dance . . . for the people"

*Chapter 14: "The Horse Dance" (101-109/129-139)
    —BE's prep. for ceremony: fasting, purification (sweat lodge [inipi ritual], sage)
    —memories of GV include "all the songs that" he "had heard" in his vision!
    —typos: p. 102/131: "straight black lines"; "bright red streaks"; 105/134: "I knew the real"!?
    —note the "quaternal" chant (4 syllables, 4 times): "Hey-a-a-hey! hey-a-a-hey! hey-a-a-hey! hey-a-a-hey!"
    —BE's "shadow" metaphysics encore: he "could see that what we then were doing [the actual ceremony] was like a shadow cast upon the earth from yonder vision in the heavens. It knew the real was yonder and the darkened dream[!] of it was here"  [Later add: but this is also obviously another interjection of JGN's good ol' neo-Platonism.] . . . and yet that "shadow" must have been a grand procession, visually!
    synchronicity: ceremony punctuated with a rainstorm response from the "thunder beings"; . . . even more eerie event: upon returning to the tepee, they see on the design of the sacred hoop in the soil "tiny pony hooves as though the spirit horses had been dancing while we danced"
    —further praxis: the curing of individuals
    *—climactic prayer one of fertility/rebirth (and "naturism," much in the spirit of the Ghost Dance to come): "'Guide the people that they may be as blossoms on your holy tree, and make it flourish deep in Mother Earth and make it full of leaves and singing birds.'"
    —BE's new dedication to his GV: now rises early to view the "daybreak star" of the East—the direction of (especially shamanic) "understanding" (via the analogy of "light," no doubt)

*Chapter 15: "The Dog Vision" (110-116/141-148)
    —"alone," BE receives a reminder from the two "slant-arrow" men that he "should do" his "duty" to his people
    *—but then the notable retrospective passage, after the "failure" of the dream: "now when I look upon my people in despair, I feel like crying and I wish and wish my vision could have been given to a man more worthy." Sure, he's cured individuals, but he realizes that means little in the grand ecological scheme of things, which concerns races & species, not individuals: "If a man or woman or child dies, it does not matter long, for the nation lives on. It was the nation that was dying, and the vision was for the nation; but I have done nothing with it."
    *—HANBLEC[H]IA/vision quest: as part of "lament" [the hanblec[h]ia is also known as "crying for a vision"], BE first fasts for four days, as preparation; for the vision quest itself, he is left out alone: "But the place was full of people; for the spirits were there" . . . three birds from three directions (spotted eagle, "chicken hawk" [both who eventually speak], and "black swallow"; from fourth direction, the south, come "beautiful butterflies," crying: "a pitiful, whimpering noise"! . . . DOGS from a cloud of dust, soon charged upon by the butterflies-changed-to-swallows; the dogs' heads become those of the washic[h]u
    —subsequent DREAM—of healing the "sick" via the healing herb—and a plethora of rebirth imagery: the light of dawn, the rejuvenation of nature (birds, horses, bison), and—most startling?!—"clouds of baby faces smiling at me"!
    —As with the GV, his hanblec[h]ia needs fulfillment in the real world, via the . . . [next chapter]

*Chapter 16: "Heyoka Ceremony" (117-120/149-153)
    *— Via HEYOKAs (trickster-esque Lakota "holy fools," through whom "everything is backwards"), BE (or rather Neihardt, as DeMallie indicates!) offers a philosophy of tragedy & comedy: "the truth comes into this world with two faces," but both create an imbalance; the heyoka's job, BE/JGN surmises, is to correct, to reverse (ergo the "backwards"), this one-sidedness. . . . [cf. Shakespeare's fools (and Jung's shadow) as performing a similar function of redressing the king's (& ego's) imbalance?]
    —ceremony per se: ritual slaying of dog (maybe the strangest—and most [culinarily] disturbing—chapter in the book, for the Western "palate") . . . meanwhile, the heyokas provide a comic sideshow of sorts during the proceedings, via such props as bent arrows
    *—But through such shenanigans (and canine corpse consumption) comes a tribal renewal: they are "better able now to see the greenness of the world, the wideness of the sacred day"; and—"Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other, thus we should do."

[This note usually comes later, but it's appropriate here, too, because the Lakota heyoka is pretty much a human embodiment of the trickster figure:]
Note on the TRICKSTER archetype/NatAmer deity-motif: In NatAmer folklore/myth in general, Coyote is the most common Trickster, a cosmic & natural force blessed with both sheer animal "stupidity" and uncanny animal cunning. In Lakota stories, for instance, he is forever losing his tail, getting chopped up into bits, and generally making a mess of the cosmic order. But he always comes back to life, and the world is better off for his shenanigans. (Also prominent as a Trickster in Lakota myth is Iktomi, the spider. In the Pacific Northwest, Raven [or Crow, or even Blue Jay] is Trickster.) The function of these tricksters has long been debated. My own reading relies on Jungian psychology, Bakhtinian dialogism, and ecology/ecocriticism. Jung reads the trickster as an aspect of the Shadow archetype—that "dark" complex of the unconscious psyche whose real role is to make the ego realize that it is out of balance, through its sheer repression of that "dark" side. The philosopher & linguist Bakhtin claimed that the dominant social discourse towards order and reason necessarily entails a "polyphonic" (multi-voiced) reaction, in myth, literature, and society itself. Regarding this latter, he points to various cultural manifestations of "Carnival," wherein the common folk go "crazy" in an established ritual that is directed against the (repressive) social order. (Cf. Mardi Gras!) Finally, in a purely naturalist/ecological sense, the Trickster is "raw" instinctual animal, always erupting into "civilized" (and repressed) human consciousness as a magical & numinous force—again, as a corrective against an oh-so-blind ego-faith in order and rationalism: a reminder at last that WE are animals, that cosmic evolution needs entropy and chaos, that to remain in any blithe condition of stasis is a psychological and cultural death.

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 TU, Jan. 22nd::


Famous photo of slain Mnikoju Lakota chief Big Foot (Si Tanka) at Wounded Knee.

(Now let's read the Momaday poem on Wounded Knee?! [It's one cold poem.])

* more Images of Wounded Knee, incl. the open mass-grave trench (or see my meme, below)

—photo "borrowed" from Google Images
(Wounded Knee mass burial)

—photo "borrowed" from Google Images

To the Top

 TH, Jan. 24th::

  RESPONSE #1—Due TUES., 1/29—CHOOSE ONE ("2-4 pp." [2 pp. minimum; no maximum, especially for option h]):
        Don't worry about MLA formatting, headers, etc.; but do indicate which option you're doing, please.
a) "Dear Reader": Write a Preface for Black Elk Speaks from BLACK ELK's point of view, in which the meeting between the two men, the motives of both, etc., are imaginatively reinscribed via the voice of the Native "Other." (Assume that Black Elk has struggled through Neihardt's entire prose text, and thus knows its contents. Also, your tone may be humorous-satirical, tragic-poignant, or—?) . . . [Later add:] Another "genre" option: feel free to frame it as a letter from BE to JGN.
b) "Interpret" (such a loaded, rotten term!) Black Elk's Great Vision, either seriously, from an Anglo sociological/psychological/comparative-religion/literary perspective—OR, as a tongue-in-cheek satire, pretending that you are a completely well-intentioned but misguided (Indian-wanna-be?) social scientist or literary scholar. (Importantly here, it should be clear which sub-option you've chosen!) References to other parts of BES may well be appropriate.
c) Despite my general "trickster" attitude evidenced in the two previous prompt choices, I still find Black Elk's Great Vision beautiful, moving, and "true." And I can relate his vision to several intuitive-"mystical" experiences during my own early years, although these were hardly so incredibly mythically coherent, or pregnant with meaning for "my people." Feel free, then, for Response #1, to relate an experience from your own life that seems to possess some parallels to BE's Great Vision, and perhaps to his attempts to actualize it.
d) "Final Impressions" of BES—possible considerations: from a literary viewpoint, is the book an aesthetic success (why/how)? In a grander sociological scope, how would you negotiate the two seemingly contradictory conclusions, BE's final thoughts of being a "pitiful old man" of a failure and JGN's and Deloria's later, more positive (re-)visions of BE's message "spreading across the world"? And/or finally, who is the real "hero" of the book—Neihardt? Black Elk? (Or Crazy Horse?!) ([new add:] Or DeMallie?!)
e) Discuss at least two of the poems on our "Poetic Interlude #1" PDF vis-à-vis BES, going beyond the class discussion.
f) [Later add:] How about a discussion of the two "main"(?—at least named) women in the narrative—White Buffalo Calf Woman & Queen Victoria? They seem to beg for some connection (and of course contrast), as cultural leaders, and even in terms of ritual & ceremony.
g) FREE RESPONSE: your own topic-choice focused response on some aspect or related aspects of BES. This option is aimed at "more earnest scholars" who may find that many of the prompts above are pretty touchy-feely-subjective-response-y—and who perhaps have guessed that Tom spent way too many years teaching Comp 101 and probably wants to teach creative writing, too.
h) Finally, as declared on the syllabus, a do-your-own-thing/anything-you-want "READER'S JOURNAL" that addresses a "goodly" range of our assigned readings to date is an alternate to the specific prompts above; but be as "comprehensive" as possible (see "final note" below), and avoid simple plot summaries or a simply rehashing of ideas brought up in class or on the course web notes. (Feel free to object to/expand upon these, of course.) [This last caveat applies to all response choices.]
* Finally, to quote the syllabus as reminder: "graduate students—and undergraduates who want a high score—should also incorporate at least one 'outside' [non-assigned] reading in their responses." (See the texts on reserve on the syllabus; check out the auxiliary .pdf files on Canvas [under "BLACK ELK&Neihardt"]; DeMallie's concluding essay in the 2008 & 2014 eds. also qualifies.)

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 Course Syllabus/Schedule

 TCG's Nat. Amer. Authors & Readings Links

 TCG's Native American Lit Courses: VIDEO Resources

 TCG's Native American MEMES

 TCG's Great "Indian" Moments in Pop Culture

 TCG''s Native American Reading List


ENGL/ETHN 445N/845N Class NOTES/Assignments Page--Spring 2019

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