Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Reading List: Black Elk Speaks

Black Elk Speaks
by Black Elk & John G. Neihardt

My mini-tour of history continues, this time returning to the Native American experience in one of the more fascinating narratives available, a rare inside look at one of the more famous Indians (because that look is the reason anyone knows him today).  That's really what doomed Indian dominance of the American continent.  Europeans of every stripe were perfectly willing to interact with any tribe they ran into, and most tribes used the opportunity in some way to improve their lives (hence the introduction and assimilation of horses into tribal life on the Plains), yet too often Indians remained aloof and secluded, even amongst each other, which was the reason they really lost most of their ground to Americans, because they couldn't unite for longer than a few months, and were constantly spoiling for war with each other as much as their common enemies.  Americans understood this all too well.  Reading about Tecumseh made this a little too obvious, the basic flaw in the formula.  Yet I infinitely respect the Indian way of life, which has been thoroughly assimilated into American culture (and yet still excludes Indians themselves, whether by their own insistence at this point I don't care to speculate), and have always been intrigued by Indian culture.  (The fact is, there are as many great Indians in American history as Americans, and that alone should say something.)  This book is more or less the bible of that, and I'm excited to finally read it.

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