The story of Black Elk and Sioux tribes in North America
Written by Yoohyun Jeon | Published. 2021.10.21 15:04 | Count : 166


[Photo of North American Flag during Sioux Era. Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/tippi-tipi-native-american-time-4671974/]

 We are all aware of the fact that United States is a melting pot of diverse ethnicity. My classroom at my school consists of mainly Caucasian but also many other ethnic groups such as Asian, Hispanic and Black. 


 Do you know who was the first to dwell on territory of North America? It is the group of people who are called Native Americans in the present day. So, who exactly are they? They are the members of one of the indigenous peoples of North, Central, or South America, particularly those indigenous to where is now the United States. Some of the well-known native American tribes include the Sioux, Algonquin, Iroquois, Wampanoag, Mohican, Mohegan, Ojibwa, and Illinois. Especially, the Sioux Nation is a large confederation of Native American tribes that used to exist on the Great Plains. The Sioux are divided into three groups: Eastern Dakota, Western Dakota, and Lakota. 


[Photo of Sioux Tribe Photo Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-three-people-wearing-red-tribal-clothes-2600339/]


 Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt, relates the story of Lakota’s life and Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota medicine man. Black Elk Speaks focuses on the visions that Black Elk had and how it relates to events in Sioux tribes. This book could offer a reference to the native American life because Black Elk wished John Neihardt to spread the story of not only himself but of his Sioux tribe at that time. Through John Neihardt, Black Elk wanted to spread what traditions they preserved and what sufferings they experienced due to American government. (https://kr1lib.org/book/3637195/2034e9)


Black Elk knew that John Neihardt is a person who is not only eager to learn about Sioux life but who could truly understand the spiritual world and native American history. Thus, Black Elk tells Neihardt about his gift, his mystical vision. He believes that he was chosen as the Holy Man by God and that he had to fulfill his divine roles. 


 There is one main spectrum of Black Elk’s words to Neihardt: the political lives of Sioux. He wanted Neihardt to learn political factors so that he could share the Sioux life to the whole world. In terms of the political aspect, Black Elk told Neihardt how Whites and the president of the U.S. have taken control of Sioux’s land and properties and pushed its tribe to marginality. (https://kr1lib.org/book/3637195/2034e9)


[Photo of Sioux Tribe Photo Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/topless-men-in-black-shrots-3337611/

The U.S. Army and the Federal Government have constantly pushed, abused, exploited, and overrun the Sioux tribe. They wanted to annex Native American territory through the mass killing of Native Americans. Furthermore, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in the 1850s that Oglalas and Brules were forced to move to the Missouri River. They would be denied rations if they refused. This reveals how the U.S. Army and the Government pushed Native Americans including Sioux towards marginality and gave them no options to choose. After the government confiscated the sacred land of the Lakota, they forced the natives to be westernized through brutality and force. The Lakota tribes lost their territory, which was sold and simply taken from them because they are no longer recognized as sovereign countries with treaty-making powers. The US legislation compelled the Lakota off their lands, including the Black Hills.


The U.S. Army and the Government reallocated Sioux’s sacred land and now the system called “Modern Reservation System” has been made. Now their land is governed not by the tribes but by the US Department which is unjustifiable. Even though the US Department justified themselves to be harmless, they have physically and mentally suppressed the native Americans. This led many Sioux nations to view “death” as an alternative to assimilation.


Now, the population of the Sioux tribe has decreased from 5,000,000 to 16,000 which is a massive decrease compared to the period when European explorers first entered the continent. As the population continuously decreases, the Sioux tribe, especially the Black Elk, attempts to preserve and carry their culture and traditions to the next generation. 


Unfortunately, due to the pandemic I didn’t have chance yet to visit the Navajo district or Sioux tribe's site, but reading the Black Elk Speaks, I got acquainted with Sioux tribe’s history and culture as if I have seen them in person. Hence through Black Elk Speaks, I hope the Sioux tribe’s cultures and traditions are better inherited on to the next generation (https://kr1lib.org/book/3637195/2034e9).


Yoohyun Jeon

Grade 11

Idyllwild Arts Academy 

Yoohyun Jeon  hsr@dherald.com

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