Black Elk Speaks: The Complete Edition

By John G. Neihardt | Go to book overview

3 THE GREAT VISION

What happened after that until the summer I was nine years old is not a story. There were winters and summers, and they were good; for the Wasichus had made their iron road* along the Platte and traveled there. This had cut the bison herd in two, but those that stayed in our country with us were more than could be counted, and we wandered without trouble in our land.

Now and then the voices would come back when I was out alone, like someone calling me, but what they wanted me to do I did not know. This did not happen very often, and when it did not happen, I forgot about it; for I was growing taller and was riding horses now and could shoot prairie chickens and rabbits with my bow. The boys of my people began very young to learn the ways of men, and no one taught us; we just learned by doing what we saw, and we were warriors at a time when boys now are like girls.

It was the summer when I was nine years old, and our people were moving slowly towards the Rocky Mountains. We camped one evening in a valley beside a little creek just before it ran into the Greasy Grass, and there was a man by the name of Man Hip who liked me and asked me to eat with him in his tepee.

* The Union Pacific Railway. [Máza chąkú ‘iron road’ is the Lakota designation for railroad. Neihardt added this paragraph, including the historical context concerning the building of the railroad and the splitting of the buffalo into northern and southern herds (see Rorabacher, The American Buffalo in Transition, 38). The Union Pacific began laying track west of Omaha in 1865; in November 1867 the line reached Cheyenne, Wyoming, and in May 1869 it connected with the Central Pacific line at Promontory Point, Utah (Billington, Westward Expansion, 556–57).—RDM]

† The Little Bighorn River. [Phežísla wakpá ‘Greasy Grass River.’—RDM]

-13-

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