Black Elk Speaks: The Complete Edition

By John G. Neihardt | Go to book overview

APPENDIX 9
Comparison of the Transcript and Draft of “Origin of the Peace Pipe”

During the Black Elk interviews, as John Neihardt has described in the preface to the 1961 edition, “a faithful record of the narrative and conversations” was kept by his daughter Enid, a skilled stenographer, and a transcript of her notes lay before him when he wrote Black Elk Speaks. To illustrate concretely how Neihardt interpreted the spirit of Black Elk’s narrative, this appendix presents the transcript of Black Elk’s oral account of the origin of the peace pipe for comparison with the corresponding passages in Neihardt’s handwritten draft. (For comparison with the printed version, see page 2, line 23, through page 4, line 4.)

A comparison of the transcript and the draft reveals that Neihardt suppressed unnecessary details, altered awkward expressions, and introduced a tone of reverence and solemnity, transmuting the oral narrative into literature. For the general reader the omitted details clutter up the story, making it harder to follow; but for anthropologists, folklorists, and students of religion some of these details are significant. For example, from the beginning of the story the woman is seen to be carrying something, and when she arrives at the camp she first places this bundle down facing east. A dozen or so of these specific details which do not appear in the story can be found in the transcript.


The Transcript

ORIGINATION OF PEACE PIPE

The Indians were in camp and they had a meeting to send scouts out to kill buffalo. The scouts were on top of a hill and as they looked to north in the distance something was appearing. They were going on, but they wanted to find out what it was and they kept looking and finally it came closer; then they found out it was a woman. Then one of the men said: “That is a woman coming.” One of them had bad thoughts of her and one them said: “This is a sacred woman, throw all bad thots aside.” She came up the hill where they were. She was very beautiful, her long hair hanging down and she had on a beautiful buckskin coat. She put down what she was carrying and covered it up with sage. She knew what they had in their minds. She said: “Probably you do not know me, but if you it to

-291-

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