Black Elk Speaks: The Complete Edition

By John G. Neihardt; Black Elk | Go to book overview

2 EARLY BOYHOOD

I am a Lakota of the Ogalala band.1 My father’s name was Black Elk, and his father before him bore the name, and the father of his father, so that I am the fourth to bear it. He was a medicine man and so were several of his brothers. Also, he and the great Crazy Horse’s father were cousins, having the same grandfather. My mother’s name was White Cow Sees; her father was called Refuse-to-Go, and her mother, Plenty Eagle Feathers. I can remember my mother’s mother and her father. My father’s father was killed by the Pawnees2 when I was too little to know, and his mother, Red Eagle Woman, died soon after.

I was born in the Moon of the Popping Trees (December)3 on the Little Powder River in the Winter When the Four Crows Were Killed (1863),4 and I was three years old when my father’s right leg was broken in the Battle of the Hundred Slain.* From that wound he limped until the day he died, which was about the time when Big Foot’s band was butchered on Wounded Knee (1890). He is buried here in these hills.

I can remember that Winter of the Hundred Slain as a man may remember some bad dream he dreamed when he was little, but I can not tell just

* The Fetterman Fight, commonly described as a “massacre,” in which Captain Fetterman and 81 men were wiped out on Peno Creek near Fort Phil Kearny, December 21, 1866. [Lt. Col. W. J. Fetterman and his command were killed in the battle called “the Hundred Slain,” following a Cheyenne prophecy that the Indians would kill one hundred soldiers. The actual number, as Neihardt notes, was less. For White Bull’s eyewitness account of the battle, see Vestal, Warpath, 50–69, and Howard, The Warrior Who Killed Custer, 37–38. A detailed account from the Cheyenne perspective is given in Powell, People of the Sacred Mountain, 1:451–61. Also see Hyde, Red Cloud’s Folk, 145–49.—RDM]

-5-

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