History or Western Novel? Aug 31, 2007
"Black Elk Speaks" is an interesting book, but if read completely, to include the appendices, it becomes clear that the author took significant liberties in transforming the originally dictated manuscript into more romantic prose. This has the disappointing effect of casting doubt over the book as a work of history. Taken for prose, the book is a sad memoir of an aged Lakota warrior and a record of his "visions".
There are several disconnects. For warrior/medicine man who ultimately seeks revenge on the white man for the slaughter at Wounded Knee, Black Elk had little trepidation about throwing in with Wild Bill's Wild West show and touring Europe for a few years. Black Elk omits his own tribe's murder of white women and children while painting vivid pictures of U.S. Army war crimes.
Still, a deeper of understanding of Plains Indian culture will be gained by any reader.
I wouldn't recommend this book.