Black Elk Speaks
At the end of the Moon of Falling Leaves [October], after they
had killed Crazy Horse, the Wasichus told us we must move from where
we were over to the Missouri River and live there at different agencies
they had made for us. One big band started with Red Cloud, and we
started with another big band under Spotted Tail. These two bands
were about a day's travel apart.
Our people were all sad because Crazy Horse was dead, and now they
were going to pen us up in little islands and make us be like Wasichus.
So before we had gone very far, some of us broke away and started
for the country where we used to be happy. We traveled fast, and
the soldiers did not follow us. But when our little band came to
the Powder River country, it was not like it used to be, and we
were not ready for the winter. So we kept on traveling north, and
we went fast, because we wanted to be with our relatives under Sitting
Bull and Gall in Grandmother's Land.
It was very cold before we reached Clay Creek where our relatives
were; but they were glad to see us and took care of us. They had
made plenty of meat, for there were many bison in that country;
and it was a good winter. The soldiers could not come to kill us
I was fifteen years old that winter, and I thought much of my vision
and wondered when my duty was to come; for the Grandfathers had
shown me my people walking on the black road and how the nation's
hoop would be broken and the flowering tree be withered, before
I should bring the hoop together with the power that was given me,
and make the holy tree to flower in the center and find the red
road again. Part of this had happened already, and I wondered when
my power would grow, so that the rest might be as I had seen it
in my vision. But I could say nothing about this to anyone, because
I was only a boy and people would think I was foolish and say: "What
can you do if even Sitting Bull can do nothing?"
When the grasses appeared again we went bison hunting, and I was
big enough now to hunt with the men. My uncle, Running Horse, and
I were out together alone one day. I was riding a bay and leading
my roan, which was very fast. My uncle was riding a roan and leading
a brown horse. We came to Little River Creek and crossed it, and
just then I began feeling queer and I knew something was going to
happen. So I said to my uncle: "I have a queer feeling and
I think something is going to happen soon. I will watch while you
kill a bison and we will make quick work of it and go." He
looked at me in a strange way awhile. Then he said "How"
and started after a bison. There were several grazing in the valley.
I held my horses and watched. When he had killed a fat cow, I went
to help him butcher, but I held my horses while I was doing this,
for I still had the queer feeling. Then I heard a voice that said:
"Go at once and look!" I told Running Horse I would go
to the top of the hill and see what was there. So I rode up and
I saw two Lakota hunters galloping after a bison across a valley
toward some bluffs. Just after they went out of sight behind a bluff,
my horse began to prick up his ears and look around and sniff the
air. Then I heard some fast shooting over there, then many horses'
hoofs. Then I saw a band of about fifty horsebacks coming out from
behind the bluff where the two hunters had disappeared. They were
Crows, and afterwards we learned that they had killed the two hunters.
So my uncle and I took as much meat as we could and rode fast back
to our village and told the others.
This showed that my power was growing, and I was glad.
In the Moon of Making Fat [June], Sitting Bull and Gall had a sun
dance at Forest Butte, and afterwards we went hunting again. A man
by the name of Iron Tail was with me this time, and we were out
alone. I killed a big fat bison cow and we were butchering, when
a thunder storm was coming up. Then it began to pour rain, and I
heard a voice in the clouds that said: "Make haste! Before
the day is out something will happen!"
Of course when I heard this I was excited and told Iron Tail I
had heard a voice in the clouds and that we must hurry up and go.
We left everything but the fat of the cow, and fled. When we got
to the camp of our little band, we were excited and told the people
we must flee. So they broke camp and started. We came to Muddy Creek.
It was still raining hard and we had trouble getting across because
the horses sank in the mud. A part of us got across, but there was
an old man with an old woman and a beautiful daughter whose pony-drag
got stuck in the middle of the creek. Just then a big band of Crows
came charging, and there were so many of them that we could not
hold them off and we had to flee, shooting back at them as they
came after us.
There was a man called Brave Wolf who did a very great deed there
by the ford that day. He was close to the pony-drag of the two old
people and the beautiful girl when it got stuck in the mud, so he
jumped off his horse, which was a very fast bison-runner, and made
the beautiful girl get on. Then he stood there by the two old people
and fought until all three were killed. The girl got away on his
fast horse. My cousin, Hard-to-Hit, did a brave deed too, and died.
He charged back alone at a Crow who was shooting at a Lakota in
a bush, and he was killed.
The voice in the clouds had told the truth, and it seemed that
my power was growing stronger all the time.
When my cousin, Hard-to-Hit, was killed, it was my duty to protect
his wife, so I did; and we got lost from our little party in the
dark. It rained all night, and my cousin's wife cried so hard that
I had to make her quit for fear some enemy might hear her and find
When we reached the big camp in the morning my relatives began
mourning for my cousin, Hard-to-Hit. They would put their arm across
each other's shoulders and wail. They did this all day long, and
I had to do it too. I went around crying, "hownh, hownh,"
and saying over and over: "My cousin--he thought so much of
me and I thought so much of him, and now he is dead. Hownh, hownh."
I liked my cousin well enough, but I did not feel like crying all
day. This was what I had to do, and it was hard work.
We stayed on Clay Creek in Grandmother's Land all that summer and
the next winter when I was sixteen years old. That was a very cold
winter. There were many blizzards, game was hard to find, and afterwhile
the papa [dried meat] that we had made in the summer was all eaten.
It looked as though we might starve to death if we did not find
some game soon, and everybody was downhearted. Little hunting parties
went out in different directions, but it is bad hunting in blizzard
weather. My father and I started out alone leading our horses in
the deep snow. When we got to Little River Creek we made a shelter
with our bison robes against a bank of the stream and started a
fire. That evening I saw a rabbit in a hollow tree, and when I chopped
the tree down there were four rabbits in there. I killed them all,
because the snow was so deep they could not get away. My father
and I roasted them and we ate all four of them before we went to
sleep, because it was hard walking in the snow and we had been empty
a good while.
The wind went down that night and it was still and very cold. While
I was lying there in a bison robe, a coyote began to howl not far
off, and suddenly I knew it was saying something. It was not making
words, but it said something plainer than words, and this was it:
"Two-legged one, on the big ridge west of you there are bison;
but first you shall see two more two-leggeds over there."
My father had dozed off, so I wakened him and said: "Father,
I have heard a coyote say that there are bison on the big ridge
west of us, and that we shall first see two people over there. Let
us get up early."
By this time my father had noticed that I had some kind of queer
power, and he believed me. The wind came up again with the daylight,
and we could see only a little way ahead when we started west in
the morning. Before we came to the ridge, we saw two horses, dim
in the blowing snow beside some bushes. They were huddled up with
their tails to the wind and their heads hanging low. When we came
closer, there was a bison robe shelter in the brush, and in it were
an old man and a boy, very cold and hungry and discouraged. They
were Lakotas and were glad to see us, but they were feeling weak,
because they had been out two days and had seen nothing but snow.
We camped there with them in the brush, and then we went up on the
ridge afoot. There was much timber up there. We got behind the hill
in a sheltered place and waited, but we could see nothing. While
we were waiting, we talked about the people starving at home, and
we were all sad. Now and then the snow haze would open up for a
little bit and you could see quite a distance, then it would close
again. While we were talking about our hungry people, suddenly the
snow haze opened a little, and we saw a shaggy bull's head coming
out of the blowing snow up the draw that led past us below. Then
seven more appeared, and the snow haze came back and shut us in
there. They could not see us, and they were drifting with the wind
so that they could not smell us.
We four stood up and made vows to the four quarters of the world,
saying: "Haho! haho!" Then we got our horses from the
brush on the other side of the ridge and came around to the mouth
of the draw where the bison would pass as they drifted with the
The two old men were to shoot first and then we two boys would
follow the others horseback. Soon we saw the bison coming. The old
people crept up and shot, but they were so cold, and maybe excited,
that they got only one bison. They cried "Hoka!" and we
boys charged after the other bison. The snow was blowing hard in
the wind that sucked down the draw, and when we came near them the
bison were so excited that they back-tracked and charged right past
us bellowing. This broke the deep snow for our horses and it was
easier to catch them. Suddenly I saw the bison I was chasing go
out in a big flurry of snow, and I knew they had plunged into a
snow-filled gulch, but it was too late to stop, and my horse plunged
right in after them. There we were all together--four bison, my
horse and I all floundering and kicking, but I managed to crawl
out a little way. I had a repeating rifle that they gave me back
at the camp, and I killed the four bison right there, but I had
thrown my mittens away and the gun froze to my hands while I was
shooting, so that I had to tear the skin to get it loose.
When I went back to the others, the other boy had killed three,
so we had eight bison scattered around there in the snow.
It was still morning, but it took till nearly dark for my father
and the other old man to do the butchering. I could not help, because
my hands were frozen. We finally got the meat all piled up in one
place, and then we made a camp in a fine shelter behind a big rock
with brush all around it and plenty of wood. We had a big fire,
and we tied our tanned robes on our horses and fed them plenty of
cottonwood bark from the woods by the stream. The raw robes we used
for the shelter. Then we had a big feast and we sang and were very
The wind went down and it grew very cold, so we had to keep the
fire going all night. During the night I heard a whimpering outside
the shelter, and when I looked, there was a party of porcupines
huddled up as close as they thought they dared to be, and they were
crying because they were so cold. We did not chase them away, because
we felt sorry for them.
We started afoot for camp next day with as much meat loaded on
the horses as they could carry. The rest of it we cached by a big
tree where it would be easy to find. We traveled all that day very
slowly because the snow was deep, and all the while it seemed to
be growing colder. At about sundown of the second day we reached
camp, and the people were glad to see us with all the meat. Some
other men went back later to bring in the meat we had cached.
The morning after we reached home I went out to look for our horses
that were in a draw where there was cottonwood, and five of them
had frozen to death. The cold was very bad after the wind stopped
We began to feel homesick for our own country where we used to
be happy. The old people talked much about it and the good days
before the trouble came. Sometimes I felt like crying when they
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