Black Elk Speaks
The Spirit Journey
Yes, that was a happy time; but it was all over. We went to Manchester
and had a show there for several moons.
When the show was going to leave very early next morning, three
other young men and myself got lost in Manchester, and the fire-boat
went away without us. We could not talk the Wasichu language and
we did not know what to do, so we just roamed around. Afterwhile
we found two other Lakotas who had been left behind, and one of
these could talk English. He said if we went to London we could
get money in another show that was there, and then we could go home.
We were all sick to go home. So the English-talker got some tickets
with the money we all had together, and we went to London on the
The show was called Mexican Joe. It was a small show, but they
gave us a dollar every day for being in it. After we had been in
London awhile, Mexican Joe took us to Paris, and we had a show there
a long while. There was a Wasichu girl who came to the show very
often. She liked me and took me home to see her father and mother.
They liked me too and were good to me. I could not talk their language.
I made signs, and the girl learned a few Lakota words.
From Paris, we went into Germany and from there to a place where
the earth was burning. There was a tall butte, shaped at the top
like a tepee, and it was burning up there. I heard that a long time
ago a big town and many people disappeared in the earth there.
I was more and more sick to go home all the time now, because it
had been two winters since I went away. I could not think of anything
else, and afterwhile this made me really sick, but I thought I would
have to stay with the show until I could get money enough to go
Mexican Joe took us back to Paris, but I could not be in the show
because I was so sick now. The girl I told you about took me home
to her father and mother, and they made me well. Then one morning
I did go home for awhile.
That morning I had on Wasichu clothes and shoes and everything.
The only difference was that my hair was long. It was not braided,
just hanging back over my shoulders. I was feeling well and we were
just sitting down to eat the first meal. This girl-friend of mine
was sitting by me, and her mother and father and two sisters were
sitting down too.
As we sat there, I looked up at the roof and it seemed to be moving.
The house was going around up at the top, and stretching upward
as it went around. I could see that we were all rising fast with
the whole house, and it was turning around as it 'rose. Then a cloud
was coming down as we 'rose, and suddenly I was on it and the other
people and the house were falling back away from me.
Them I was alone on this cloud, and it was going fast. I clung
to it hard, because I was afraid I might fall off. Far down below
I could see houses and towns and green land and streams, and it
all looked flat. Then I was right over the big water. I was not
afraid any more, because, by now, I knew I was going home. It was
dark, and then it was light again, and I could see a big town below
me, and I knew it was the one where we first got on the big fire-boat,
and that I was in my own country again. I was very happy now. The
cloud and I kept on going very fast, and I could see towns and streams
and towns and green land. Then I began to recognize the country
below me. I saw the Missouri River. Then I saw far off the Black
Hills and the center of the world where the spirits had taken me
in my great vision.
Then I was right over Pine Ridge, and the cloud stopped. I looked
down and could not understand what I saw, because it seemed that
nearly all of my people of the different bands were gathered together
there in a big camp. I saw my father's and mother's tepee. They
were outside, and she was cooking. I wanted to jump off the cloud
and be with them, but I was afraid it would kill me. While I was
looking down, my mother looked up, and I felt sure she saw me. But
just then the cloud started back, going very fast. I was very sad,
but I could not get off. There were streams and green land and towns
going backward very fast below me. Soon the cloud and I were going
right over the very big town again. Then there was only water under
me, and the night came without stars; and I was all alone in a black
world and I was crying. But afterwhile some light began to peep
in far ahead of me. Then I saw earth beneath me and towns and green
land and houses all flying backwards. Soon the cloud stopped over
a big town, and a house began coming up toward me, turning around
and around as it came. When it touched the cloud, it caught me and
began to drop down, turning around and around with me.
It touched the ground, and as it touched I heard the girl's voice,
and then other voices of frightened people.
Then I was lying on my back in bed and the girl and her father
and her mother and her two sisters and a doctor were looking at
me in a queer way, as though they were frightened.
The English-talker came from the show and he told me how it was.
While I was sitting at breakfast, they said I had looked up and
smiled, and then I had fallen like dead out of my chair. I had been
dead three days, except that once in awhile I would breathe just
a little. Often they said they could not feel my heart at all. They
were sure I would soon be really dead, and they were getting ready
to buy my coffin.
Maybe if I had not come back to life that time, they would have
given me a good coffin; but as it is, I think it will be only a
I did not tell the people where I had been, because I knew they
could not believe me.
A few days after that, these people heard that Pahuska was in town
again. So they took me to where he had his show, and he was glad
to see me. He had all his people give me three cheers. Then he asked
me if I wanted to be in the show or if I wanted to go home. I told
him I was sick to go home. So he said he would fix that. He gave
me a ticket and ninety dollars. Then he gave me a big dinner. Pahuska
had a strong heart. Afterwhile a policeman came and told me to get
my things. He took me to the iron road, and in the morning I was
by the big water and they put me on another big fire-boat. We were
on the water eight days. I was sick part of the time, but I was
not sad, because I was going home.
When the fire-boat was back at the big town in my own country again,
I started right away on the iron road.
It was early in the morning when we came to Rushville. There were
no Lakotas there at all, but there was a covered wagon with mules
starting out for Pine Ridge, so I rode in the wagon.
When I got to Pine Ridge, everything was just as I had seen it
from the cloud. All the Lakotas were there, as I had seen them,
because that was the year of the treaty  when the Wasichus
bought some more of our land--all that was between the Smoky Earth
[the White] and Good River [the Cheyenne]. I had been away nearly
three years and knew nothing about this foolish thing until then.
My mother's tepee was right where I had seen it when I looked down
from the cloud, and other people were camped exactly where I saw
My parents were in great joy to see me and my mother cried because
she was so happy. I cried too. I was supposed to be a man now, but
the tears came out anyway. My mother told me she had dreamed one
night in her sleep that I had come back on a cloud, but could not
stay. So I told her about my vision.
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