Black Elk Speak Analysis

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Cindy King Spring 2011 Exploring the Humanities Discussion Questions for Black Elk Speaks I. Setting the Context 1. What are the first words that come to your mind when you hear the word Indian? 2. Are you Indian? What do you know about your Indian ancestors? 3. What are some common stereotypes of American Indians? What are common stereotypes of several other groups of people, including whites? 4. To what extent has Hollywood influenced mainstream public opinion on what an Indian is, how he dresses, acts, and speaks? 5. What’s the relationship between Native American identity and American identity? To what extent is it important for non-Native Americans to know about Native American traditions and history?…show more content…
Who was John Neihardt? What were his major objectives in interviewing Black Elk? 3. Read Raymond DeMallie’s article John G. Neihardt and Nicholas Black Elk in the back of the book. What are some of the controversies surrounding Black Elk Speaks? What camp do you fall into? 4. What is a biography? An autobiography? Oral history? Were these traditional forms of cultural expression for American Indians or Europeans in the 1800s? Explain. Critic Herta Wong argues that “the pictographic writing of the Sioux and other Plains tribes tended, like the oral tradition, to tell stories about the self which might be more accurately described as ‘communo-bio-oratory’ (community-life-speaking) rather than ‘auto-bio-graphical’ (self-life-writing)….” Analyze what she means by this in the context of Black Elk Speaks. 5. What aspects of Black Elk’s (literary) character does Neihardt emphasize? How does Black Elk come across to you as a human being? 6. Based on the annotations in the book, do all of the words in the text come straight from Black Elk’s mouth? Explain. Does your estimation of the book change as a result of its multiple-authorship? III. Black Elk’s Teachings 1. The Offering of the Pipe: Chap

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