Black Elk's Vision: A Lakota Story

Overview


Told from the Native American point of view, Black Elk’s Vision provides a unique perspective on American history.
 
From recounting the visions Black Elk had as a young boy, to his involvement in the battles of Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee, as well as his journeys to New York City and Europe with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, this biographical account of Black ...
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Overview


Told from the Native American point of view, Black Elk’s Vision provides a unique perspective on American history.
 
From recounting the visions Black Elk had as a young boy, to his involvement in the battles of Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee, as well as his journeys to New York City and Europe with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, this biographical account of Black Elk—an Oglala-Lakota medicine man (1863–1950)—follows him from childhood through adulthood.
 
S. D. Nelson tells the story of Black Elk through the medicine man’s voice, bringing to life what it was like to be Native American in the mid-to-late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The Native people found their land overrun by the Wha-shi-choos, or White Man, the buffalo slaughtered for sport and to purposely eliminate their main food source, and their people gathered onto reservations. Through it all, Black Elk clung to his childhood visions that planted the seeds to help his people—and all people—understand their place in the circle of life.
 
The book includes archival images, a timeline, a bibliography, an index, and Nelson’s signature art.

 

Praise for the work of S. D. Nelson
 
Western Writers of America Spur Storyteller Award
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best
Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award
 
[STAR] “An appealing story full of excitement, warmth, and wisdom.” —The Five Owls, starred review
 
“A fine choice for story hours, this will also find wide curricular use.” —Booklist
 
“A modern-day story in the Sioux tradition of storytelling.” —Winston-Salem Journal
 
“Splendid acrylic artwork captures the action, humor, and spirit of the tale. A solid addition to collections of Native American tales and an enjoyable read-aloud.” —School Library Journal
 
“Nelson pulls it off with his confident style as a storyteller . . . polished illustrations . . . informative, well written.” —Kirkus Reviews

F&P level: U
F&P genre: B

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Mary Bowman-Kruhm Ed.D.
A fascinating tale that interweaves the vision of Black Elk, a medicine man, with the chilling story how Wha-shi-choos, or White Man, destroyed Lakota-Oglala life as a free people and almost obliterated their culture. Acrylic paintings and archival photographs (e.g., Native American women preparing buffalo hides circa 1890) combine to cover much history in a brief book, with story threads united by Black Elk's vision. The book is told from a Native American point of view. Its tone and theme, represented in page design and layout on heavy glossy paper, create a unique window into the suffering of the people during the years their way of life was destroyed by the slaughter of the buffalo that were crucial to their survival, military attacks on the Lakota themselves, and eventually their being shunted onto reservations. The book provides a context for well-known events, such as the massacre of Custer (called Yellow Hair by the Lakota) and his men at Little Bighorn River and performances on the East coast and Europe of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Stories of typical Lakota life, like the heyokas, or foolish men, who provided "happy times with good belly laughs" give the reader a sadness to acknowledge that in the nineteenth century, Native Americans were considered "Savage and Barbarous" and were not seen as a unique culture to be understood and appreciated. The story ends positively, with the thought that everyone holds the power to bring flowering to the tree of life that appeared in Black Elk's vision. This superb story, beautifully illustrated and well researched includes an author's note, information about the book, a time line, citations, bibliography, and index. Endpapers show a helpful map of important locations. This highly recommended resource would be an ideal read-aloud to younger readers or a supplemental text for older students. Reviewer: Mary Bowman-Kruhm, Ed.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Born in 1863, Black Elk, an Oglala-Lakota medicine man, was warned from an early age to beware the "Wha-shi-choo," or white people, and for good reason. By the time he was 16, his people had been attacked on their lands, fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and been confined to grim reservations, their way of life forever changed. Told in a first-person narrative, this handsome biography is adorned with vibrant acrylic paintings that depict the mystical images (spirit voices and visions) that Black Elk first experienced as a child. A fever vision at age nine, in which he met with the six grandfathers, the ancestral beings, proved to be a pivotal experience for him. As a teenager, he ultimately led a Horse Dance ceremony in which he brought a message of hope and instruction to his people. In addition to his respected tribal status, his involvement in many landmark events, from his travels with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show to being injured at the Wounded Knee massacre, makes him a unique historical figure. Aptly chosen photographs (some of which are graphic images of buffalo carcasses and a scene of a mass grave at Wounded Knee) provide accurate historical perspective. An author's note on understanding his Great Vision and background information on the book are included. This is an important contribution to Native biography.—Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library
Abby McGanney Nolan
Wonderfully designed to feature Nelson's engaging artwork as well as generously sized archival photos, Black Elk's Vision focuses on his early life, from the age of 4, when "the Wha-shi-choos" (European Americans) were just bogeymen his mother warned the children about, to forced settlement on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Nelson (Coyote Christmas) returns with his highly stylized paintings and trademark primary-colored horses in this tale about Black Elk, a Sioux medicine man at the turn of the 19th century. The author, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, imagines Black Elk's first-person account of Native American life as the Wha-shi-choos (white people) bring trains and forts to the Great Plains and slaughter buffalo by the thousands (“They made lines on our land with their wagon roads and their iron rails”). Anchoring the story are spreads detailing Black Elk's vision when he was nine. In it, “the Powers of the World” teach that each person “must choose to walk with the water of life or the weapon of destruction.” The illustrations' naïve, flat style mutes some of the more graphic events (speared and bloodied fighters and horses are seen at the Battle of the Little Bighorn). Archival photos round out this poignant history lesson, and author notes contextualize the meaning of Black Elk's vision within Native philosophy. A time line of European exploration and western settlement and select Indian War conflicts is included. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810983991
  • Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/1/2010
  • Pages: 56
  • Sales rank: 583,841
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 770L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

S. D. Nelson is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of the Dakotas. He is the author of three previous children’s books for Abrams. School Library Journal called Gift Horse “fluid in both narrative and illustrations,” and Kirkus said Star People was “an exemplary offering.” He lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

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