Black Elk Speaks is the transcription of personal conversations between Black Elk and Neihardt. This format was not new; narrated Indian autobiographies were popular at least as early as 1833 when Black Hawk: An Autobiography was published. Consistent with the practice of many different American Indian tribes, which had a long tradition of storytelling, Black Elk intersperses his narrative with anecdotes, folk stories, and sometimes chant and prayer. For some tribes, written language was not important. Sioux history, for example, including the years of Black Elk's life, was memorized and passed down orally from father to son for several generations.From time to time, Neihardt uses a footnote to clarify something that Black Elk says, but unlike Black Elk, Neihardt is not a character in this story. He seems to be completely absent from Black Elk's
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