This chapter introduces three central themes in Black Elk

This chapter introduces three central themes in Black Elk -...

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Unformatted text preview: This chapter introduces three central themes in Black Elk's narrative: the great cultural and philosophical differences between Indians and whites that resulted in conflict and destruction as whites moved west; the visionary ideal of the perfect Indian society, which existed in the mythic past but was spoiled in the present by the actions of the whites; and, finally, the problems of autobiographical narrative, including the accuracy of memory, complicated in Black Elk's case by the translation, transcription, and editing of his oral narrative by others. At the time of Black Elk's birth, the U.S. Civil War had slowed down westward expansion, both because the war consumed national efforts and because many able-bodied young and middle-aged men that would have immigrated had become war casualties. The decade between 1860 and 1870 was the first decade since the 1790s that did not witness a 30 percent growth in United States...
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