POINT OF VIEW
Visions Of The Other World...
So I dressed myself in a sacred manner, and before the dance
began next morning I went among the people who were standing
around the withered tree. Good Thunder, who was a relative of
my father and later married my mother, put his arms around me
and took me to the sacred tree that had not bloomed, and there
he offered up a prayer for me. He said: "Father, Great
Spirit, behold this boy! Your ways he shall see!" Then
he began to cry.
I thought of my father and my brother and sister who had left
us, and I could not keep the tears from running out of my eyes.
I raised my face up to keep them back, but they came out just
the same. I cried with my whole heart, and while I cried I thought
of my people in despair. I thought of my vision, and how it
was promised me that my people should have a place in this earth
where they could be happy every day. I thought of them on the
wrong road now, but maybe they could be brought back into the
hoop again and to the good road.
Under the tree that never bloomed I stood and cried because
it had withered away. With tears on my face I asked the Great
Spirit to give it life and leaves and singing birds, as in my
vision. Then there came a strong shivering all over my body,
and I knew that the power was in me.
Good Thunder now took one of my arms, Kicking Bear the other,
and we began to dance. The song we sang was like this: "Who
do you think he is that comes? It is one who seeks his mother!"
It was what the dead would sing when entering the other world
and looking for their relatives who had gone there before them.
I had the queer feeling that I knew and I seemed to be lifted
clear off the ground. I did not have a vision all that first
day. That night I thought about the other world and that the
Wanekia himself was with my people there and maybe the holy
tree of my vision was really blooming yonder right then, and
that it was there my vision had already come true. From the
center of the earth I had been shown all good and beautiful
things in a great circle of peace, and maybe this land of my
vision was where all my people were going, and there they would
live and prosper where no Wasichus were or could ever be.
Before we started dancing next day, Kicking Bear offered a prayer,
saying: "Father, Great Spirit, behold these people! They
shall go forth to-day to see their relatives, and yonder they
shall be happy, day after day, and their happiness will not
Then we began dancing, and most of the people wailed and cried
as they danced, holding hands in a circle; but some of them
laughed with happiness. Now and then some one would fall down
like dead, and others would go staggering around and panting
before they would fall. While they were lying there like dead
they were having visions, and we kept on dancing and singing,
and many were crying for the old way of living and that the
old religion might be with them again.
I must have fallen down, but I felt as though I had fallen off
a swing when it was going forward, and I was floating head first
through the air. My arms were stretched out, and all I saw at
first was a single eagle feather right in front of me. Then
the feather was a spotted eagle dancing on ahead of me with
his wings fluttering, and he was making the shrill whistle that
is his. My body did not move at all, but I looked ahead and
floated fast toward where I looked.
There was a ridge right in front of me, and I thought I was
going to run into it, but I went right over it. On the other
side of the ridge I could see a beautiful land where many, many
people were camping in a great circle. I could see that they
were happy and had plenty. Everywhere there were drying racks
full of meat. The air was clear and beautiful with a living
light that was everywhere. All around the circle, feeding on
the green, green grass, were fat and happy horses; and animals
of all kinds were scattered all over the green hills, and singing
hunters were returning with their meat.
I floated over the tepees and began to come down feet first
at the center of the hoop where I could see a beautiful tree
all green and full of flowers. When I touched the ground, two
men were coming toward me, and they wore holy shirts made and
painted in a certain way. They came to me and said: "It
is not yet time to see your father, who is happy. You have work
to do. We will give you something that you shall carry back
to your people, and with it they shall come to see their loved
I knew it was the way their holy shirts were made that
they wanted me to take back. They told me to return at once,
and then I was out in the air again, floating fast as before.
When I came right over the dancing place, the people were still
dancing, but it seemed they were not making any sound. I had
hoped to see the withered tree in bloom, but it was dead.
Then I fell back into my body, and as I did this I heard voices
all around and above me, and I was sitting on the ground. Many
were crowding around, asking me what vision I had seen. I told
them just what I had seen, and what I brought back was the memory
of the holy shirts the two men wore.
from Black Elk Speaks
as told to John G. Niehardt