“And so it was all over. I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream. (218) These were the words that Black Elk spoke of the dream that he and his people had of a country where they were allowed to live free and happy as they had before the white men invaded their territory. The Indians that Black Elk encountered in his lifetime all had only a simple dream to be able to live as they pleased. They wanted to enjoy the land that had been theirs as long as they or their relatives could remember. They wanted to be able to go on living their lives of hunting, dancing, and just existing. But when the white man came into the picture, their dream was disrupted.
White man’s covetousness of the gold of the Black Hills was enough for them to threaten to forcibly remove the Indians from that land. And in doing so, the Indians lost their beloved land. The Native Americans wanted to be able to go on living as they had for their entire existence. For instance, the Indians killed buffalo and other prey animals only when they needed food or supplies. And unlike the white men, who hunted for sport or only for a single part of the animal, they used every single part of the animal for something important.
In doing this, the Indians kept the population of buffalo alive. On the contrary, when the white men invaded the Indians’ territory, they killed off almost all the buffalo, making the Indians virtually starve to death. The Indians dream consisted of the land and themselves thriving as they had in the past. They wanted to be able to live and hunt as they had for years. They wanted to keep the land that they had possessed (even thought the Indians didn’t think of it as possession) as long as they could remember.
The Indians were even ready to live peaceably along with the white men, but they wanted to be treated fairly, like they were not racially inferior. But the white man’s’ dreams of the west was different. They wanted the land to get rich off of. They wanted nothing more than what they could sell, like gold from the Black Hills or the hide of the buffalo. The white man’s dreams were virtually solely about their own personal gain. They wanted whatever they could make a profit off of. They did not care about the fates of the Indians they were elocating or hurting, because they did think of the Indians as racially inferior. It was not a big deal to move the Indians onto unwanted land, because the Indians themselves were seen as unwanted and a nuisance. For instance, the white men wanted Crazy Horse to be stopped because they thought of him as a threat to their plan to get the wealth of the west. They could not kill him in battle, however, so they lied to him to trick him to come to them. They told him that they would not harm him if he came to them to discuss with their leader.
When he came unarmed, they captured and killed him. In the words of Black Elk: “Crazy Horse was dead. He was brave and good and wise. He never wanted anything but to save his people, and he fought the Wasichus only when they came to kill us in our own country. He was only thirty years old. They could not kill him in battle. They had to lie to him and kill him that way. ” (113) Black Elk and his people were dreaming of a day when they could live peacefully with the white people, when they were not being persecuted or mistreated because of their race.
They wanted to be able to live as they had before, even if they shared their land with the white people. They were open to making changes in the way they lived to welcome the white men into their lands. But the white men were not open to sharing the land with the Indians. The Indians were living peacefully on their own lands, not enticing any ill-will from the government, when the white men decided they wanted the land the Indians lived on.
When the battle of Wounded Knee happened – which cannot really be called a battle, but more a bloody massacre – the Indians were not doing anything that could have been considered attacking the white men, or even controversial. They were doing a ghost dance, because they were fearful about what the white men were going to do to them. They wanted help from their deceased ancestors in the protection from the white men. But the white men had forbid them from dancing too much, and so took it as a threat, and released fire on the Indians.
They massacred all Indians present, which were mostly innocent women and children. The massacre at Wounded Knee is kind of a touchy subject to me personally because I have visited the grave site in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and have seen firsthand the devastation that the massacre had on the people, and even how they remember it still today, and mourn for the dead still. This event marks the death of the Indians beloved dream. Like Black Elk said before, “It was a beautiful dream. ” But he would never live to see it played out, because it never would play out.
To summarize how Black Elk felt about the death of the dream, his last words in the book are: “And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth, - you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead. ” (218) He believed that he had failed his people for not following his vision better, but I do not believe that. I believe Black Elk was a great man who tried his best to help his nation fulfill their dream, but that dream was stolen from them before they could see it through.