Because Black Elk Speaks is an autobiography, not a work of fiction, it does not use characters in the same way that a novel or short story might. The characters in this narrative are actual people, some of them well-known historical figures, whom Black Elk knew and interacted with. (The question mark following some of the dates below indicates an uncertainty about a date due to the lack of written records.)
Black Elk (1863-1950) Oglala Sioux holy man and healer; also the name of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
White Cow Sees Black Elk's mother.
Refuse-to-Go Black Elk's maternal grandfather.
Plenty Eagle Feathers Black Elk's maternal grandmother.
Standing Bear Minneconjou Sioux; Black Elk's friend from childhood, who participated in the Battle of Little Bighorn, who is present at Black Elk's meeting with Neihardt and occasionally supplies more information in his story.
Whirlwind Chaser Standing Bear's uncle, the medicine man who is paid to cure Black Elk of the illness he suffered at the time of his great vision, and who recognizes that Black Elk has had a genuinely sacred experience.
Crazy Horse (1842?-77) Oglala Sioux chief whom Black Elk thinks was the greatest of all; holy man and warrior; fought in the Battle of Little Bighorn; Black Elk's second cousin; imprisoned and killed by U.S. cavalry officers.
Red Cloud (1822-1909) Oglala Sioux chief; Sioux peacemaker and representative in numerous treaty negotiations with U.S. Government.
Long Hair General George Armstrong Custer (1839-76); commander of the U.S. Seventh Cavalry, defeated in the Battle of Little Bighorn; led the Black Hills Gold Discovery Expedition of 1874; a veteran of the Civil War.
Sitting Bull (1834?-90) Hunkpapa Sioux chief and holy man; fought in the Battle of Little Bighorn; he was killed by U.S. cavalry officers while resisting arrest shortly before the massacre at Wounded Knee.
Buffalo Bill William Frederick Cody (1846-1917); U.S. plainsman, frontier scout, and showman whose Wild West Show takes Black Elk to Europe from 1886-89.
Grandmother England Queen Victoria (1819-1901); queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1837-1901) and Empress of India (1876-1901).
Bear Sings The medicine man who helps Black Elk perform the horse ceremony, a public enactment of his great vision.
Few Tails The medicine man who helps Black Elk perform the lamentation ceremony in which he receives his dog vision.
Wachpanne the heyoka, sacred fool, who helps Black Elk perform the heyoka ceremony, a public enactment of the dog vision he received in his lamentation ritual.
Three Stars U.S. Cavalry General Crook, who was beaten by Crazy Horse at the Battle of the Rosebud, eight days before the Battle of Little Bighorn; also negotiated the treaty of 1889 which took away much of the Sioux Black Hills territory.
Hairy Chin Sioux medicine man who directs Black Elk's first participation in a healing ceremony for Rattling Hawk.
Rattling Hawk the young Sioux warrior who is injured in the Battle of the Rosebud, whose healing by Hairy Chin is assisted by Black Elk.
Fire Thunder Childhood friend of Black Elk who is present when he talks with Neihardt and confirms some details of his story.
Watanye An older Sioux man who teaches Black Elk how to fish and tells him the story of High Horse's courting.
High Horse The main character of the tale "High Horse's Courting," who goes to dramatic and comic lengths to win his beloved.
Red Deer High Horse's friend, who schemes with him in his courtship.
Crow Nose The Sioux horse guard who kills a Crow Indian trying to steal the Sioux horses.
Gall A Hunkpapa Sioux chief who fought in the Battle of Little Bighorn and later temporarily joined Sitting Bull in Canada.
Iron Hawk A Hunkpapa Sioux childhood friend of Black Elk who participated in the Battle of the Rosebud and the Battle of Little Bighorn, and who is present at Black Elk's meeting with Neihardt and adds to Black Elk's story.
Dull Knife His band of Shyelas (Cheyenne) was ambushed by Col. Mackenzie in November, 1876.
Brave Wolf A Sioux hunter who sacrifices his life defending a beautiful girl and her parents from a Crow attack, while Black Elk's people are in Canada.
Hard-to-Hit Black Elk's cousin, who dies while the Sioux are in Canada, whose wife Black Elk's takes under his protection.
Black Road Sioux who assists with Black Elk's horse dance.
One Side Sioux who assists with Black Elk's heyoka ceremony and bison ceremony.
Cuts-to-Pieces Sioux whose son is cured by Black Elk is his first healing ceremony.
Fox Belly Medicine man who helps Black Elk to perform the bison ceremony, the public enactment of a part of his great vision.
Running Elk Standing Bear's uncle, a wise man who helps Black Elk to perform the elk ceremony, the public enactment of a part of his great vision.
girl-friend Black Elk's unnamed girlfriend, a young Parisian woman in whose house he was staying when he received his "spirit journey" vision just before he left to tour with the Wild West Show to come home.
Wovoka The Paiute seer whose visions and prophecies inspired the ghost dance; called Jack Wilson by the whites.
Good Thunder One of the ghost dancers whom Black Elk dances with.
Kicking Bear Holds the first ghost dance.
Big Foot He and his people, some formerly from Sitting Bull's band, were massacred at Wounded Knee.
Yellow Bird Sioux warrior whose struggle with a gun killed a cavalry officer and set off the massacre at Wounded Knee, at which he also died.
Old Hollow Horn Medicine man who heals Black Elk's gunshot wound, received in the aftermath of the massacre at Wounded Knee.