Summary and Analysis
Chapter 14 - The Horse Dance
Black Road and an old man, Bear Sings, paint a sacred tepee for Black Elk with scenes from his vision, the objects associated with the four directions, and bison and elk. They tell Black Elk he must purify himself in a sweat lodge. He teaches them the songs from his vision. His mother and father help assemble what is needed to enact the vision: horses, riders, and maidens all painted and decorated. They enact the vision and as they do, Black Elk sees the vision again that he originally had, and which the enactment is but a shadow of. He sings to the grandfathers to help him and the thunder rolls in, but only a little sprinkle of rain falls on the people. There is much dancing and rejoicing. Black Road passes the sacred pipe. Black Elk is happy. People tell him that those who were sick have become well. His fear is gone. He is now one of the medicine men. He gets up every morning to see the daybreak star, which is called the star of understanding.
This chapter presents the importance for the Sioux of acting out the private vision of Black Elk in a public ritual for the entire community to see. It emphasizes the esteem in which the visionary was held, and the shared understanding that the power of the vision would pass through him to his people. The performance of the vision also serves to develop Black Elk's character, as he now takes a further step in assuming his rightful place among his people.
sage a plant of the mint family (genus Salvia) with an aromatic taste and smell; Indians burn sage to release purifying properties.