Summary and Analysis Chapter 20



From London, Black Elk goes to Manchester, England, and gets lost; he does not return to the United States with Buffalo Bill. He goes back to London with some other lost Sioux and works in another western show, Mexican Joe's, which takes him to Paris, Germany, and Italy. In Paris, he meets a girl with whom he becomes friendly. At the end of two years with Mexican Joe's show, he is terribly homesick and becomes ill. He goes back to Paris, where the girl's family helps him recover, and there he has a vision of his home. He seems to be riding on a cloud over the ocean back to his own country; he recognizes the Black Hills, Pine Ridge, and his parents' tepee. Then the cloud takes him back again over the ocean to Paris, where he awakes and is told he has been all but dead for three days. Buffalo Bill comes back to town and sends Black Elk home, and it is exactly as it appeared in his vision.


It is an interesting dimension of Black Elk's character development that he should have had a Parisian girlfriend. (Black Elk was later married twice: first to Katie War Bonnet, the mother of his son Ben, and then, following her death, to Anna Brings White.) His experiences with Buffalo Bill's and Mexican Joe's shows make him more widely traveled than most Americans of his time. Despite these adventures, however, he longs for his own country. His homesickness reflects the suffering of all Indians who had been relocated on reservations or were wandering in exile from their own lands. Like Black Elk's first vision at the age of nine, when he awakes from this vision, he is told that he had been deathly ill for a number of days.