Summary and Analysis Chapter 23 – Bad Trouble Coming

Black Elk makes a speech exhorting the Indians to fight if necessary and to depend on the spirits of their departed relatives. More Indians join them. Father Craft, a Catholic priest whom the Indians trust, tries to get them to return to Pine Ridge, and two chiefs arrive to take them back. The Brules resist; there is a struggle. The news comes of Sitting Bull’s death; whites killed him while he was resisting arrest. The highly respected Minneconjou Chief Big Foot arrives, suffering from pneumonia, with 400 people who ran away to the Badlands when Sitting Bull was killed. Starving and freezing, they surrendered to soldiers who brought them to Wounded Knee.


The tension between whites and the various Lakota bands intensifies in this chapter. The whites try to limit the ghost dancing because they believe it is a prelude to war or, at the least, it keeps the Indians in a highly emotional state that makes it harder to control them. Sitting Bull presides over the ghost dancing at one settlement (Grand River) and wants to go to the Pine Ridge Reservation to join the dancing there. He is arrested by cavalry officers and then shot to death in the scuffle that ensues when his people attempt to protect him.