Black Elk

Black Elk

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Heȟáka Sápa (December 1863-August 19, 1950) was a famous Wičháša Wakȟáŋ (Medicine Man
Medicine man
"Medicine man" or "Medicine woman" are English terms used to describe traditional healers and spiritual leaders among Native American and other indigenous or aboriginal peoples...

 or Holy Man) of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux). He was Heyoka
Heyoka
The word Heyókȟa refers to the Lakota concept of a contrarian, jester, satirist or sacred clown.Heyókȟa are thought of as being backwards-forwards, upside-down, or contrary in nature. This spirit is often manifest by doing things backwards or unconventionally—riding a horse backwards, wearing...

 and a second cousin of Crazy Horse
Crazy Horse
Crazy Horse was a Native American war leader of the Oglala Lakota. He took up arms against the U.S...

.

Life


Black Elk said that several times during his life, he had several visions in which he learned things that would help his people. In his "great vision", at the age of nine, he said he met the spirit that guided the universe and saw a great tree that symbolized the life of the earth and of the Indian people. He did not speak of this to anyone until he was much older, but his family apparently understood he was clairvoyant after his supposed "illness".

Black Elk was involved in several battles with the U.S. cavalry. He participated, at about the age of twelve, in the Battle of Little Big Horn of 1876, and was injured in the Wounded Knee Massacre
Wounded Knee Massacre
The Wounded Knee Massacre happened on December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, USA. On the day before, a detachment of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment commanded by Major Samuel M...

 in 1890.

In 1887, Black Elk traveled to England with Buffalo Bill
Buffalo Bill
William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody was a United States soldier, bison hunter and showman. He was born in the Iowa Territory , in LeClaire but lived several years in Canada before his family moved to the Kansas Territory. Buffalo Bill received the Medal of Honor in 1872 for service to the US...

's Wild West Show, an unpleasant experience he described in chapter 20 of Black Elk Speaks
Black Elk Speaks
Black Elk Speaks is a 1932 book by John G. Neihardt, an American poet and writer, who relates the story and spirituality of Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux medicine man or shaman. It was based on conversations by Black Elk with the author and translated from Lakota into English by Black Elk's son, Ben...

. On May 11, 1887, the troop put on a command performance for Queen Victoria, whom they called "Grandmother England." He also described being in the crowd at her Golden Jubilee.

Black Elk married his first wife, Katie War Bonnet, in 1892. She became a Catholic
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

, and all three of their children were baptized as Catholic. After her death in 1903, he too was baptized, taking the name Nicholas Black Elk and serving as a catechist. He continued to serve as a spiritual leader among his people, seeing no contradiction in embracing what he found valid in both his tribal traditions concerning Wakan Tanka
Wakan Tanka
In the Sioux way of life, Wakan Tanka is the term for "the sacred" or "the divine". This is usually translated as "The Great Spirit"...

 and those of Christianity. He remarried in 1905 to Anna Brings White, a widow with two daughters. Together they had three more children and remained married until she died in 1941.

Toward the end of his life, Black Elk revealed the story of his life, and a number of sacred Sioux rituals to John Neihardt
John Neihardt
Johnathan Gneisenau Neihardt was an American author of poetry and prose, an amateur historian and ethnographer, and a philosopher of the Great Plains...

 and Joseph Epes Brown
Joseph Epes Brown
Joseph Epes Brown was an American scholar whose lifelong dedication to Native American traditions helped to bring the study of American Indian religious traditions into higher education...

 for publication, and his accounts have won wide interest and acclaim.

Influence


The visions and teachings of Black Elk are honored and studied by The National Spiritist Church of Alberta (Native Spirituality Church)

Books


Books by Black Elk
  • Black Elk Speaks
    Black Elk Speaks
    Black Elk Speaks is a 1932 book by John G. Neihardt, an American poet and writer, who relates the story and spirituality of Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux medicine man or shaman. It was based on conversations by Black Elk with the author and translated from Lakota into English by Black Elk's son, Ben...

    : being the life story of a holy man of the Oglala Sioux
    (as told to John G. Neihardt
    John Neihardt
    Johnathan Gneisenau Neihardt was an American author of poetry and prose, an amateur historian and ethnographer, and a philosopher of the Great Plains...

    ), Bison Books, 2004 (originally published in 1932) : Black Elk Speaks
  • The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk's Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt, edited by Raymond J. Demallie, University of Nebraska Press
    University of Nebraska Press
    The University of Nebraska Press, founded in 1941, is a publisher of scholarly and popular-press books. It is the second-largest state university press in the United States and, including private institutions, ranks among the 10 largest university presses in the United States...

    ; new edition, 1985
  • The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk's Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux (as told to Joseph Epes Brown
    Joseph Epes Brown
    Joseph Epes Brown was an American scholar whose lifelong dedication to Native American traditions helped to bring the study of American Indian religious traditions into higher education...

    ), MJF Books, 1997
  • Spiritual Legacy of the American Indian (as told to Joseph Epes Brown), World Wisdom
    World Wisdom
    World Wisdom is an independent publishing company established in 1980 in Bloomington, Indiana. World Wisdom publishes religious and philosophical texts, including the work of authors such as Frithjof Schuon, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Titus Burckhardt, Ananda K...

    , 2007


Books about Black Elk:
  • Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala, by Michael F. Steltenkamp, University of Oklahoma Press
    University of Oklahoma Press
    The University of Oklahoma Press is the publishing arm of the University of Oklahoma. It has been in operation for over seventy-five years, and was the first university press established in the American Southwest. It was founded by William Bennett Bizzell, the fifth president of the University of...

    ; 1993. ISBN 0806125411
  • Nicholas Black Elk: Medicine Man, Missionary, Mystic, by Michael F. Steltenkamp, University of Oklahoma Press
    University of Oklahoma Press
    The University of Oklahoma Press is the publishing arm of the University of Oklahoma. It has been in operation for over seventy-five years, and was the first university press established in the American Southwest. It was founded by William Bennett Bizzell, the fifth president of the University of...

    ; 2009. ISBN 0-8061-4063-1
  • The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk's Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt, edited by Raymond J. DeMallie; 1985
  • Black Elk and Flaming Rainbow: Personal Memories of the Lakota Holy Man, by Hilda Neihardt, University of Nebraska Press, 2006. ISBN 0-8032-8376-8
  • Black Elk’s Religion: The Sun Dance and Lakota Catholicism, by Clyde Holler, Syracuse University Press
    Syracuse University Press
    Syracuse University Press, founded in 1943, is a university press that is part of Syracuse University. The areas of focus for the Press include Middle East Studies, Native American Studies, Peace and Conflict Resolution, Irish Studies and Jewish Studies, among others. The Press has an international...

    ; 1995
  • Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism, by Damian Costello
  • Black Elk Reader, edited by Clyde Holler, Syracuse University Press
    Syracuse University Press
    Syracuse University Press, founded in 1943, is a university press that is part of Syracuse University. The areas of focus for the Press include Middle East Studies, Native American Studies, Peace and Conflict Resolution, Irish Studies and Jewish Studies, among others. The Press has an international...

    ; 2000

VHS Video and DVD

  • Writings of Black Elk (C-SPAN, 2001) ID: 165060. From the jacket: The program, telecast from the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, contained portions of an interview with Black Elk’s great-granddaughter, a re-enactment of the battle, and looked at several artifacts from the site. Length: 2:32.

  • Black Elk (C-SPAN, 2001) ID: 165105. From the jacket: Ms. Black Elk spoke about her great grandfather, his impact on U.S. history, Native American history, and tribal culture. Length: 0:34.
  • Native Spirit and the Sun Dance Way, DVD documentary, 2007, World Wisdom.

External links