Black Elk

“Behold this day, for it is yours to make.”

Heȟáka Sápa (Black Elk) (December 1863 – August 19, 1950) was a famous wičháša wakȟáŋ (medicine man and holy man) and heyoka of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) who lived in the present-day United States, primarily South Dakota. He was a second cousin of the war chief Crazy Horse.

  • Near the end of his life, Black Elk met with amateur ethnologist John Neihardt and recounted to him his religious vision, events from his life, and details of Lakota culture.
  • Neihardt edited a translated record and published Black Elk Speaks in 1932.
  • The words of Black Elk have since been published in numerous editions, most recently in 2008.

There has been great interest in his work among members of the American Indian Movement since the 1970s and by others who have wanted to learn more about a Native American religion.

  • Black Elk’s first wife Katie converted to Roman Catholicism, and they had their three children baptized as Catholics.
  • After Katie’s death, in 1904 Black Elk, then in his 40s, converted to Catholicism.
  • He also became a catechist, teaching others about Christianity.
  • He married again and had more children with his second wife; they were also baptized and reared as Catholic. He said his children “had to live in this world.”
  • In August 2016, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rapid City opened an official cause for his beatification within the Roman Catholic Church.

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