Skip to comments.Black Elk: Lakota Holy Man, Catholic Catechist
Posted on 05/05/2011 11:36:51 AM PDT by GonzoII
In his book Black Elk Speaks, author John Neihardt interviewed a Lakota holy man who recounted pre-reservation life and events he witnessed, including Custer's Last Stand and the Wounded Knee massacre. Later, anthropologist Joseph Epes Brown interviewed Black Elk about Lakota religious traditions for his book The Sacred Pipe (1953). Both works are touched with a certain sadness, that of a man whose best days have passed. Together they introduced millions to the richness of Native American traditions.
But Black Elk's prestige among his own people had little to do with these books. It was based more on his ministry as a Catholic catechist on South Dakota reservations. A convert to Catholicism, for nearly fifty years he helped prepared people for baptism, led prayer meetings, organized events for Native American Catholics, and worked as a lay missionary to the Lakota (also called Sioux).
A member of the Oglala branch of the Lakota Sioux, Black Elk was born around 1865 on the Little Powder River in what is now Wyoming. As a child, he told Neihardt:
We roamed the country freely, and this country belonged to us in the first place. There was plenty of game and we were never hungry. But since the white man came we were fighting all the time.
A second cousin of the great war chief Crazy Horse, as a teen Black Elk was at the Battle of Little Bighorn. But the defining moment in his life occurred earlier at age 9, when he experienced a vision that defined his future.
(Excerpt) Read more at patheos.com ...
Interesting. I never knew about this story until now.
For a while, though, he traveled the world. In 1886, he joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and toured Europe for nearly two years. Returning to the Oglala reservation at Pine Ridge, South Dakota, he became involved in the Ghost Dance movement, an attempt to revive Native American culture. Later at Wounded Knee, he helped carry the wounded to safety. In its aftermath, he said: "A people's dream died there"....
....In some ways, converting wasn't that much of a stretch. Lakota spirituality sees the world as a sacred place charged with spiritual forces, not unlike the Catholic sacramental worldview. Both have a communitarian focus, another important factor that eased Black Elk's conversion. While he didn't abandon the traditional Lakota worldview, he did resituate it within the context of his Catholic faith.
The book [Mormons, Indians, and the Ghost Dance Religion of 1890] reviews the 1841 meeting between Joseph Smith and a group of Sac and Fox Indians, the 1851 ordination of four Ute Indians as priests of the church, making them eligible to wear temple garments and having a strong symbolic parallel to the Ghost Dance shirts, the coincidence of 1890 having been set as the year of the Second Coming both by the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and the Paiute Indian prophet Wovoka, as well as the acceptance by some Mormons of Wovoka as the spiritual manifestation of the Nephites (immortal humans of great righteousness).
-- From the thread Major Publication on the Ghost Dance Religion, Mormons, and American Indians Reissued (LDS/Mormon)
Ya see, you’re never to old to learn...
Thanks for posting this. I can’t wait to show it to my daughter, 12, who has a keen interest in Native Americans.
John Neihardt was a small man, with very poor vision, but he was a compelling speaker, and once he began a story, the room faded away, and we listeners began to see Black Elk through his memory.
The book “Black Elk Speaks” is just fascinating.
This was before he converted.
"In 1904, then a widower, he had a unique conversion experience. He was visiting a sick child when an arriving blackrobe* forcibly expelled him. This jarring incident, his daughter recalled, was like St. Paul "falling off a horse." Sensing that the priest's healing powers were greater than his, he took religious instruction and on December 6th, the Feast of St. Nicholas, he was baptized Nicholas."