Born: December 1863? - Little Powder River, Wyoming
Died: August 17, 1950
Born to a medicine man who followed Crazy Horse, Black Elk witnessed the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 and the upheaval that followed the tribe's flight to Canada to join Sitting Bull.
Black Elk (L) and Elk of the Oglala Lakota photographed in London, England in their grass dance regalia while touring with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, 1887
In 1886 he joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. In 1889 he returned to the Pine Ridge Reservation, where, as a spiritual authority, he supported the Ghost Dance movement. The movement, built on the belief that ritual observances would cause the white people to leave and the buffalo to return, declined after it failed to protect its followers at the Battle of Wounded Knee.
In 1904 he was converted by a priest to the Catholic faith and took the name Nicholas Black Elk. As a member of the Society of St. Joseph, he helped sponsor the annual Catholic Sioux Congress and was active in converting others to Catholicism.
Black Elk's Work :
Black Elk Speaks
In Black Elk Speaks(1932), edited by John G. Neihardt, he describes his childhood and early adult life and the spiritual life of the Sioux. In The Sacred Pipe (1953), edited by Joseph E. Brown, he describes Sioux ritual and spiritual practices.
Web sites about the work
Western Historical Manuscript Collection's
John G. Neihardt: Poet of the American West
John G. Neihardt
Watch this video of Neihardt reciting Black Elk's Prayer!
In 1962, while at the University of Missouri, John Neihardt videotaped his course titled "Epic America" for continued use in the classroom after he retired from the university. During one class lecture, he recited his prayer-poem he called Black Elk's Prayer. This is a video of that recitation.
The filmclip in this video was part of a lecture recorded at the University of Missouri in 1962. The lecture was from John Neihardt's course titled Epic America, which was videotaped so the very popular course could still be available to students after his retirement.
License - Standard YouTube License