Black Elk  (Hehaka Sapa) was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Holy Man and Medicine Man who was a second cousin of Crazy Horse.  As a young man of about 12 years old he was present during the 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn and had a premonition the day before that something terrible was going to happen. He was also wounded in the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre in which 300 men, women and children lost their lives.

When the Sioux were forced onto reservations Black Elk joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and toured the USA and Europe  but it wasn't an experience which he thought pleasant.

In 1892 Black Elk married Katie War Bonnett. Katie became a Catholic and their three children were baptised Catholics but it wasn't until after Katie's death in 1903 that he was baptised himself and took the name Nicholas Black Elk, affectionately known as Nick Black Elk by his own people and the white man.  Even though he was Catholic, Black Elk continued to serve as a spiritual leader among his people. In 1905 Black Elk married for a second time, his new wife being Anna Brings white, a widow with two daughters. Anna and Black Elk had three children together.
 

 

Nick Black Elk and his family

 

Towards the end of his life, Black Elk revealed the story of his life and a number of Sioux rituals to John Neihardt and Joseph Epes Brown for publication and his accounts have won world wide interest. Black Elk was a very spiritual man and during these revelations he claimed to have had several visions in which he met spirit that guided the universe.

Before his death on 17 August 1950, Black Elk told his family that he had a feeling that when he died some sign would be seen, that Gold will show something. He felt that God would be merciful to him and have something shown which will tell of his mercy.  On the night of his wake, the sky was filled with a brilliant display of northern lights and other signs which made the whole sky glow it was a scene which had never before been seen.

Here are some quotes and prayers of his which have become famous:

 



"You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in
 a circle, and that is because the Power of the World
always works in circles, and everything tries to be round.
The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round
 like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls.
Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours
Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing,
and always come back again to where they were.
The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood,
and so it is in everything where power moves".


 


"Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking."

 

 

"I cured with the power that came through me. Of course, it was not I who cured,
 it was the power from the Outer World, the visions and the ceremonies had only
made me like a hole through which the power could come to the two-leggeds."

"If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power could
come through. Then everything I could do would be foolish."

 


 

 

A long time ago my father told me what his father had told him, that there was
once a Lakota holy man, called "Drinks Water", who dreamed what was to be...
 he dreamed that the four-leggeds were going back to the Earth, and that a strange
race would weave a web all around the Lakotas. He said,
"You shall live in square grey houses, in a barren land..."
Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking".
 (1932)

 


 


Earth Prayer

Grandfather, Great Spirit, once more behold me on
earth and lean to hear my feeble voice. You lived first, and you are older
than all need, older than all prayer. All things belong to you.  The two legged,
the four legged, the wings of the air and all green things that live.

You have set the powers of the four quarters of the  earth to cross each other.
You have made me cross the good road and road of difficulties and where
they cross, the place is holy. Day in, day out, forevermore,
you are the life of things.

Hey! Lean to hear my feeble voice.
At the centre of the sacred hoop.
You have said that I should make the tree to bloom.

With tears running, O Great Spirit, my Grandfather, with running
eyes I must say the tree has never bloomed. Here I stand, and the
tree is withered. Again, I recall the great vision you gave me.
 

It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives
Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom and fill
with singing birds!

Hear me, that the people may once again find the good road
and the shielding tree.


 

 


HEAR ME


Hear me, four quarters of the world -  a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth.
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand,
that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds Great Spirit
...all over the earth the faces of living things are all alike.
With tenderness have these come up out of the ground.
Look upon these faces of children without number and
 with children in their arms,
That they may face the winds and walk the good road
 to the day of quiet.
This is my prayer' hear me!

 



 


OFFERING OF THE PIPE



Hey hey! Hey hey! Hey hey! Hey hey!

Grandfather, Great Spirit, you have been always,
and before you no one has been.

There is no other one to pray to but you.

You yourself, everything that you see, everything has
been made by you.

The star nations all over the universe you have finished.

The four quarters of the earth you have finished.

The day, and in that day, everything you have finished.

Grandfather, Great Spirit, lean close to the earth that
you may hear the voice I send.

You towards where the sun goes down, behold me;

Thunder Beings, behold me!

You where the White Giant lives in power, behold me!

You where the sun shines continually, whence come the
 day-break star and the day, behold me!

You where the summer lives, behold me!

You in the depths of the heavens, an eagle of power,
behold me!

And you, Mother Earth, the only Mother, you who have
shown mercy to your children!

Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!

Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to
all that is!

Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand,
that I may be like you.

With your power only can I face the winds.

Great Spirit, Great Spirit, my Grandfather, all over the
earth the faces of living things are all alike.

With tenderness have these come up out of the ground.

Look upon these faces of children without number and
with children in their arms,

that they may face the winds and walk the good road
to the day of quiet.

This is my prayer; hear me!

The voice I have sent is weak, yet with earnestness
 I have sent it.

Hear me!

It is finished.  Hetchetu aloh!

Now, my friend, let us smoke together so that there
may be only good between us.







 

 

The Sunset

Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about
beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more
than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner
the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live
 together like one being.

And I say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made
one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the centre grew one mighty flowering
tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy...

But anywhere is the centre of the world.



 


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