BLACK ELK Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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Name: Black Elk                                                                     
Born: 1863                                                                         
Died: 1950                                                                         
Black Elk (c. December 1863 - August 17 or August 19, 1950)                         
was a famous Wichasha Wakan (Medicine Man or Holy Man) of the Oglala               
Lakota (Sioux). He was heyoka and a second cousin of Crazy Horse. Black Elk         
participated, at about the age of twelve, in the Battle of Little Big Horn of       
1876, and was injured in the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.                         
In 1887, Black Elk traveled to England with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, an       
unpleasant experience he described in chapter 20 of Black Elk Speaks.               
Black Elk married his first wife, Katie War Bonnett, in 1892. She became a         
Catholic, 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 and those of Christianity. He remarried   
in 1905 to Anna Brings White, a widow with two daughters. She bore him three       
more children, and remained his wife until she died in 1941.                       
Towards the end of his life, he revealed the story of his life, and a number of     
sacred Sioux rituals to John Neihardt and Joseph Epes Brown for publication, and   
his accounts have won wide interest and acclaim. He also claimed to have had       
several visions in which he met the spirit that guided the universe.