Black Elk, Lakota Visionary Part I

Who Was Nicholas Black Elk?


Nicholas Black Elk was an Oglala Sioux warrior, healer, visionary and holy man.

He was born in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, in 1863.  He was part of the twilight generation of Lakota to travel with their tipis, hunt bison and fully partake in their traditional Lakota culture before the introduction of the reservation system.  But he didn’t grow up unscathed.  He witnessed many violent confrontations between his people and the United States military.  He was present at the Fetterman Battle, the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the massacre at Wounded Knee.  Enduring so much violence during his youth, it is no wonder that Black Elk turned inward, relying on his visionary nature.

Black Elk descended from a lineage of medicine men.

He was the second cousin to the revered Lakota Warrior, Crazy Horse.  At nine years old, Black Elk received his vision.  He became ill and went into a coma.  During this time, Black Elk ascended into the heavens and met with the Six Grandfathers, the totality of power in the Lakota cosmology.  He received gifts of healing and witnessed the destitute circumstances that his people were to endure; they were to walk the Black Road.  He saw the spiritual and physical destruction of their community.  So shaken by the implications of his vision, he did not reveal it to anyone for several years.

Black Elk's Vision

Black Elk’s Vision

“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.”

Realizing his vision had significant implications for all humanity,  Black Elk recounted it for the entire world to know.

In 1930, A poet named John Neihardt came to the Pine Ridge Reservation, hoping to interview participants of the Ghost Dance of years earlier.  In Black Elk he found, a kindred soul, both realized they were brought together to record Black Elk’s vision.

Sixty-Seven years after his death, Black Elk’s vision is more important than ever before.

It was foretold by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse that the tragedies of the Lakota nation as revealed to Black Elk in his vision, would continue to the generation of their grandchildren’s, grandchildren.  We are now in that generation.  There are several events in Black Elk’s vision that have yet to unfold.  The time is now. I will discuss Black Elk’s vision in my next blog post.

I encourage everyone to read Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt.

Black Elk’s was correct.  His vision was meant for the world to know.


Important Dates in the Life of Nicholas Black Elk

  • 1863 – born in present-day Wyoming
  • 1866 – December 21st, Lieutenant Colonel William Fetterman, and 80 soldiers are massacred by contingent of Lakota warriors led by Crazy Horse
  • 1872 – Black Elk had a vision of the Six Grandfathers and the Powers of the World
  • 1876 – June 25th Battle of the Little Bighorn, Custer’s Last Stand
  • 1877 – Escapes into Canada with Sitting Bull
  • 1880 – Black Elk finally reveals his vision to a medicine man
  • 1887-1889 Black travels to Europe with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show
  • 1890 – December 29th, Wounded Knee Massacre on the Pine Ridge Reservation
  • 1904 – Black adopts the Roman Catholic religion, takes the name of Nicholas as his baptismal name
  • 1930 – Begins telling his vision to poet John Neihardt
  • 1950 – Black Elk dies at home with his family
  • 2016 – Diocese of Rapid City initiates the petition to nominate Nicholas Black Elk, Sr. for the cause for canonization as a saint

Meet the Author

James LeNoir

James LeNoir is a descendent of the Red River Colony, a colonization project established by Lord Selkirk in 1811. This colony would eventually grow to become Manitoba, Canada. James is currently writing a book entitled "God's Last Warrior."