Nicholas Black Elk, formally Heȟáka Sápa

Nicholas
Black Elk, formally Heȟáka Sápa
1863
1950

Famous Wichasha Wakan (Medicine Man or Holy Man) of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux). He was Heyoka and a second cousin of Crazy Horse.

Author Quotes

The world, you see, is happier after the terror of the storm.

You have noticed that the truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping. When people are already in despair, maybe the laughing face is better for them; and when they feel too good and are too sure of being safe, maybe the weeping face is better for them to see.

Then a Voice said: "Behold this day, for it is yours to make. Now you shall stand upon the center of the earth to see, for there they are taking you."

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.

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

You remember that my great vision came to me when I was only nine years old, and you have seen that I was not much good for anything until after I had performed the horse dance near the mouth of the Tongue River during my eighteenth summer.

Then the bay horse spoke to me again and said: "See how your horses all come dancing!" I looked, and there were horses, horses everywhere ? a whole sky full of horses dancing around me.

You see, I had been riding with the storm clouds, and had come to earth as rain, and it was drought that I had killed with the power that the Six Grandfathers gave me.

There can be no power in a square.

There can never be peace between nations until there is first known that true peace which is within the souls of men.

They told me I had been sick twelve days, lying like dead all the while, and that Whirlwind Chaser , who was Standing Bear's uncle and a medicine man , had brought me back to life. I knew it was the Grandfathers in the Flaming Rainbow Tepee who had cured me; but I felt afraid to say so. My father gave Whirlwind Chaser the best horse he had for making me well, and many people came to look at me, and there was much talk about the great power of Whirlwind Chaser who had made me well all at once when I was almost the same as dead.

This center which is here, but which we know is really everywhere, is Wakan-Tanka.

This they tell, and whether it happened so or not I do not know, but if you think about it, you can see that it is true.

The boys of my people began very young to learn the ways of men, and no one taught us; we just learned by doing what we saw, and we were warriors at a time when boys now are like girls.

To the center of the world you have taken me and showed the goodness and the beauty and the strangeness of the greening earth, the only mother ? and there the spirit shapes of things, as they should be, you have shown to me and I have seen. At the center of this sacred hoop, you have said that I should make the tree to bloom. With tears running, O Great Spirit , Great Spirit, my Grandfather ? with running tears I must say now that the tree has never bloomed. A pitiful old man, you see me here, and I have fallen away and have done nothing. Here at the center of the world, where you took me when I was young and taught me; here, old, I stand, and the tree is withered, Grandfather, my Grandfather!

The Holy Land is everywhere

To use the power of the bison, I had to perform that part of my vision for the people to see.

The Six Grandfathers have placed in this world many things, all of which should be happy. Every little thing is sent for something, and in that thing there should be happiness and the power to make happy. Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other, thus we should do, for this was the wish of the Grandfathers of the World.

When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the West, it comes with terror like a thunder storm; but when the storm of vision has passed, the world is greener and happier; for wherever the truth of vision comes upon the world, it is like a rain. The world, you see, is happier after the terror of the storm. ... you have noticed that truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping. ... as lightning illuminates the dark, for it is the power of lightning that heyokas have.

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 nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours...

When I got back to my father and mother and was sitting up there in our tepee, my face was still all puffed and my legs and arms were badly swollen; but I felt good all over and wanted to get right up and run around.

The soldiers did go away and their towns were torn down; and in the Moon of Falling Leaves (November), they made a treaty with Red Cloud that said our country would be ours as long as grass should grow and water flow.

When we speak of "mitakuye oyasin" (all my relatives), we know always that the growing and moving things of the earth, the winged, the four-legged, and the two legged are all children of the earth and they, too, want to live. So we say mitakuye oyasin.

The Sun Dancers also put rabbit skins on their arms and legs, for the rabbit represents humility, because he is quiet and soft and not self-asserting ? a quality which we must all possess when we go to the center of the world.

While I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw.

Author Picture
First Name
Nicholas
Last Name
Black Elk, formally Heȟáka Sápa
Birth Date
1863
Death Date
1950
Bio

Famous Wichasha Wakan (Medicine Man or Holy Man) of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux). He was Heyoka and a second cousin of Crazy Horse.