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

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.

After the horse dance was over, it seemed that I was above the ground and did not touch it when I walked.

Behold all the wings of the air shall come to you, and they and the winds and the stars shall be like relatives.

I looked about me once again, and suddenly the dancing horses without number changed into animals of every kind and into all the fowls that are, and these fled back to the four quarters of the world from whence the horses came, and vanished.

Now suddenly there was nothing but a world of cloud, and we three were there alone in the middle of a great white plain with snowy hills and mountains staring at us; and it was very still; but there were whispers.

Again, and maybe the last time on this earth, I recall the great vision you sent 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, not for myself, but for my people; I am old. Hear me that they may once more go back into the sacred hoop and find the good red road, the shielding tree!

Behold this day. It is yours to make.

I looked below and saw my people there, and all were well and happy except one, and he was lying like the dead - and that one was myself.

Of all the created things or beings in the universe, it is the two-legged men alone, who if they purify and humiliate themselves, may become one with ? or may know ? Wakan-Tanka.

All around the circle, feeding on the green, green grass were fat and happy horses...

But I think I have done right to save the vision in this way, even though I may die sooner because I did it; for I know the meaning of the vision is wise and beautiful and good; and you can see that I am only a pitiful old man after all.

I saw ahead the rainbow flaming above the tepee of the Six Grandfathers, built and roofed with cloud and sewed with thongs of lightning; and underneath it were all the wings of the air and under them the animals and men. All these were rejoicing, and thunder was like happy laughter. As I rode in through the rainbow door, there were cheering voices from all over the universe, and I saw the Six Grandfathers sitting in a row, with their arms held toward me and their hands, palms out; and behind them in the cloud were faces thronging, without number, of the people yet to be.

Once we were happy in our own country and we were seldom hungry, for then the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds lived together like relatives, and there was plenty for them and for us.

All over the sky a sacred voice is calling your name.

Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that one. He was on his horse in that world, and the horse and himself on it and the trees and the grass and the stones and everything were made of spirit, and nothing was hard, and everything seemed to float. His horse was standing still there, and yet it danced around like a horse made only of shadow, and that is how he got his name, which does not mean that his horse was crazy or wild, but that in his vision it danced around in that queer way. It was this vision that gave him his great power, for when he went into a fight, he had only to think of that world to be in it again, so that he could go through anything and not be hurt. Until he was killed at the Soldiers' Town on White River, he was wounded only twice, once by accident and both times by some one of his own people when he was not expecting trouble and was not thinking; never by an enemy. He was fifteen years old when he was wounded by accident; and the other time was when he was a young man and another man was jealous of him because the man's wife liked Crazy Horse. They used to say that he carried a sacred stone with him, like one he had seen in some vision, and that when he was in danger, the stone always got heavy and protected him somehow. That, they used to say, was the reason that no horse he ever rode lasted very long. I do not know about this; maybe people only thought it; but it is a fact that he never kept one horse long. They wore out. I think it was only the power of his great vision that made him great.

I think I have told you, but if I have not, you must have understood, that a man who has a vision is not able to use the power of it until after he has performed the vision on earth for the people to see... It was even then only after the heyoka ceremony, in which I performed my dog vision, that I had the power to practice as a medicine man, curing sick people; and many 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, and the visions and 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.

So I took the bright red stick and at the center of the nation's hoop I thrust it in the earth.

All the things of the universe are joined with you who smoke the pipe ? All send their voices to Wakan-Tanka, the Great Spirit. When you pray with this pipe, you pray for and with everything.

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?

I was four years old then, and I think it must have been the next summer that I first heard the voices.

Sometimes they did not even take the hides, only the tongues; and I have heard that fire boats came down the Missouri River loaded with dried bison tongues.

All the wings of the air shall come to you, and they and the winds and the stars shall be like relatives.

Everybody was glad that I was living; but as I lay there thinking about the wonderful place where I had been and all that I had seen, I was very sad; for it seemed to me that everybody ought to know about it, but I was afraid to tell, because I knew that nobody would believe me, little as I was, for I was only nine years old. Also, as I lay there thinking of my vision, I could see it all again and feel the meaning with a part of me like a strange power glowing in my body; but when the part of me that talks would try to make words for the meaning, it would be like fog and get away from me.

I was ten years old that winter, and that was the first time I ever saw a Wasichu (white man). At first I thought they all looked sick, and I was afraid they might just begin to fight us any time, but I got used to them.

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.