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

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.

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.

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.

Flames were rising from the waters and in the flames a blue man lived.

If the vision was true and mighty, as I know, it is true and mighty yet; for such things are of the spirit, and it is in the darkness of their eyes that men get lost.

And as he spoke of understanding, I looked up and saw the rainbow leap with flames of many colors over me.

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-leggeds, the four-leggeds, the wings of the air and all green things that live. You have set the powers of the four quarters to cross each other. The good road and the road of difficulties you have made to cross; and where they cross, the place is holy. Day in and day out, forever, you are the life of things. Therefore, I am sending a voice, Great Spirit, my Grandfather, forgetting nothing you have made, the stars of the universe and the grasses of the earth.

If you will read again what is written, you will see how it was.

And as I looked ahead, the people changed into elks and bison and all four-footed beings and even into fowls, all walking in a sacred manner on the good red road together.

He was the chief of all the horses; and when he snorted, it was a flash of lightning and his eyes were like the sunset star.

In sorrow I am sending a feeble voice, O Six Powers of the World. Hear me in my sorrow, for I may never call again. O make my people live!

And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.

I am sure now that I was then too young to understand it all, and that I only felt it. It was the pictures I remembered and the words that went with them; for nothing I have ever seen with my eyes was so clear and bright as what my vision showed me; and no words that I have ever heard with my ears were like the words I heard. I did not have to remember these things; they have remembered themselves all these years. It was as I grew older that the meanings came clearer and clearer out of the pictures and the words; and even now I know that more was shown to me than I can tell.

It does not matter where his body lies [Crazy Horse]; there the grass is growing... but where his Spirit lies, that would be a good place to be.

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 center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father.

I cured with the power that came through me.

It is hard to follow one great vision in this world of darkness and of many changing shadows. Among those men get lost.

And if the great fear had not come upon me, as it did, and forced me to do my duty, I might have been less good to the people than some man who had never dreamed at all, even with the memory of so great a vision in me.

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.