Lakota medicine man Black Elk was born on December 1, 1863. While we know the date of his birth, it’s uncertain in which state he was born. His birthplace was along the Little Powder River, which could have been in Wyoming or Montana. He is most known for spiritual ideas, but other aspects of his life were both down-to-earth and surprising. He married, had children, and at one point was a part of Buffalo Bill’s traveling show. With the troupe, he traveled to England, even performing for Queen Victoria. He died on August 19, 1950.
A Native American Voice
He is most remembered for his vision of human life which is infused with Native American spirituality. He began to formulate his views about human life as a child. When he was nine, he suffered a terrible illness and during that time experienced an elaborate vision of human life. Later, he became a Roman Catholic and added Catholic spirituality to his Native American beliefs. In a series of conversations, the Nebraska poet laureate, John Neihardt, recorded his beliefs and experiences. The eventual result of these discussions was Black Elk Speaks, which is an important historical book, still very much in print.
Black Elk-Neihardt Park is a unique park and literary site in Blair, Nebraska, which highlights the collaboration that produced the classic Native American book. The park has original art and sculpture inspired by this impactful work.
“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 greenier 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.” — Black Elk Speaks
Black Elk-Neihardt Park is the fourth stop on our Nebraska Author Adventures Trail.
Rebecca Blake Beech