Black Elk

Black Elk

South Dakota has been inhabited by Native American people for almost 12,000 years. France took hold of the area in the 1700s, and the United States acquired the Dakotas when Thomas Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Lewis and Clark passed through the area a couple years later surveying and mapping as their expedition travelled west.

Congress established the Dakota Territory in 1861. In 1874 gold was discovered in the Black Hills on Lakota land, leading to hostilities between the Lakota people and the U.S. Army, and the death of Gen. Custer at The Battle of the Little Big Horn.

On Nov. 2, 1889, South Dakota became the 40th State of the Union. A year later the Battle of Wounded Knee brought an end to Native American hostilities.

Among those listed as South Dakota’s favorite sons is Black Elk. Black Elk was an Oglala Lakota holy man descended from a line of holy hen and a second cousin of the Lakota War Chief Crazy Horse.

Black Elk was a young teenage warrior in the Battle of the Little Big Horn, an Indian performer in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and was wounded in the hip saving a number of his people at Wounded Knee.

Black Elk was married twice and raised all of his children in the Catholic Church because he said that they must live in this world. When Black Elk was in his 40s, he converted to Catholicism and became a catechist, teaching others about Christianity.

Black Elk died Aug. 19, 1950 at the age of 86 in Pine Ridge, S.D.

In August of 1960 the Catholic Diocese of Rapid City opened an official cause for his beatification.

If you are interested in a detailed account of Black Elk's amazing life, in his own words, a good place to start would be John Neihardt's book, "Black Elk Speaks."

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