Nikolas Black Elk

“You see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing,[break]for the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered.[break]There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.”

Last lines of Black Elk Speaks, by John G. Neihardt, l932

“I gave him the words he would have spoken had he been able.”

Notes, John G. Neihardt

Nikolas Black Elk of Black Elk Speaks[break] lived sixty more years, died in modern[break]times in 1950, not in youth[break]at Wounded Knee in 1890.

Twenty-seven then, he had a wife[break]and family to feed, but no more[break]buffalo to hunt — all, all slaughtered[break]to starve the hostile holdouts[break]onto reservations. So he rode[break]into Pine Ridge Agency, signed for[break]ration issue beef, fed his people.

The Sioux had a choice for burial:[break]Catholic or Episcopal, two[break]cemeteries only; red scaffold[break]forbidden on the hill. Nikolas[break]came to Jesus as a Catholic[break]convert in 1904, catechist[break]for the Mission and the Christian God.

In 1913 five men sundanced[break]in secret north of Pine Ridge while[break]three women prayed, records say;[break]we have the photographs. The second day[break]they were caught, fined for “illegal barbaric[break]practices,” and thrown in jail: named were[break]Marrowbone, Shoulder, and Black Elk too.

A holy man, he kept both pipe and[break]Bible, balancing two worlds, adept[break]in both; continued the healing work[break]for the People, and saved two hundred[break]souls for Holy Rosary Mission,[break]which honored him in 1920,[break]giving him a green Model A Ford.

He mended his hoop of relations[break]on ten dollars a month, driving through[break]the Dakotas, fed them all; survived[break]a Depression greater than the stock[break]market crash; forced by the Catholic Church[break]to recant his words in Black Elk Speaks.

Who said that the center would not hold,[break]the sacred hoop was broken, the tree[break]of life was dead? Not Black Elk.

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