Last month, U.S. Catholic bishops voted absolutely to accompany sainthood for Oglala Lakota healer and abstracted Nicholas Black Elk, who is accustomed with bringing hundreds of Native Americans to the Catholic faith. It is the ability of a dream for Catholic Lakota on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, amid them, some of Black Elk’s descendants.
But not anybody one supports the move, alert of the Church’s role in the celebrated abolishment of aboriginal cultures.
Most of what is accepted about Black Elk is acquired from an adventures dictated to biographer John Neihart in 1932, “Black Elk Speaks.”
He was built-in in abreast Wyoming in December, 1863, according to the Lakota calendar, and accustomed the name of Hehaka Sapa, literally, “Black Elk.”
Black Elk grew up during the aeon of American face amplification into the West and the U.S. government’s affected abatement of Native Americans assimilate reservations. During this time, missionaries from assorted Christian denominations flocked to anxiety in adjustment to “save” Native souls. Catholic priests of the Jesuit adjustment — alleged “black robes” by Lakota — accustomed a mission at Pine Ridge.
Black Elk’s adolescence was alternate by religious visions which led him to afterwards serve as a wichasha wakan, a acceptable healer and airy leader. Black Elk appear his vocation in 1881, but afterwards the U.S. government banned abounding Native American religious practices, he was affected to go underground.
“The Jesuits could abide Lakota adherence and practice, but they did not like the healing ceremonies,” said Damian M. Costello, columnist of Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism. “They saw them as calling in alcohol in an inappropriate way.”
In 1904, Costello explained, a Jesuit priest angrily disconnected Black Elk while he was assuming a healing ceremony.
“In the after-effects of that, Black Elk was arrive to Holy Rosary Mission, and he backward there, abstruse about the acceptance and was eventually baptized,” he said.
Black Elk took the Christian name of Nicholas, afterwards the 4th aeon healer, St. Nicholas. For the abutting 40 years, he served as a Abbey catechist, or lay cleric, and is said to accept brought added than 400 Native Americans to the Catholic faith.
The alley to sainthood
The movement to accept him declared a saint began in March 2016, back some of Black Elk’s birth presented a academic address to Rapid City, South Dakota, Bishop Robert D. Gruss.
Gruss formally opened the case for sainthood on October 21 during a Mass at Pine Ridge’s Holy Rosary Church.
“Our assignment now is to abide to accumulate added information, affidavit about his life, and to adjure that he is begin aces to accept his account confused forward,” Gruss said.
The account action involves three steps: Aboriginal is the acknowledgment of a person’s ballsy virtues, afterwards which the abbey declares the being “venerable.” Additional is beatification, afterwards which the being is alleged “blessed.” Third is canonization, sainthood.
Petitioners charge appearance affirmation of two miracles occurring afore and afterwards beautification.
Bill White, a Lakota Catholic, will serve as the postulator for Black Elk’s cause. His job is to accumulate affirmation to present to Rome.
“I accept God batten to Black Elk at a actual aboriginal age, and it isn’t acceptable that this was a bulletin that aloof came from his village,” White said. “The bulletin that we charge all alive in accord and harmony, it was such a Christian abstraction that it had to accept appear from God Himself, and it absolutely abreast him and gave him administration for the blow of his life.”
The attributes of Black Elk’s conversion, however, is still debated by some scholars: Did the acceptable healer become a Catholic out of accurate confidence or did he artlessly accord in to pressure?
His great-granddaughter, Lakota activist Charlotte Black Elk, has been analytical of the Church.
“There are capricious types of genocide,” she told C-Span in a 2001 interview. “There’s the genocide area you absolute annihilate people. There’s the genocide area you abjure them character through religious expression, through theology.”
She believes Black Elk adapted because it was politically expedient.
“In those days, we weren’t accustomed to biking after permission,” she told VOA. “But as a catechist, Black Elk could go everywhere and conduct acceptable ceremonies.”
She said she does not abutment the abstraction of the Catholic Abbey claiming her antecedent as a saint, “but I do account those who do,” she said. “And I will alive able-bodied calm with all my relatives.”
White is acquainted that not anybody supports the cause, but rejects their criticism.
“For over four decades, he was a catechist. He brought in hundreds of converts. Is this article you do aloof for a meal ticket, aloof to be able to biking freely?”
That said, he issued an allurement to skeptics: “I would allure them to accord me some evidence. In my job as postulator, I would appetite to apprehend affirmation to the adverse of what I feel and what I believe.”
The final accommodation will lie in the easily of Pope Francis, who has been articulate in his abutment of aboriginal rights.
If confirmed, Black Elk would be the additional Native American to accept the Church’s accomplished honor. The aboriginal was Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th aeon Mohawk, canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.
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