From the Bible
Read Acts 15:5-11
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
About Black Elk
On this day in 1950, Oglala Lakota medicine man Black Elk died, at age 87. He lived, along with his cousin Crazy Horse, during the last days of the Indian Wars – witnessing both the defeat of Custer at Little Big Horn and later in life the massacre at Wounded Knee. Black Elk was part of the first generation of Lakotas to be confined to reservations. The extreme poverty and communal responsibility were factors that led him to both join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show internationally and agree to be interviewed for the book he is best known for, the much debated Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt. One of the major controversies with the work is the exclusion of Black Elk’s faith in Jesus and mission – as well as the withholding of payment for participation in the work.
As a medicine man, Black Elk had prepared to visit a dying boy in the village, only to encounter a Jesuit priest praying there first. He encountered a power greater than his own, and accepted an invitation to spend time at the mission. He was baptized Nicholas shortly after. As a Catholic Catechist (an often downplayed aspect of his life), he was widely considered an apostle to the plains Indians. Thousands of people were brought to the faith – both Indian and non-native, through his work and famous preaching.
His primary work was with new converts and as an evangelist alongside the priests — when priests were not available his duties included baptizing and burials. His passion for Christ as the Creator and fulfiller of things drove him to vigorous and passionate study. Nick thought that many of the Lakota spiritual traditions had come from God to teach them to live in a good way and that Christ made sense of all of it. Many experts agree that his practice of the Christian faith, life, and mission were well-integrated with his worldview and practice as a Lakota.
One such integration is the change in the symbolism for the sun dance ceremony. Traditionally, it was a time of fasting, prayer, and suffering in order to attain personal power for victory in battle. It has become, and many credit Nicholas Black Elk for this shift, a ceremony of prayer and fasting on behalf of all the people – including enemies. For Nick, it was a ceremony to remind the people of the suffering and death of Christ for all of creation.
Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism by Damian Costello
Short Article on his life and faith by Pat McNamera