Black Elk, also known as Hehaka Sapa (Brown 1953); Nicholas, baptismal name (Steltenkamp 1993); and Choice, Black Elk’s boyhood name, Kahnigapi (Neihardt 1984), was born in December 1863 in a family of healers; his father and grandfather were prominent Oglala medicine men (DeMallie 1984, p. 3). He, too, was a powerful thunder medicine man, leading in traditional (Yuwipi) ceremonies. As a Heyoka he worked with the thunder and dog medicines and, as such, often worked in paradoxical (contrary) ways. The Heyokaor thunder dreamers often do or say the opposite of the intended meaning. Black Elk actually practiced traditional healing and medicine throughout his life, converting to Catholicism only in 1929 when he married his first wife, Katie War Bonnet who was a Catholic. Black Elk’s family believes that his “conversion” to Catholicism and his work as a catechist were not absolute. Family members recall that he continued to pray with the pipe, especially when the thunder beings came...
Dedicated to the memory of my Hunka relative (adoptive mother, one of the ceremonies which Black Elk discusses), whose name is Margaret Richard Lunderman, a Member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and descendant of Chief Red Cloud. She crossed into the spirit world on 03 March 2008. With esteem, Rick Voss.
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