That the People May Live:’ the Life and Legacy of Nicholas Black Elk, Holy Man of the Lakota

This lecture explores the life and legacy of Nicholas Black Elk (c.1866-1950), the Lakota holy man made famous by the book Black Elk Speaks. I begin with Black Elk's Great Vision and his struggle to discern his calling during the events of the Great Sioux War. During his long life, Black Elk lived out his vision in three overlapping roles: as a traditional healer, a Catholic teacher, and a revivalist of Indigenous traditions. In the midst of great tragedy, Black Elk wove these three strands into one beautiful life exemplifying survival, hope, and reconciliation. We will discuss the relevance of Black Elk's legacy for broader questions of Abenaki survival in Northern New England, hope in the face of global environmental problems, and reconciliation in the midst of growing political and religious sectarianism. This talk is based on extensive historical research, extended residency in Indian Country, and continuing conversation with Lakota elders.