Heȟáka Sápa, commonly known as Black Elk (December 1, 1863 – August 19, 1950), was a wičháša wakȟáŋ (“medicine man, holy man”) and heyoka of the Oglala Lakota people. He was a second cousin of the war leader Crazy Horse.
Black Elk’s first wife Katie converted to Roman Catholicism, and they had their three children baptized as Catholics. After Katie’s death, in 1904 Black Elk, then in his 40s, converted to Catholicism. He also became a catechist, teaching others about Christianity. He married again and had more children with his second wife; they were also baptized and reared as Catholic. He said his children “had to live in this world.” In August 2016, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rapid City opened an official cause for his beatification within the Roman Catholic Church.Black Elk is perhaps most well known for the books written about him by amateur ethnologist John Neihardt, whom he met near the end of his life. Neihardt wrote about Black Elk’s religious views, visions, and events from his life. Neihardt published his book Black Elk Speaks in 1932. The words of Black Elk have since been published in numerous editions, most recently in 2008. There has been great interest in his work among members of the American Indian Movement since the 1970s and by others who have wanted to learn more about Native American religions.