Quotes To Live By
The Black Elk quotes on this page are from the medicine man (healer & spiritual leader) of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) who became a Roman Catholic in his forties. In 2017 the process for his sainthood began due to his work in sharing the Gospel with native and non-native people.
Born in 1863, Black Elk's father and paternal uncles were all medicine men. At the age of four, while out playing alone, he began to hear voices which continued occasionally over the following years, but he never told anyone. At the age of nine, a voice told him "It is time; now they are calling you." As he got up his legs began to hurt, he worsened over the next couple of days with his limbs and face badly swollen. He became unconscious and was thought to be dying. He was unconscious for twelve days and during this time he had a wonderful vision or near death experience in which he was taken by two men 'Thunder Beings' to a council of the Six Grandfathers with each Grandfather giving him powers. He also saw a great tree symbolizing the life of the Earth and all people.
I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the centre grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was Holy.
It wasn't until he was seventeen that Black Elk told a medicine man of his experience, he was then helped to understand and develop his vision to enable him to become a powerful healer and Shamen for his people. Black Elk continued to have many visions throughout his life.
In 1887 he performed in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in England, which was seen by Queen Victoria. Although due to return home the following year, he missed the ship and joined another wild west show touring Germany, France and Italy. He finally arrived home in the autumn of 1889. During his time in Europe he had an “abundant opportunity to study the white man’s way of life.”
In 1892 Black Elk married Katie War Bonnet, she became a Catholic so their three children were all baptized as Catholics. Black Elk did not become a Catholic until 1904, the year after his wife died and he was given the name Nicholas. In 1905 he married a widow, Anna Brings White, who had two daughters, they had three more children before her death in 1941.
Black Elk & John Neihardt
In the 1930’s, although nearly blind, Black Elk organized an Indian show that was held in the sacred Black Hills. This show was not the same as the ones he was in previously, Black Elk’s wanted to teach the Lakota culture and sacred rituals to tourists. He also told the story of his life and the ways of the Lakota people to John Neihardt for publication. The book ‘Black Elk Speaks’ has been an important source for learning about Native American spirituality ever since.
When John Neihardt asked Black Elk why he put aside his native religion, he answered “My children had to live in this world.” John’s daughter, Hilda, who worked with her father on the book, wrote in 1995 that just before his death Black Elk told his daughter Lucy Looks Twice, “The only thing I really believe is the pipe religion.” Black Elk died aged 86 in 1950.
Black Elk Quotes: A
A warrior who had more than he needed would make a feast. He went around and invited the old and needy.
All over the sky a sacred voice is calling your name.
Black Elk Quotes: B
Behold this day. It is yours to make.
Black Elk Quotes: C
Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that one.
Black Elk Quotes: E
Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a person is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.
Every little thing is sent for something, and in that thing there should be happiness and the power to make happy. Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other, thus we should do, for this was the wish of the Grandfathers of the World.
Everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the power of the world always works in circles.
Black Elk Quotes: G
Great Spirit, the good road and the road of difficulties you have made me cross; and where they cross, the place is Holy.
Grown men can learn from very little children, for the hearts of the little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.
Black Elk Quotes: I
I cured with the power that came through me. Of course, it was not I who cured, it was the power from the Outer World; the visions and ceremonies only made me like a hole through which the power could come to the two-leggeds. If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power could come through.
It is good to have a reminder of death before us, for it helps us to understand the impermanence of life on this Earth, and this understanding may aid us in preparing for our own death. He who is well prepared is he who knows that he is nothing compared with Wakan-Tanka, who is everything; then he knows that world which is real.
It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds.
Black Elk Quotes: K
Know the power that is Peace.
Black Elk Quotes: L
Let every step you take upon the Earth be as a prayer.
Look to the old, they are worthy of old age; they have seen their days and proven themselves. With the help of the Great Spirit, they have attained a ripe old age. At this age the old can predict or give knowledge or wisdom, whatever it is, it is so.
Black Elk Quotes: M
May you always walk in beauty.
Black Elk Quotes: O
One should pay attention to even the smallest crawling creature for these too may have a valuable lesson to teach us.
Black Elk Quotes: P
Peace will come to the hearts of men when they realize their oneness with the Universe, it is everywhere.
Perhaps you have noticed that even in the slightest breeze you can hear the voice of the cotton tree; this we understand is its prayer to the Great Spirit, for not only men, but all things and all beings pray to Him continually in different ways.
Black Elk Quotes: S
Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking.
Black Elk Quotes: T
The center of the Universe is everywhere.
The drum is sacred. Its round form represents the whole Universe, and its steady beat is the pulse, the heart throbbing at the centre of the Universe.
The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the Souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that its center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. This is the real peace, and the others are but reflections of this. The second peace is that which is made between two individuals, and the third is that which is made between two nations. But above all you should understand that there can never be peace between nations until there is known that true peace, which, as I have often said, is within the Souls of men.
The Great Spirit is everywhere; He hears whatever is in our minds and our hearts, and it is not necessary to speak to Him in a loud voice.
The Holy Land is everywhere.
The sky is round, and I have heard that the Earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.
Black Elk Quotes: Y
You showed me… the spirit shape of things as they should be. You have shown me, and I have seen.