Notes from Indian CountryWhat would Black Elk say?
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji – Stands Up For Them) There are some things that trip my wire faster than anything and if I come across as slightly perturbed it is because I am. Over the past few weeks the talk from the Catholic Church has been about the canonization of Black Elk. I suppose that is fine and dandy. The Church can make saints out of whomever they choose, but it is my personal opinion that this goes beyond the pale, literally. Several months ago I wrote that I was a recovering Catholic. What is happening today only bolsters the speed of my recovery. For instance, Black Elk was not thinking of the Catholic Church or of the benevolence of the white man when he said: “I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream . . . the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered.” He saw everything that was beautiful about the Lakota die in the snow at Wounded Knee on that December day in 1890. If he converted to Catholicism after witnessing this horrific scene perhaps it was because he believed there was nothing else left to cling to; the old ways were dead and gone.
Perhaps it will be a feather in the cap of the Catholic Church to add Black Elk to their long list of Saints and it will without a doubt lift their standings among many converted Lakota, but I thank Wakan Tanka that there are still those Lakota out there who refused to bend or succumb to a foreign religion, but instead hung on to the traditional beliefs of their ancestors. Early on we were taught in the Catholic boarding schools the meaning of a venial and mortal sin. We also learned that there was only one true religion and that was the Catholic religion and that all others were false religions including that of our grandparents and elders. To practice a religion other than that of the Catholic Church was a mortal sin. Our ancestors were sinners. And so it was under this dark cloud that so many of us grew up. In order to explain the harsh teachings of the Catholic Church many converts say “we all worship the same God.” But do we? If we choose not to worship any God what does that mean? Many of us had to unburden ourselves of the myths and misconceptions forced upon us and some made it and others didn’t. Whether Black Elk is canonized or not is out of the hands of the traditional wicasa wakan (Holy Men). And to those of us who have cast off the yoke of all religions, it is also out of our hands. Contact Tim Giago at email@example.com. Tim is the founder, and first editor and publisher of Indian Country Today.
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