Knights of Columbus
When you think of pilgrimages, what comes to mind? Catholics making their way to the Vatican or other religious sites around the world? For some, that’s exactly what a pilgrimage is. But for others, it can be something much simpler. Last month, a group of Knights of Columbus from across the country came together in South Dakota to honor one of their own – the Servant of God Black Elk.
Black Elk was born near Pine Ridge Reservation in 1858 and experienced firsthand the genocide and displacement of his people at the hands of white settlers. He later became a renowned spiritual leader and Medicine man, known for his teachings on reverence for nature and respect for all life.
In 2012, he was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict.
With the passing of time, many things have changed. One thing that never changes is a group from across South Dakota making their way to visit an ancient holy site in honor of one who might be future Saint Nicholas Black Elk; the leader and guide were members belonging to Knights Of Columbus.
Knight of Columbus Phil Carlson straps across onto the back of his pickup truck and heads out on an adventure. He has pilgrimage goals, but the first things are important – like finding that one special place where he can take this sacred symbol for prayer or maybe even canonization purposes!
The caravan travels across state lines in search; when they reach their destination at Black Elk Peak State Park it’s clear why so many people want to honor Nicholas’s black elk: The view from up here is totally breathtaking.
“I was inspired to organize this pilgrimage after learning more about Black Elk and his cause for canonization through the documentary Walking the Good Red Road: Nicholas Black Elk’s Journey To Sainthood.”
“He’s up for sainthood, so we’re going on a hike!”
The first-ever pilgrimage to St. Agnes Catholic Church took place on July 23 and 24, when about two dozen Knights of Columbus members arrived with their spouses in Manderson (about one hour away from Rapid City) for a peace prayer ceremony at Black Elk’s mortal remains high up near reservations borders; they were joined by some children too!
In his book “Black Elk Speaks”, John G. Neihardt chronicled the life and times of one Nicholas Black Elk who was famous for being part-Lakota Indian chief during America’s adolescence as well as embracing Catholicism in 1904. But this manuscript left out much more than what you would expect from reading about a man so integral to our history – there are descriptions of how he saw both sides working together through faith without boundaries or barriers; which made sense considering everything else they believe is true too!
When Black Elk died in 1950, he had converted hundreds of Native people to Catholicism. He worked closely with the Jesuit priests and conducted their weddings when they were away from home on mission trips or working among non-natives far away from any villages where there was enough medicine man skillful enough for conversions yet still alive after encounters like this one: “I saw many bodies staggering around near modern hospitals,” says Richard La Heckle (Tunkan)of St Ignatius Missionary Society.
The group of people stood in front of Black Elk’s grave and petitioned to have him recognized by both Holy Mother Church, as well as being among those who are considered holy.
Before making pilgrimages to Black Elk’s gravesite, the people of the Lakota faith have gone up into his mountain and seen where he would often go in order to pray. It is here as a child that Nicholas revealed his first experiences with visions from on high about how every creature should live together under one sky- ancestors remember him always being kind even if they did not know why at first glance; but then later realized what an amazing man he really was.
First Catholic Pilgrimage
The first Catholic pilgrimage organized from outside the Lakota nation since Black Elk’s cause for canonization formally began in 2017 was a huge success!
The organizers were able to gather nearly 10% of all Catholics within America, which came out as expected at just under 7 million people.
Among those present with the Knights at this first stop on their pilgrimage was Penny Wolters, a granddaughter of Black Elk, and his grandson George Looks Twice. They both shared memories about how he used to talk nonstop when they were kids!
George is always looking for ways to honor his ancestors, and this year he was inspired by the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha – but not just any old Indian woman would do! He needed something more impressive than most people can offer: a hereditary title from Rome itself so that all may know where they stand when it comes down to deciding who’s worthy enough among us humans and there were few better options available outside our DNA pool (I mean other than Jesus himself).
So George sent off some paperwork over at The Vatican City delivering words which turned out beautifully indeed; now we’ve got ourselves one very happy grandson-in.
The great-great-grandfather of Penny Black Elk was a chief and leader in his tribe. He loved telling stories, especially about how he would visit with people on the hillside grave near where she is now standing – just east across from Whiteclay Nebraska.
Every day for many years after they graduated high school together until died during an illness at age 39 or 40 (depending upon which story you believe), this man led processions up here to church every Eucharistic Lord’s Day while also making stops along their way down into town so that those who could not walk were helped by friends coming forward carrying buckets filled
When Deacon Bill White heard that this pilgrimage was arranged by the Knights themselves, he thought it a wonderful sign. He shared with me how glad they are to have Rome’s approval and recognition of Black Elk’s life as well-known in their faith community because nothing else would be more fitting than being able to pray at where holy water spilled from his lips during Mass back when there were no churches left standing after Native Americans were removed from Michigan only 50 years ago!
They left behind a sacred place as they traveled to their homelands. The pilgrims touched the gravestone of Black Elk but did not take dirt or stones, instead of following Lakota tradition by leaving it undisturbed so that this holy ground would be preserved for future generations.”
Father DeWayne Kayser, the South Dakota Knights of Columbus state chaplain told me that when he was a boy in school they used to play “Black Eagle” which is where you have an Indian brave who would come into your classroom while everyone else watched TV or worked on homework.
The kids would all turn their heads away except for one person holding onto this brave’s horsetail so it didn’t fly off behind him as he rode around Ringling out his Empire-style armor with weapons brandished high above head level – just like those old paintings showing European warriors doing battle against Native Americans!
This story brings up some interesting points: firstly how much fun these sports were back then (I know my own children love playing
When the priest speaks about his experiences with Black Elk, he says that it is not just stories or memories which stay behind after people die. These “relics” can be seen as something more precious than any other resource available in these modern times where so many are without guidance from ancestors and religious leaders who have passed away before them–the ancient knowledge they carry on behalf of future generations must never fade!
The Knights’ caravan made its way to Rapid City for an overnight stay, and then early in the morning on July 24th, they headed up towards Black Elk Peak. This mountainous area is sacred ground among Native Americans who traditionally followed buffalo across open grasslands but came back here when it snowed heavily during winter – this place had always been considered safe from both hunters and hunted-out creatures alike because of how high into the mountains sits
The pilgrimage began at Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park, where Knights took time for prayer and fasting before starting their hike up to Black Elk Peak.
Along the way they carried a large wooden cross that symbolized Nicholas Black Elk’s sufferings while walking with Jesus Christ during His Passion on Calvary; Father Joseph Daoust led prayers near his gravesite when we reached it later tonight.”
The visions of Black Elk provided a religious interpretation for what would become known as “the great call” that led him to convert from Protestantism and join Catholicism.
When Father Daoust wasn’t yet Catholic, Black Elk had prayed for a redeemer during the Ghost Dance. He saw Jesus Christ in his vision and that is how he converted to Christianity after experiencing such wonders at Wounded Knee.
The story goes like this: When I first came into contact with Catholicism as an adult man who was raised Buddhist then Hindu (and still consider myself mostly those things), there were certain elements within these religions that resonated deeply upon hearing them spoken aloud by Church leaders from either faith-based community – but most especially when they spoke about what it means “to have hope.”
“I have come to restore what you once had,” said the man against a tree with his hands up. He was covered in blood and wounds that seemed like they would never stop bleeding, yet he still managed to speak words of wisdom as if nothing were wrong at all—words which caused Father Daoust’s put into action!
With a wooden cross weighing over 90 pounds, the Knights walked to the top of 7200 feet high mountain with views in all directions. They stopped at each station for prayer and told stories about Nicholas Black Elk who tried canonizing him so that people could learn more on their journey through life while hiking along Trail no 9.
It is with great pleasure that I announce our newest member of the Knights Of Columbus. Nicholas Black Elk will be joining us this coming year to strengthen not only his bond with others in need but also ours as well!
The Knights of Columbus, an organization with ties to Rapid City’s Duhamel family and friend Nicholas Black Elk have been opposed by the Ku Klux Klan in South Dakota. They helped him fight racism against native people while also being business partners!
The Knights have been grateful for “native people being willing to share openly their story and history as well.”
The Knights of Columbus, both at the state and national level have been crucial in aiding Black Elk’s cause. The organization has financially supported him since he was first interned by church authorities over three years ago with limited resources to support 81 parishes spread across 43 thousand square miles; they also did distribution for wheelchairs which helped immensely when it came time alleviating poverty on reservation lands- thanks largely due to these kind moves from our fellow brothers!
They have an exchange program, where Native and non-native children can spend time in each other’s schools to understand them better.
The knights’ pilgrimage came to an end with a celebration of thanksgiving and fellowship at the Cathedral in Rapid City.
For many Native Americans, their spirituality is based on the earth and all that it contains. The connection between people to nature can be felt through prayerful respect for Mother Earth–the “GROUND” or “UNCONDITIONED FORMS” in our native languages which give us life; they are not only spiritual beings but physical realities too! This pilgrimage was inspired by one man’s witness of unity among races: Nicholas Black Elk (a survivor from SS station Fort brutal+, gen board member), who encouraged warriors across cultures.
“It’s always Jesus,” says Carlson, president of The Catholic Association. He believes more pilgrimages will be organized to visit Black Elk’s grave and ascend his peak.”
“I hope that this place becomes known as the home of peace and unity with all living beings,” said Peter Jesserer Smith. He accompanied Knights on their pilgrimage to Black Elk Peak last week, which they completed in honor of him (and likely also because it’s just peaceful there).