To examine all the writings and documents related to the Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk was the charge of the Historical Commission for the diocesan cause of the canonization.
We were comprised of Mark G. Thiel, CA, President of the Commission, Archives of Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University, Wisc; Father Michael Steltenkamp, SJ, professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies, Wheeling Jesuit University, W.Va.; and myself, representing the Diocese of Rapid City as archivist.
Forming a collaborative network was quite a task. We were to search out and gather all published writings, those not yet published as well as historical documents. Father Luis Escalante, Postulator from Italy, asked that we research local areas, repositories, Black Elk’s time spent in Yankton/Vermillion areas, and to check Wyoming where he was reportedly born. One finding incorrectly reported Black Elk as being born in Montana.
Many, many emails, phone calls exchanging ideas, hours of research, waiting for return phone calls and excitement shared that one of us had found this or found that. “Did you know, there is a park in Nebraska …” “Please check out …” read one email. Another remarked “ Hmmmm, I had never heard of that manuscript of his …”
Thiel said, “The Historical Commission’s quest for archival documentation has been an exciting adventure of hunting and stalking into the past. With pain staking scrutiny, we uncovered and studied holdings large and small, which illuminated Black Elk’s holiness and added clues about obscure parts of his life. (Did you know that our diocesan archives and Marquette have an extensive collaboration between the diocese and St. Francis and Holy Rosary Indian Missions?)
The final Historical Commission Report detailed why the name change to Black Elk Peak, several photos of Mass being celebrated on top of Black Elk Peak and much more. To view the full Historical Commission report, please visit our diocesan webpage www.rapidcitydiocese.org. The link to Black Elk, Servant of God is in the lower left corner of the home page.
Many others from the diocese also put in many hours of work on Black Elk’s cause. The personal letters written by Nicholas Black Elk in Lakota were verified by Father Joe Daoust, SJ, of Pine Ridge and translated by Patricia Catches the Enemy, both of Pine Ridge. Catches the Enemy was the Official Verifying Translator on the inquiring commission of Cause of Canonization of the Servant of God — concerning the Life and Virtues and Father Daoust is Episcopal Delegate of the Cause of Black Elk.
“Nicholas — pray for us as we open our hearts to recognize the Risen Christ in other cultures and peoples, to your glory and honor” (from prayer for the Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk).