Film explores life of Lakota who could become Catholic saint

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Sr. Judith Ann Zielinski was surprised when she learned a Cause for Canonization had been opened to consider making Nicholas Black Elk a saint of the Catholic Church.

A Franciscan nun, she knew who Black Elk was because of the 1932 book “Black Elk Speaks,” by John Neihardt, a poet with an interest in Native American culture.

And that’s why Zielinski was surprised: “Black Elk Speaks” makes no mention of the Oglala Lakota holy man’s baptism in his 40s and subsequent career as a catechist – teacher of the faith.

“Black Elk has become this symbol of the Great American Indian,” she says, “mourning the loss of the great native culture before the white man came. … The world pictured Black Elk as praying on the mountain, tragically, for this world that was no more.”

That may start to change when a documentary she wrote and produced, “Walking the Good Red Road: Nicholas Black Elk’s Journey to Sainthood,” begins airing nationally today on ABC affiliates.


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