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Bishops Approve Canonical Step for Sainthood Cause for Lakota Catechist

November 14, 2017

BALTIMORE—The U.S. Bishops have approved by voice vote the canonical consultation of canonization for a Lakota Catechist at their annual fall General Assembly in Baltimore. Sought by Bishop Robert D. Gruss of Rapid City, South Dakota, the voice vote is in keeping with the Episcopal consultation process as a step in the Catholic Church's process toward declaring a person a saint.

Nicholas W. Black Elk, Sr., was born into the Oglala Lakota Tribe in 1863 in Wyoming. The fourth generation to be named Black Elk, he was third in succeeding his father and grandfather as a prominent medicine man. In 1885, he learned about St. Kateri Tekakwitha and signed the petition supporting the cause of her canonization. In 1904, he met a Jesuit priest who invited him to study Christianity at Holy Rosary Mission near Pine Ridge, SD. On December 6, on the Feast of St. Nicholas, he was baptized Nicolas William. In 1907, the Jesuits appointed him a catechist because of his love for Christ, his enthusiasm and his excellent memory for learning scripture and Church teachings. During the second half of his life, he traveled widely to various reservations, preaching, sharing stories, and teaching the Catholic faith.  He is attributed to having 400 Native American people baptized.

On March 14, 2016, a petition with over 1,600 signatures to begin the cause for canonization was presented to Bishop Gruss by the Nicholas Black Elk family.

More information on the sainthood process is available at:


Keywords:  U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Robert D. Gruss, canonical consultation, canonization, Nicolas Black Elk, Sr., Kateri Tekakwitha, Holy Rosary Mission, catechist, Native People, Black Hills, Cause for Canonization. 


Media Contact:
Judy Keane


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