Bishops Approve Canonical Step for Sainthood Cause for Lakota Catechist

November 14, 2017 By Public Affairs Office

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

Nicholas W. Black Elk, Sr., was born into the OglalaLakota 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 medicineman. In 1885, he learned about St. Kateri Tekakwitha and signed the petitionsupporting the cause of her canonization. In 1904, he met a Jesuit priest whoinvited him to study Christianity at Holy RosaryMission near Pine Ridge, SD. OnDecember 6, on the Feast of St. Nicholas, he was baptized Nicolas William. In 1907, the Jesuits appointed him acatechist because of his love for Christ, his enthusiasm and his excellentmemory for learning scripture and Church teachings. During the second half ofhis life, he traveled widely to various reservations, preaching, sharingstories, and teaching the Catholic faith. He is attributed to having 400 Native American people baptized.

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

More information on the sainthood process isavailable at:


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


Judy Keane