Damian Costello, an international expert on the life and legacy of Nicholas Black Elk and the author of “Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism,” will present the Atwood Lecture at Salve Regina University on Thursday, Sept. 26.
Free and open to the public, Costello’s lecture, “When the World Falls Apart: Nicholas Black Elk, Sainthood, and the Spirits of Mercy,” will be presented at 7 p.m. in Bazarsky Lecture Hall, located in the O’Hare Academic Building on Ochre Point Avenue.
Few Native American elders have achieved the global iconic status of Nicholas Black Elk. Black Elk was many things: a cousin of Crazy Horse, a leader in the Ghost Dance, the subject of the spiritual classic Black Elk Speaks, and now candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church. The complete portrait of Black Elk’s vision is unexpected and striking: in the context of a collapsing world, the Indigenous Christ’s message of mercy renewed the traditional Lakota understanding of the Spirit World’s power to make live. Black Elk’s vision, at once thoroughly Indigenous and sincerely Catholic, is a crucial beacon of hope in world falling apart.
Costello has served as the advisor and consultant to documentary projects on Black Elk, and he is currently the vice-postulator for Black Elk’s cause for canonization in the Catholic Church. Costello’s writing, research, and advocacy is informed by five years of ethnographic study among the people of the Navajo Nation.
Costello received his Ph.D. in theological studies from the University of Dayton and specializes in the intersection of Catholic theology, Indigenous spiritual traditions, and colonial history.