Filmmaker Sister Judy Zielinski, OSF, completes documentary “Walking the Good Red Road: Nicholas Black Elk’s Journey to Sainthood" for Rapid City Diocese

Published May 27, 2020

In Walking the Good Red Road: Nicholas Black Elk’s Journey to Sainthood, writer and producer Sister Judith Ann Zielinski, OSF, and the team from NewGroup Media, tells the story of Lakota Holy Man Nicholas Black Elk on his journey to canonization as the first U.S. Native American male saint. 

Born into pre-reservation America in 1863, Nicholas Black Elk was at the Battle of Little Bighorn, toured Europe as a dancer with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, lived through the Battle of Wounded Knee, served his people as a medicine man, and was the subject of John Neihardt’s classic 1932 book Black Elk Speaks.

 In Walking the Good Red Road, Sister Judy focuses on the lesser-known second half of Black Elk’s life: his encounter with Jesuit missionaries, his baptism as a Catholic in 1904 at about the age of 40, and his 30-some years serving tirelessly as a parish catechist, bringing an estimated 400 Natives to the Catholic faith before his death at the age of 86 on August 19, 1950.

Sister Judy began research in November 2018. She interviewed dozens of experts and local Lakota tribal members on the Pine Ridge Reservation, many who appear in re-enactments staged at the actual sites connected to Black Elk’s life.

The documentary aired in many U.S. markets on May 24, 2020 on ABC affiliates. 

There will be DVDs for sale as well as streaming and download options for the program. These will be available after May 31 when the show airs in Rapid City. Please go to the Rapid City diocesan website for details:

Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio
Contact Information: 

Sr. Judy Zielinski, OSF

Director, Faith & Values Programming


422 East Monroe Street

South Bend, IN 46601

574/ 386 1465 (cell)