Herman Red Elk was born in Poplar, Montana in 1918 on the Ft. Peck Reservation. After being diagnosed with tuberculosis, he moved to Rapid City in 1960 to be admitted to Sioux Sanatorium for recovery. It was here that he first discovered his passion for art, taking advantage of the vocational training program offered at the sanatorium.
Red Elk then honed his craft by attending a summer art workshop at Black Hills State College in 1963 and studying under Yanktonai Sioux artist, Oscar Howe, at the University of South Dakota during the summers of 1964 and 1965.
Between 1963 and 1964, Red Elk participated in a project sponsored by the Indian Arts and Crafts Board’s Sioux Indian Museum aimed at preserving traditional Lakota hide painting techniques and designs, resulting in a thorough understanding of the art form.
In 1969, Red Elk became the Museum Aide at the Sioux Indian Museum, where he worked until shortly before his passing in 1986. His life and career continue to serve as an inspiration to Native American artists and art enthusiasts alike.