John Neihardt

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John Gneisenau Neihardt (January 8, 1881 – November 3, 1973) was an American writer and poet, amateur historian and ethnographer. Born at the end of the American settlement of the Plains, he became interested in the lives of those who had been a part of the European-American migration, as well as the Indigenous peoples whom they had displaced.

His best-known work is Black Elk Speaks (1932), which Neihardt presents as an extended narration of the visions of the Lakota medicine man Black Elk. It was translated into German as Ich rufe mein Volk (I Call My People) (1953). In the United States, the book was reprinted in 1961, at the beginning of an increase in non-Native interest in Native American cultures. Its widespread popularity has supported four other editions. In 2008 the State University of New York published the book in a premier, annotated edition.


Neihardt was born in Sharpsburg, Illinois. He published his first book, The Divine Enchantment, at the age of 19. The book is based on Hindu mysticism.

One-room wood building with two windows and small front porch
Neihardt's study in Bancroft

In 1901, Neihardt moved to Bancroft, Nebraska, on the edge of the Omaha Reservation, beginning a lifelong fascination with Indian cultures. He also co-owned and edited the local newspaper, the Bancroft Blade. After a trip to the Black Hills, Neihardt published A Bundle of Myrrh, romantic poetry in free verse.

In 1920, Neihardt moved to Branson, Missouri. In the summer of 1930, as part of his research into the American Indian Ghost Dance movement, Neihardt contacted an Oglala holy man named Black Elk. Neihardt developed the book Black Elk Speaks from their conversations, which continued in the spring of 1931, and published it in 1932. It is now Neihardt's best known work. The book was translated into German in 1953. In the United States, it was reprinted in 1961 and there have been four additional editions. In 2008 the State University of New York Press published a premier edition of the book, with annotations.[1]

Neihardt served as a professor of poetry at the University of Nebraska, and a literary editor in St. Louis, Missouri. He was a poet-in-residence and lecturer at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri from 1948 on.[1]

In 1971 and 1972 Neihardt appeared on The Dick Cavett Show, spurring renewed interest in Black Elk Speaks.[1][2][3]

Neihardt died in 1973.

Legacy and honors[edit]

One-room wooden building; in foreground, circular hedge about 100 feet in diameter
Neihardt's study and garden at Neihardt Center in Bancroft, Nebraska
  • A Residence Hall at Wayne State College in Wayne, NE is also named after Neihardt. It is rumored to be haunted.[4]
  • An elementary school in Omaha, Nebraska is named after Neihardt.[5]
  • A park in Blair, NE is named for Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota and John G. Neihardt who wrote Black Elk Speaks.[6]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c George Linden, "John Neihardt and 'Black Elk Speaks'", in The Black Elk Reader, ed. Clyde Holler, Syracuse University Press, 2000, accessed 20 June 2011
  2. ^ "The Dick Cavett Show, list of guests and shows". Archived from the original on 2016-03-24. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  3. ^ "The Dick Cavett Show, Notable Moments: Dr. John Neihardt". Archived from the original on 2016-03-12. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  4. ^ "Wayne State College – Neihardt Hall | Haunted Places". Retrieved 2016-08-05.
  5. ^ John G. Neihardt Elementary School. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  6. ^ "Black Elk/Neihardt Park Home of The Four Winds". Retrieved 2021-04-29.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]