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John G. Neihardt

Writer , Poet

Country:United States

Lifetime: 1881 - 1973 Passed: ≈ 49 years ago

John Gneisenau Neihardt 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.


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.


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.



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


Neihardt died in 1973.


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