John G. Neihart

John G. Neihart, Nebraska’s[break]Poet Laureate, loved Aeschylus[break]and Indians, the tragic view[break]of life; he wrote an epic poem,[break]"The Twilight of the Sioux."


During the Depression he ran[break]out of ideas, so he wandered[break]into Pine Ridge in search[break]of a traditional Sioux[break]medicine man, someone who’d[break]fought at Little Big Horn[break]and Wounded Knee, who’d seen[break]it all; then he, John Neihardt,[break]would write his sacred epic story.

At the trading post they sidetracked[break]him, sent him out to Manderson[break]to Black Elk’s place. Welcomed[break]with dry meat and coffee,[break] the old gents came to listen in a tipi,[break]witness to the truth of Black Elk’s[break]words, and feast on beef.

Benjamin Black Elk, the one[break]on the nickel, his son, had been to[break]Carlisle Indian School, knew English,[break]translated as best he could.

Neihardt brought his two daughters[break]along for the adventure. Every day[break]Enid transcribed into shorthand;[break]in the afternnons they rode horses[break]over the Manderson hills.

Two years later Black Elk Speaks [break]was published. A depression failure,[break]remaindered at forty-nine cents,[break]brought neither Neihardt nor Nikolas[break]money or fame until 1961, long after[break]death.

Do they know they live on in a classic[break]which can’t be pigeonholed[break]as philosophy,[break]religion,[break]history,[break]biography or[break]anthropology?

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