Name: Neihardt, John Greenleaf
Category: Cultural Life, Education
Born/Started: Jan. 08, 1881
Died/Ended: Nov. 03, 1973
Description: John Greenleaf Neihardt was a writer who worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and wrote many stories about the early American settlers and Native Americans. Born on a farm in Sharpsburg, Illinois, he grew up in Kansas and Nebraska, where he developed an interest in the early pioneers of the Westward Expansion. He wrote more than 30 books of poetry, stories, essays and catalogues of the adventures of explorers, trappers and the Native Americans.
From 1926 to 1938 he was the literary editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In 1931 he was given a leave of absence to conduct research for a poem about the massacre at Wounded Knee. While in South Dakota he befriended a holy man called Black Elk, a cousin of Crazy Horse. Neihardt’s interviews with him became the novel, Black Elk Speaks. It is considered one of the most important outsider accounts of Native American spirituality.
Neihardt became director of information for the Office of Indian Affairs during World War II, then accepted the position of poet in residence at the University of Missouri-Columbia. From 1952 to 1973, he was the Midwest regional vice president of the Poetry Society of America. At his funeral, a group of Sioux performed a ceremony of last rites rarely given to a white man.
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