Black Elk Speaks: The Complete Edition

By John G. Neihardt; Black Elk | Go to book overview

APPENDIX 4
Transcript of Letter from John G. Neihardt
to Nick Black Elk, November 6, 1930

Nick Black Elk Oglala, South Dakota

Dear Friend,

Your letter of November 3 has just reached me and I am very happy to hear from you! I wondered why I did not hear from you. But I was sure that you would write to me, for I felt when we parted at your home in Manderson that we were friends and that you would not fail me. I see now why you did not write sooner.

I am glad to know that you are willing to make the picture story of the Messiah and of Wounded Knee for me. You say if I will send you $7 for the material, you can go ahead on this work, and I am sending you the money with this letter, so that you can get started. You did not tell me how much you will want for your work. Please do. I think that fawn skin will be even better for the picture than rawhide.1

Now I have something to tell you that I hope and believe will interest you as much as it does me. After talking with you four and a half hours and thinking over many things you told me, I feel the whole story of your life ought to be written truthfully by somebody with the right feeling understanding of your people and of their history. My idea is to come back to the reservation next spring, probably in April, and have a number of meetings with you and your old friends among the Oglalas who have shared the great history of your race, during the past half century or more.

I would want you to tell the story of your life beginning at the beginning and going straight through to Wounded Knee. I would have my daughter, who is a shorthand writer, take down everything you would say, and I would want your friends to talk any time about, and share in, the different things that you would tell about. This would make a complete story of your people since your childhood.

-237-

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