John G. Neihardt to Ray Lyman Wilbur, the Secretary of the Interior [June 1931].
My dear Sir:-

In your letter of May 1st replying to my request for permission to hold meetings with the Ogalala ​ Sioux, you stated that you would like to have a short report of my doings on the reservation and I am complying with your request.

In company with my two daughters, I spent four weeks among the Ogalala ​ Sioux in the Wounded Knee district of the Pine Ridge Reservation, my purpose being to get the life story of Black Elk, an Ogalala ​ medicine man. In order to make the story complete, I had a number of other old-time Indians, friends of Black Elk, with me most of the time. The meetings, which were practically continuous during the entire period save for the time when we were either sleeping or feasting were very successful indeed and I was able to procure some very valuable material that has never before been given to white men. I cannot, of course, in a letter give you any conception of what this material is, but it would give me pleasure to send you a copy of my book when it appears early next spring. With the permission of Mr. Courtright, who showed a willingness to help me in everything, I had a big feast for all the people in that portion of the reservation and a big dance afterward in the old manner. It was not show stuff, but the old thing and my daughters and I did not feel ourselves to be strangers. For the feast I had a bull killed and nothing was left but the hoofs and horns, and later on the hoofs were eaten too. We were taken into the tribe with the usual impressive ceremony and given names, I myself being called Flaming Rainbow. If you should ever do me the honor of reading the book that I shall publish, the intended significance of the name will appear.

As you, of course, already know, the Ogalalas ​ are hardly a happy or a prosperous people and those who fancy that they could be made so through political reforms and by measly "practical" measures, do not understand the Indian consciousness. I did not go there in a criticizing spirit nor did I come away in any such mood. While I was among the old men and feeling deeply the profound spirituality of which they are capable, funny as this may seem to one who does not know Indians well, I had a dream of what might be done for these Ogalalas ​ if the effort could be made. The simple fact about them is that they cannot be turned into white men and as a people they cannot be supervised successfully after our fashion. They are visionary, lively, and improvident for very good reasons. One feels that they as a people have lost their self-respect and that the only way they could be made really happy and prosperous would be through some revival of their own courageousness and their own religion. Incidentally, they had the courageousness and the spirit both and in the course of this study they are indeed seen to be admirable. There were times when I felt very humble before these old men, and especially when Black Elk, who is in spirit a great poet, was describing the great vision upon which his whole life has been based. What a pity it seems that these people, who are living now in what amounts to a social vacuum, could not be encouraged to revive and cherish their ancient culture to the end that they might develop a proud self-consciousness as a people and thus give them some incentive for striving to the end that their arid and _____________ acres should be fruitful. I know that this is a dream for the reason that the modern world would not allow it, but it is not so foolish as it may sound.

Incidentally, I may say that this was not, by any means, my first contact with Indians. I spent years in intimate contact with the Omahas when their old men were still living and am acquainted with some other tribes.