John G. Neihardt, Spearfish, South Dakota, to Julius House, [June 3, 1931]
Dear Comrade:

We are laid up two days here at Spearfish after a most glorious four weeks alone with Black Elk and the Oglalas. We are waiting for two small parts of our car to be sent from Denver and will be on our way again tonight. It seems that we are to be robbed of the pleasure of walking over to the Custer Battlefield again, but we have already gotten so much from the trip that we don't feel greatly disappointed over this one slip. We talked four weeks straight with Black Elk and the Oglalas getting the life story of Black Elk, who is a holy man. The principle part of his story is his vision when he had at the age of nine and which seems to have lasted during twelve days of unconsciousness. This vision is a marvelous thing, vast in extent, full of profound significance and perfectly formed. It if were literature instead of a dance ritual, it would be a literary masterpiece. As you know, Indian culture did not develop beyond the dance into literature and what we have here is something ten thousand years behind us in cultural advances, but in no way behind us as to beauty and meaning. This vision has never before been told, as a whole, to anyone, not even to Black Elk's son, who interpreted for me. In addition to the vision which furnishes the dynamic plan for Black Elk's life, I got a great amount of material on the everyday living for many years and some startling accounts of battles from the Fetterman Massacre in 1868 [sic, 1866] up to the Wounded Knee fight in 1890. This is going to be the first absolutely Indian book thus far written. It is all out of the Indian consciousness.

The girls had a perfectly marvelous time. We were all alone with the Oglalas and the men and boys treated the girls much as clean minded white girls [sic] would treat white girls. It was an amazing experience to have when the rottenness of our white civilization at present is considered. When I got back to Chadron for a little while and saw a newspaper after a month and saw a movie show, I wasn't quite sure that I cared to return to civilization and the girls felt practically the same.

As a matter of fact I am planning simply on buying a section of land near Manderson for a ranch. It is very beautiful, has half a mile of Wounded Knee Creek in it and is full of prairie chickens and jackrabbits. We could all live very happy there and may do so. We had a big feast and dance while with the Oglalas. I bought a bull and the Indians slaughtered it in the old-time manner for the occasion. I even had raw liver with the elder warriors, hot from the bull. I must say I didn't relish it.

The dance was in full regalia and the dancers were old Long Hairs. It was a beautiful thing. After the feast we three were taken into the tribe in a rather impressive ceremony and we were given names. Enid is She Who Walks With Her Holy Staff, Hilda is Daybreak Star Woman and I am Flaming Rainbow. These names are all holy names taken from Black Elk's vision and their significance is great, as you will see when you read the book that I will write. A strange thing happened often while I was talking with Black Elk. Over and over he seemed to be quoting from my poems, and sometimes I quoted some of my stuff to him, which when translated into Sioux could not retain much of their literary character, but the old man immediately recognized the ideas as his own. There was often an uncanny merging of consciousness between the old fellow and myself and he seemed to have remembered it.

I may say this much about my name. He explained it briefly something like this, though a knowledge of the vision greatly explains the meaning. "You," he said, speaking to me, "are a word sender. The earth is like a garden and over it your words go like rain making it green, after your words have passed the meaning of them will stand long in the West like Flaming Rainbow." Enid will copy this in longhand as our typewriter is under all the things in the car.

P. S. In Black Elk's vision he was taken to the center of the world (Harney Peak) and shown all the wonders of the universe. It was there where his greatest power was bestowed upon him by the six grandfathers after we finished his story at Manderson, we all went up to Harney Peak and there dressed in yellow, as in his vision, he prayed to the six grandfathers of the universe and wept as he prayed for his people. It was a beautiful thing. This episode will be the concluding chapter of the book.