Dear Mr. Neihardt,

I was fortunate enough to be one of your students in 1955 in your Epic America class at the University of Missouri. I want you to know that I have never taken a course that has meant more to me. I wrote you in 1964 to tell you that I was using your Cycle of the West in my classes. Since that time I have not only used it here at Phillips but I also had great success with it in my Oral Interpretation classes that I taught at the University of Southern California while I was doing my residency there for my Phd. I am now working on my dissertation in the area of contemporary Indian literature in light of Indian traditions, religious beliefs, etc. I would have liked to have done it on you, but since Mrs. Aly beat me to it by a few years I had to settle on something else.

Because of the love of the Indian that you nurtured in me (and my wife who took your class on my suggestion in 1958) we now have three lovely adopted children. Our daughter is Cheyenne, our oldest son is Ponca-Otoe, and our youngest son is Caddo-Delaware. We are trying to do all we can to foster in them a love and understanding for their own traditions and a pride in their race.

At the present I am writing a readers' theatre production based on five women who somewhat typify the many brave women involved in the westward movement. It seems to me that with the troubles in America at this time this kind of story needs to be re-told. I chose this form of presentation because I feel that only through readers' theatre can a story of this scope be told, and this is certainly the only way good literature that has been written on the subject can be presented and still be honest to the original literary work.

I have chosen for my women "Calamity Jane" Cannary, Baby Doe Tabor, Eliza Snow (the Mormon poetess), Elinore Pruitt Stewart (Letters of a Woman Homesteader), and Kate Bighead (a Cheyenne woman who would be representative of all the Indian women caught in the press of the westward movement).

Because so little is known about Kate Bighead's life, except for her account of Custer's death, I would like to have your permission to adapt and use portions of your Song of the Indian Wars, Black Elk Speaks, and When the Tree Flowered. I have read many, many books on Indian life, but I have never found any that had such depth of understanding of the Indian as your books do. The changes I would make would be minimal, only those necessary to fit the change in sex and tribe, and I would be very careful that the change would not go against history or tribal traditions. If I decide to copyright the script, could I also have permission from you to use your material, with the understanding, of course, that I will give proper credit to you for the material used? I will never forget the story you told in class of the person who wrote the book on Hugh Glass and used much of your description of his journey as fact.

Again I want to thank you for the great influence you have had on my life and continue to have (I have both of your recordings that Sandy Grey made and find constant inspriation from your comments on the second side of your Lyric record, a conversation that I wish could have gone on and on). May God bless you and bring as much happiness to your life as you have brought to mine.


Jerry Turpin
Jerry Turpin