Visit the Neihardt Center
The Neihardt Center has been constructed for the study and preservation of the works of John G. Neihardt.
The memorial room repeats the symbolism of the Hoop of the World and chronicles Neihardt's life, works and the times in which he lived. Videotapes allow the visitor to see and listen to the poet, and a research library offers scholars the opportunity to examine works by and about the poet, including copies of Neihardt's manuscripts and his critical essays.
The Center also houses a smaller meeting room and administrative offices.
The Sacred Hoop Prayer Garden
The Sacred Hoop Prayer Garden is a living symbol of the Hoop of the World from the vision of the Oglala Lakota Holy Man Black Elk, found in John G. Neihardt's Black Elk Speaks. The Prayer Garden was designed by Neihardt. The symbolism is explained on signs along the quiet garden paths.
The hoop is divided into quarters, each with its own peculiar power, color and symbol. The Hoop itself is a symbol of the vastness of the universe, "so big," Black Elk said, "it has everything in it."
The West is symbolized by the color blue or black and the power to make live and to destroy. The North is white, symbolizing cleansing and healing. The quarter of the East is symbolized by red and the power of enlightenment that brings understanding and peace. The South is resplendent in yellow to symbolize the power to grow.
Two roads cross the Hoop of the World, one from east to west,and one from south to north.
Like sunrise and sunset, life appears to progress from east to west on a hard black road of worldly difficulty. The red road from south to north is one of spiritual understanding.
Where the two paths cross each other is holy; there springs the tree of life to shield us, filled with leaves, blossoms and singing birds.
Visitors may stroll through the garden and enjoy the detailed explanations of the Garden symbolism as described in Neihardt's Black Elk Speaks.
The Study is the only structure remaining from the original property on which John Neihardt lived and worked from 1900 to 1920. The Study was actually erected for August Hartman in the 1890s prior to Neihardt's occupancy. Neihardt rented the building from 1911-1920 for use in his writing. In this building he wrote his poetry, prose and part of the Cycle of the West.
The building consists of only one room, which is furnished today much as it might have been when Neihardt used it. Although it is not open for entry, during times when the museum is open, the door is open allowing a wide view. In addition, the ample windows allow clear views of every part of the room.
The Memorial Room
The main museum building contains the Memorial Room, a library, a meeting room and administrative offices. The Memorial Room is circular reprising the Sacred Hoop motif of the outside garden. Display cases line the outside.
The displays show various landmarks in Neihardt's life along with copies of his publications and various memorabilia, including items given to Neihardt by the Lakota holy man, Black Elk.
In the center of the room is a cycad; the cycad is an ancient plant-form that symbolizes the tree of life. There is also room for a podium and seating that are used during the various indoor programs of the Center.
The library is available for scholarly research, but it is not a lending library. Arrangements may be made with the staff to view or listen to any of the library resources, which include all of the following:
- Books (including rare and first editions) in five subject categories, catalogued according to the Dewey decimal system
- Poetry and Prose
- American Indian Studies
- Western History and Americana
- Nebraska History (1882-present)
- The American Scholar
- Western American Literature
- American Indian Quarterly
- Great Plains Quarterly
- The Neihardt Subject Files--a collection of newspaper articles, photographs, brochures, and documents catalogued according to subject
- The Lucile Aly Collection
- John G. Neihardt personal correspondence
- Articles written by John G. Neihardt
- Writing on Neihardt by various authors
- A Neihardt chronology
- Aly notes
- Audiocassette tapes and transcripts of interviews, past programs and special events
- Original copies of the Neihardt Foundation Newsletter (1969-present)
- Original art: paintings, prints and sculpture, including one of three surviving portrait busts of John Neihardt made by his wife, Mona
- The desk, personal items, dictionary and dictionary stand that belonged to and were used by John G. Neihardt
The John G. Neihardt Center is located on the property occupied by John Neihardt when he lived and worked in Bancroft, Nebraska.
In the early 1960s, the house in which he lived no longer existed; the only structure remaining on the property was a small outbuilding used by Neihardt as a study. The history of the Center as it exists today began with the John G. Neihardt Study Restoration Project, founded in 1965 by Evelyn Vogt. The purpose of this project was to preserve the one-room study building.
The Study Restoration Project was incorporated in 1967 as the John G. Neihardt Foundation for the purpose of constructing a building to house a museum, library and research facility to preserve Neihardt's works and effects. In 1974, State Senator Blair Richendifer of Walthill introduced into the Nebraska Legislature L.B. 855 that appropriated the "sum of two hundred thousand dollars for the purpose of constructing the John G. Neihardt Foundation."
The Center, dedicated August 1, 1976, was designed by the architectural firm of Clark, Enersen, Hamersky, Schlaebitz, Burroughs & Thomsen. The primary contractor for the construction was Larson & Jipp.