I stood there admiring the eagle feather that Black Elk gave to John Neihardt. The feather had belonged to Black Elk's father. Then I noticed that the display also included Black Elk's coup stick, which surprised and amazed me.
I was at the Neihardt Center in Bancroft, Nebraska. John Neihardt had been Nebraska's poet laureate, the author Black Elk Speaks, the Cycle of the West, and more. Ever since I'd read the first six years ago I had planned to eventually get to Bancroft and the center and so part of my sabbatical is catching up on some of those things I've long planned to do.
When I read Black Elk Speaks I was struck by the power and authenticity of Black Elk's vision and have incorporated it into my own writing and preaching. While on the Pine Ridge Reservation a few years ago, I visited Black Elk's cabin.
The great Lakota holy man had spoken his vision to Neihardt who then wrote it down and shared it with the world. The Neihardt center is Bancroft has preserved Neihardt's writing study, a garden he designed according to the Lakota image of the sacred hoop, and encourages the furtherance of Neihardt's and Black Elk's legacies.
I was the only visitor at the center while I was there. Amy, the director, welcomed me with "Let me turn all the lights on for you." Then she asked if I wanted coffee. For the next hour or so we carried on a great conversation about Neihardt and Black Elk. She said that there are quite a few ministers who come in or call, and some are writing about Black Elk. I had told her about my "Theology of the Plains" project. She said, "I think quite a few people would be interested in that."
I bought a number of book I had yet read and received a free tote bag.
In the morning I had driven US-75 north from Florence through rich farm country. After Bancroft I headed northwest to Pender, then continued east to Walthill, on the Omaha reservation and then to Winnebago on the Winnebago reservation. The development in the latter was striking. I toured the sculpture garden which represents the various clans of the Ho-Chunk nation.
From Winnebago I headed south along the scenic route that is part of the Lewis & Clark Trail toward Macy, which is part of the Omaha reservation. Three years ago our church had planted trees at the Omaha Care Senior Center as part of our denomination's Mission 4/1 Earth. I was pleased to see that the trees are thriving.
I stopped in Decatur for lunch at a place church member Bob Vassell had recommended, but they had quit serving lunch fifteen minutes before. I crossed the Missouri and headed south along Interstate-29, exiting at Missouri Valley in order to visit Desoto National Wildlife Refuge.
Okay, I should have gotten there a long time ago. But often in our early years here it was flooded or recovering from flooding. The visitor's center contains a remarkable display. In the 1960's a sunken steamboat, the Bertrand, was excavated and what was discovered was that the mud had preserved the cargo from 1865. Much of that, commercial goods and the possessions of travelers, is now on beautiful display. According to the informational cards, some items are the only surviving ones in the world.
The refuge was beautiful on this mild, sunny day. Birds were playing and singing. I saw a deer while walking the trails. I've been meaning to get there some spring during the waterfowl migrations and must resolve to do so in 2017.
Hoka Hey is Lakota for "Let's go!"