An American Great Plains author and poet, he is most famous for his 1932 work, Black Elk Speaks, which focuses on the visions of a medicine man of the Lakota tribe. His other works include The Divine Enchantment and The Song of the Indian Wars.
He started writing poetry at age twelve and published his first narrative poem when he was nineteen.
His fascination with Native American culture began when he moved to Nebraska in 1901 and lived and worked near the Omaha Reservation.
He married sculptor Mona Martinsen. Martinsen first encountered Neihardt's love poetry while she was living in Paris. She began corresponding with her future husband and eventually moved to the United States to be near him.
His wife was an art pupil of famous sculptor Auguste Rodin.