Nebraska Authors

Helen H. Blish

Born 1898-11-08 Detroit, MI (USA)

Died 1941-04-07
Detroit, MI (USA)

Grand Lawn Cemetery, Detroit, MI (USA)

Graduate student of Hartley Burr Alexander. Blish sought to write her Masters thesis on Native American art, and in 1926 discovered, through contact with W.O. Roberts, then a clerk at the Pine Ridge Agency, the ledger drawings of the late (d. 1913) Amos Bad Heart Bull. The drawings were in the possession of his sister, Dolly Pretty Cloud, and were her most precious possession.

After considerable negotiation, Miss Blish was able to rent the drawings for a modest annual fee (1927-1940). Hartley Burr Alexander, her advisor, had the ledger photographed at his own expense, and made two copies, one for himself and one for Blish. In the difficult time of the 1930s, Alexander obtained grants for Blish to complete her manuscript. Mari Sandoz wrote an introduction to the work. But Blish's early death, in 1941, delayed publication. When Dolly Pretty Cloud died in 1947, the ledger itself was buried with her.

Sandoz's judgment of the historical importance of Amos Bad Heart Bull's artwork, and Sandoz' and Alexander's high opinion of Blish's manuscript have withstood the test of time. The University of Nebraska Press published Blish's manuscript in 1967 as A Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux. Alexander had a few of the photographs colored for a 1938 collection by a French publisher, and that is the source of the few colored pictures in the book.

The Nebraska State Historical Society has a Helen Heather Blish Collection that includes manuscript and notes.


Places Lived

Detroit, MI
Lincoln, NE

Author Of

  • Nonfiction
  • Visual Work


Native Americans--Lakota Sioux; Anthropology; Art


BA, 1926, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
MA, 1928, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE


A Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux. 1967.

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Helen H. Blish

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(e.g. Author is buried in Fremont, not in David City / Also wrote for the Daily Nebraskan during her time as a student)