Helen Heather Blish, 1898-1941 [RG4138.AM]


RG4138.AM: Helen Heather Blish, 1898-1941

Manuscripts, etc.: 1934
Size: 0.5 cu.ft.; 1 box


Helen H. Blish, daughter of William H. and Jeam M. Blish, was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1898. William Blish, as an employee with the Indian Bureau, Department of the Interior, was assigned to work with, among others, the Chinooks of Puget Sound; the Northern and Southern Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and others at the nonreservation Chilocco school in Oklahoma; the Santee Sioux on the Santee Reservation in Nebraska; the Oglala Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota; and the Winnebago, Omaha, and Santee and Yankton Sioux on the Winnebago Reservation in Nebraska. Based on this background, Helen described her interest in Indian culture and history as “natural enough.”

This interest grew when, as a junior at the University of Nebraska in 1919, Helen was forced to drop out of school, a victim of the flu epidemic. While recuperating at home on the Pine Ridge Reservation, she explored the wealth of material on the Indians that the reservation offered. She returned to the University in 1920 and graduated in 1922, receiving the award for the highest scholarship average for women. She then taught high school English, first in Gordon, Nebraska, and then in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan.

Influenced by Hartley Burr Alexander, Philosophy Professor at the University of Nebraska, Helen began graduate work in 1927. Her master’s thesis, “The Amos Bad Heart Buffalo Manuscript: A Native Pictographic Historical Record of the Oglala Dakotas,” was completed in 1928. In 1934 she submitted a three volume report, the product of her research and analysis of the pictorial record, to the Carnegie Institution. Helen Blish died in 1941. Her 1934 manuscript was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 1967 as A Photographic History of the Oglala Sioux.


This collection consists of one box of manuscript material arranged in two series: 1) Manuscript, 1934; and 2) Notes, n.d. The collection relates to Helen Blish’s research and evaluation of the Amos Bad Heart Buffalo (also know as Amos Bad Heart Bull) pictographs. Series 1 consists of Helen Blish’s three volume manuscript entitled “The Amos Bad Heart Buffalo Manuscript. A Native Pictographic Historical Record of the Oglala Dakota.” This report was submitted by Blish to the Carnegie Institution in 1934. The undated Notes of Series 2 apparently were compiled by Blish as she studied Amos Bad Heart Buffalo’s pictographs. The notes describe the colors used in various drawings and evaluate the artist’s success.

Note: The published version of this manuscript, with a complete set of drawings, appears in the NSHS Library under 970.3 B61p. See the Nebraska History Index for articles relating to Helen Blish and Amos Bad Heart Bull.


Series 1 – Manuscript, 1934

Box 1

  1. “The Amos Bad Heart Buffalo Manuscript. A Native Pictographic Historical Record of the Oglala Dakota,” by Helen H. Blish, 1934
  2. “The Amos Bad Heart Buffalo Manuscript…(cont.)
  3. “The Amos Bad Heart Buffalo Manuscript…(cont.)

Series 2 – Notes, n.d.


  1. Notes compiled by Blish to describe and evaluate pictographs by Amos Bad Heart Buffalo

Subject headings:

Bad Heart Buffalo, Amos, 1869-1913
Bad Heart Bull, Amos, 1869-1913
Blish, Helen Heather, 1898-1941
Indian art
Indians of North America — History
Indians of North America — Pictorial works
Oglala Indians — History
Oglala Indians — Pictorial works

AIP/pmc 06-02-1988
02-23-2010 Revised TMM

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