Sights and Sounds of the Omaha Indians: Documenting Native American Celebrations

Some of our knowledge of Native American culture comes from photographs, books and video images. Many of these feature posed or stereotypical images which provided a distorted view of Native Americans. We are fortunate that some have worked to provide our country with materials about Native Americans with input from Native Americans.

Dancing with Audience Members at the Concert at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress American Folklife Center has worked to preserve the culture of America’s people. Through on-site recordings and candid images we are able to experience the language, the songs, the stories and the performances of Native Americans in their communities or here at the Library of Congress.

One of these online presentations documents the music and language of the Omaha Indians of Nebraska. In the late 1800’s Francis La Flesche, the son of Omaha Indian chief Joseph La Flesche and Alice Cunningham Fletcher, a noted anthropologist, made 44 wax cylinder recordings of traditional Omaha songs. Folklorists Carl Fleischhauer and Dorothy Sara Lee recorded the 1983 Omaha Harvest Celebration Powwow and the 1985 performance of the Hethu’shka Society at the Library of Congress. These performances and the photographs taken during the Powwow and the performance provide a different vantage point for those interested in studying the culture of a Native American community.

Whipman David Blackbird

Compare the photographs taken during the Omaha Indian Powwow with the photoprints taken during the pow-wow and peace pipe conference August 5-8, 1925, held by Pawnee and Dakota to commemorate the 52nd anniversary of the battle of Massacre Canyon. What are the similarities and differences between these images? What can you tell about the people in the images?

If your students could document one local tradition what would it be and why? Have them begin the process using the procedures found in Exploring the Community Through Local History  and Family Customs Past and Present .

2 Comments

  1. David
    November 6, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    I didn’t find the archive so useful because it was hard to make the images large enough to see much.

    Would have been nice to see a video of a pow-wow. Missing that…

  2. Danna Bell-Russel
    November 7, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Good morning and thanks for your comment David. You can click on any image to see a larger version. To see the largest version you will need to download a TIFF viewer. We have links to those at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/help/view.html#photograph. The download is free and will let you see the largest version of the image.

    I am not sure if there is any video of the powwow. I think the focus was on insuring that the sounds of the powwow were recorded and available for future use.

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