Omaha Indian Music
Captions Below

Omaha Indian Music
Album Booklet Cover

153rd Annual Omaha
Tribal Pow-Wow Poster

Hethu'shka Society Concert
at the Library of Congress Poster

About the Collection

A sampling of the American Folklife Center's Omaha Indian collections is included in this presentation of Omaha traditional music. The sound recordings portion of the presentation includes the 44 wax cylinder recordings made in the 1890s that were included on the 1985 LP entitled Omaha Indian Music: Historical Recordings from the Fletcher/La Flesche Collection (AFC L71), 323 songs and spoken-word segments from the 1983 Omaha harvest celebration pow-wow, 24 spoken-word segments from an interview with an Omaha elder in 1983, 25 songs and speeches from a performance by members of the Hethu'shka Society at the Library of Congress in 1985, and 61 spoken-word segments from an interview conducted with an Omaha musician in 1999. The collection also provides access to the 654 black-and-white and 436 color photographs that were made by Library of Congress employees during the 1983 pow-wow and 1985 concert. Additional documentation from the 1983 pow-wow includes thirty-five pages of fieldnotes, thirty pages of handwritten tape logs that correspond to the original thirty seven-inch tapes, an eight-page program, and two posters. A concert flier and a Hethu'shka Society membership document illustrate the 1985 performance at the Library of Congress. Also included in the online collection is official correspondence pertaining to the publication of the LP, the pow-wow, and the 1985 concert. Essays included in the booklet accompanying the LP and relevant articles from Folklife Center News provide framing text.

Because the Omaha tribe had previously given permission to reproduce the wax cylinder recordings from the 1890s on the LP, it seemed logical to select these recordings for inclusion in the online presentation. Selections from the interview with John Turner are especially appropriate because he provided advice and contextual information about the songs included on Omaha Indian Music. Providing access to his commentary offers listeners an opportunity to appreciate the wax cylinder recordings more fully.

In the 1980s Library of Congress folklife specialists made several visits to the annual Omaha pow-wow during which they returned copies of the wax cylinder recordings to members of the tribe in keeping with a goal of the Federal Cylinder Project. The 1983 pow-wow was selected for inclusion in the online collection because it had the strongest documentation of those gatherings. Additional influences were the facts that the current (1999) tribal chairman was the chairman in 1983, that one of the project staff (a recordist and photographer) is still with the Library of Congress, and that the head singer of the Host Drum in 1983 was available as a consultant.

At the Library of Congress concert in 1985, copies of the recently-released Omaha Indian Music LP were given to the participating members of the Hethu'shka Society. Interestingly, all of the songs sung during the concert continue to be sung at the annual Omaha pow-wow. Among the eight participants at the concert were Dennis Hastings, Morgan Lovejoy, and Rufus White, who served as informants for this project.

Over the course of a four-day interview in July 1999, Rufus White provided identifications and contextual information for the songs that were sung by the two Omaha drums during the 1983 pow-wow. Some of his commentary has been included in the online collection.

Special Note:
In focusing on traditional Omaha music, a decision was made to include only the songs that were sung by Omaha drums--the Host Drum and the Tai Piah Singers--during the 1983 pow-wow. Photographs of the visiting drums-- the Honey Creek Singers and the San Juan Pueblo--are included. References to songs by the Honey Creek Singers and the San Juan Pueblo are included in the bibliographic records under the heading entitled Notes. There are also references to the Honey Creek Singers and the San Juan Pueblo in the fieldnotes and the tape logs.

Omaha Indian Music