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National Sampler:
Selections from Nebraska Collections

Francis LaFlesche
Francis LaFlesche (1857-1932), son of the Omaha chief Joseph LaFlesche, and the first American Indian ethnologist. Courtesy of the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph No. 4504.

Located on the Great Plains, Nebraska derives its name from the Omaha term Ní Btháska or "flat water." The name is a good description of the Platte River, which runs through this Midwestern state on its way to the Mississippi. Nebraska was the homeland of numerous Native American nations, including the Omaha, Missouria, Ponca, Pawnee, Otoe, and various branches of the Sioux, and it still boasts a large Indian population.

Significant European settlement began in the 1860s, when the federal government made free land available to homesteaders. During the late nineteenth century, the introduction of cattle ranching and agricultural innovations made Nebraska of one of America's richest farming regions. It attracted large numbers German, Czech, Swedish, and Irish immigrants.

The American Folklife Center's Nebraska collections are particularly rich in Native American materials. Among the American Folklife Center's earliest recordings are wax cylinders of Winnebago songs and flute melodies, recorded in 1897 and 1900 by pioneering anthropologist Alice C. Fletcher in Nebraska. In collaboration with Fletcher, the Omaha scholar Frances LaFlesche made recordings of Omaha songs beginning in 1895. A selection of recordings made by Fletcher and LaFlesche are available online in the American Memory presentation Omaha Indian Music. Another collection of Winnebago wax cylinders was recorded by fieldworker Paul Radin in Nebraska between 1908 and 1912. The American Folklife Center also has copies of forty wax cylinder recordings from the Nebraska State Historical Society featuring Omaha, Oto, and Pawnee music collected by Melvin R. Gilmore, ca. 1905-06. (Access to some Native American materials requires tribal permission. Researchers are urged to contact the American Folklife Center before coming to Washington to listen to specific recordings.)

In addition to Native American materials, this sampler includes songs, ballads, instrumental music, and oral histories from various American Folklife Center collections documenting Nebraska's history and multicultural heritage. 

For a more complete list of the Center's Nebraska collections, see the finding aid Nebraska Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture.

For more information about the American Folklife Center's Nebraska collections and services, go to Folklife in Your State: Nebraska.

View Selected Photographs From the Collections

Browse the Nebraska Audio and Video Samples and Notes (11 tracks and related images)

The audio examples are in mp3 format. There is one digital video recording.


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   March 8, 2012
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