Library of Congress > Collections > Omaha Indian Music


Omaha Indian Music presents selections from the American Folklife Center's collections documenting Omaha music traditions. The sound recordings include 44 wax cylinder recordings made in the 1890s (first published on a 1985 LP entitled Omaha Indian Music: Historical Recordings from the Fletcher/La Flesche Collection), 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 (recorded at the Library of Congress in 1985), and 61 spoken word segments from an interview conducted with an Omaha musician in 1999. Included are 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 35 pages of fieldnotes, 30 pages of handwritten tape recording logs, an 8-page program, and two posters. A concert flier and a Hethu'shka Society membership document are from the 1985 performance at the Library of Congress. Also included 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 references to relevant articles from Folklife Center News provide framing text.

In the 1980s, American Folklife Center 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. In 1985, the Omaha tribe gave permission to reproduce the wax cylinder recordings from the 1890s on the LP, Omaha Indian Music, and these recordings are also included here. Selections from the interview with John Turner provide advice and contextual information about the songs included on the LP. At the Library of Congress concert in 1985, copies of the LP were given to the participating members of the Hethu'shka Society. 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.

For the 1983 pow-wow recordings, a decision was made to include only the songs that were sung by Omaha drums--the Host Drum and the Tai Piah Singers. 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 as notes. There are also references to the Honey Creek Singers and the San Juan Pueblo in the fieldnotes and the tape logs. During the course of a 4-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.

The online presentation was made possible by the support of the Texaco Foundation.

Rights and Access

The Library of Congress is not aware of any U.S. copyright protection (see Title 17, U.S.C.) or any other restrictions in the material in this collection, except as noted below. Users should keep in mind that the Library of Congress is providing access to these materials strictly for educational and research purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or other holders of rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item. See our Legal Notices and Privacy and Publicity Rights for additional information and restrictions.

The American Folklife Center and the professional fieldworkers who carry out these projects feel a strong ethical responsibility to the people they have visited and who have consented to have their lives documented for the historical record. The Center asks that researchers approach the materials in this collection with respect for the culture and sensibilities of the people whose lives, ideas, and creativity are documented here. Researchers are also reminded that privacy and publicity rights may pertain to certain uses of this material.

The Library of Congress has carefully researched these materials to ascertain possible legal rights embodied in the materials it contains. For the most part, the performers have been identified in this collection. In the case of the pow-wow recordings there are some stray voices which are audible but not identifiable. As is often the case with materials collected in the course of ethnographic field research, however, it is difficult or impossible to sufficiently identify specific songs sung by participants which precludes performing a comprehensive assessment of the copyright status of underlying musical rights in lyrics or compositions. The identification of specific speakers or singers included in sound recordings is also often difficult or sometimes impossible. The songs in this collection were created in traditional genres by anonymous authors and are part of the oral tradition.

Researchers or others who would like to make further use of these collection materials should contact the Folklife Reading Room for assistance.

Credit line

Please cite the source collection title, collection number, and repository, for example:

Alice C. Fletcher and Francis La Flesche collection of Omaha cylinder recordings (AFC 1948/123)

Omaha Indian interviews collection, 1983 (AFC 1983/026)

1985 Neptune Plaza Concert Series collection (AFC 1985/015)

Omaha Powwow Project collection (AFC 1986/038)

Omaha Indian interviews collection, 1999 (AFC 1999/014)

More about Copyright and other Restrictions

For guidance about compiling full citations consult Citing Primary Sources.