Audio Recordings Hethu'shka Society Song

Format Audio Recordings
Contributors Cline, Edward (Waton'Ni) (Plainly Visible)
Fields, Josiah (Kethi'Hi) (He Who Scares the Turtle)
Fletcher, Alice C. (Alice Cunningham)
La Flesche, Francis
Mitchell, Arthur (Ni'Ashiga) (A Person)
Mitchell, Bertram
White, Richard (Texe'Unonzhin)
Dates 1897
Location Nebraska
United States
Language English
Siouan Languages
Subjects Field Recordings
Hethu'shka Society Song
Contributor Names
Mitchell, Bertram (Performer)
Fields, Josiah (Kethi'hi) (He who scares the turtle) (Performer)
White, Richard (Texe'unoⁿzhiⁿ) (Performer)
Cline, Edward (Watoⁿ'ni) (Plainly visible) (Performer)
Mitchell, Arthur (Ni'ashiga) (A person) (Performer)
Fletcher, Alice C. (Alice Cunningham), 1838-1923 (Collector)
La Flesche, Francis, 1857-1932 (Collector)
Created / Published
September 6, 1897
Field recordings
-  This song was collected by Alice Cunningham Fletcher and Francis La Flesche. It is included on "Omaha Indian Music: Historical Recordings from the Fletcher/La Flesche Collection" (AFC L71).
-  From the liner notes of the "Omaha Indian Music" album: La Flesche: "New songs, probably learned from the Winnebago."
-  Members of the Hethu'shka Society elected new members from the ranks of warriors who had publically received war honors before the Packs Sacred to War (1911, p. 460). In addition to opening rituals and a feast, meetings of the society included the performance of dances to songs composed about the heroic exploits of past and living members. Dance movements dramatically depicted these exploits:
-  Shortly after, the choir began a song in fast time and whoever was so inclined arose, dropped his robe n his seat, and stepped forth. Then, in a conversationalized pantomime he acted out one of his experiences in war from which he had gained a public war honor at the Wate'gictu. A good dancer was light of foot and agile. A variety of steps was taken; the foot was brought down on the ground with a thud, making a synchronous accompaniment to the resonant drum beat and the voices of the singers; the limbs were lifted at sharp angles; the body was bent and raised with sudden and diversified movements, as in a charge, or as if dodging arrows or averting blows from weapons. In all this dramatic presentation of an actual scene there was not a motion of foot, leg, body, arm, or head that did not follow the song in strict time, yet keeping close to the story that was being acted out. The throb of the drum started the pulses of the spectator and held him to the rhythm of the scene as the eye followed the rapid, tense action of the dancer, while the ear caught the melody which revealed the intent of the strange drama, so full of color, movement, and wild cadences. The intense character of the dance made it impossible to sustain it for any considerable time; therefore the dance and song, although the latter was repeated, were always short. Rest songs, slower in time, followed a dance and during these songs the dancers sat muffled in their robes, often dripping with perspiration and panting to recover their breath. (1911, p. 466)
-  The Hethu'shka dance was also known among those tribes related to the Omaha: the Oto, Osage, Ponca, and spread throughout the Plains, where it was known as the Grass dance, or the Omaha dance (1893, pp. 25-33, 86-99; 1911, pp. 459-480).
-  Probable years of birth of Josiah Fields, Richard White, Arthur Mitchell, Edward Cline, and Bertram Mitchell are 1855, 1865, 1846, 1867, and 1868, respectively.
wax cylinder recording
Call Number
AFC 1948/123: AFS 20,313: 15b
Source Collection
Alice C. Fletcher and Francis La Flesche collection of Omaha cylinder recordings (AFC 1948/123)
American Folklife Center
Digital Id

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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)

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