Books 1983 Omaha Harvest Celebration Pow-Wow Fieldnotes by Dorothy Sara Lee
It seemed too that the importance of the recordings to the Omaha lay not in the return of the recordings and the songs on the recordings, although the contents of the tapes may assume more importance when tribal elders begin to listen to the more sacred songs, but the fact that the songs were still part of the Omaha repertory after nearly a century. The singers especially seemed most proud of this, and Rufus White said several times “I know that song; we still sing that song.”
Dennis, in a pre-event telephone conversation, said that he would play his role behind the scenes, pushing and prodding from the background, bringing everything together, and then sitting back and pretending it had all happened by magic. And essentially that is precisely how it appeared. The cylinder presentation was only one part of Dennis' rather amazing orchestration, which included the Suzette La Flesche Nebraska Hall of Fame award, a collection of photos which people poured through looking for relatives, what amounted to national media attention, attendance by representatives of the state historical societies, and the genealogies. Indeed, apart from the John Turner memorial, the most moving event, the one in which the sense of wondering pride was clearly visible in the faces of the Omaha people, was the presentation of genealogies by Paul Brill. At that point, I think, there was a tangible change in attitude—all of the abstract talk about Omaha accomplishment became real, concrete, and personal to the participants. The cylinders were given symbolically to the tribe as a whole, but the genealogies could be taken home and shared with family and friends.
The reactions of people within the community to the return of cultural materials will, I suspect, manifest themselves slowly, and in subtle ways. The real test of the effects of the various presentations will be next year's pow-wow.
Dorothy Sara Lee
3 September 1983