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Collection Omaha Indian Music

About this Collection

Presented here are 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.