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Audio Recording Hethu'shka Society Song

Hethu'shka Society Song

About this Item


  • Hethu'shka Society Song


  • Unidentified Ponca Woman (Performer)
  • Charles Wells' grandmother (Performer)
  • Miller, George (Iⁿke'toⁿga) (Big Shoulder) (Performer)
  • Merrick, Joseph (Gioⁿ'zethiⁿge) (None to teach him) (Performer)
  • Fletcher, Alice C. (Alice Cunningham), 1838-1923 (Collector)
  • La Flesche, Francis, 1857-1932 (Collector)

Created / Published

  • August 26, 1897


  • -  United States -- Nebraska
  • -  Music
  • -  Field recordings
  • -  Songs


  • Music
  • Field recordings
  • Songs


  • -  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: 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 George Miller and Joseph Merrick are 1852 and 1845, respectively.


  • wax cylinder recording

Call Number/Physical Location

  • AFC 1948/123: AFS 20,313: 6a

Source Collection

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


  • American Folklife Center

Digital Id

Online Format

  • audio

Rights & 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)

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Unidentified Ponca Woman, Charles Wells' Grandmother, George Miller, Alice C Fletcher, and Francis La Flesche. Hethu'shka Society Song. 1897. Audio.

APA citation style:

Unidentified Ponca Woman, Charles Wells' Grandmother, Miller, G., Fletcher, A. C. & La Flesche, F. (1897) Hethu'shka Society Song. [Audio] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Unidentified Ponca Woman, et al. Hethu'shka Society Song. 1897. Audio. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.