Several members of the tribe fought for the Union during the American Civil War, as well as each subsequent war through today. Beginning in the s, the Omaha began to reclaim lands east of the Missouri River, in an area called Blackbird Bend. After lengthy court battles and several standoffs, much of the area has been recognized as part Omaha tribal lands.
In , the Omaha reclaimed more than ancestral skeletons from Ton-wo-tonga, which had been held by museums.
Before having ceremonial reburial of the remains on Omaha lands, the tribe's representatives arranged for research at the University of Nebraska to see what could be learned from their ancestors. Researchers found considerable differences in the community before and after , as revealed in their bones and artifacts. Most significantly, they discovered that the Omaha were an equestrian Plains culture and buffalo hunters by , making them the "first documented equestrian culture on the Northern Plains.
Men had many more roles in the patrilineal culture than did women: as "archers, warriors, gunsmiths, and merchants," including the major ceremonial roles. Sacred bundles from religious ceremonies were found buried only with men. In pre-settlement times, the Omaha had an intricately developed social structure that was closely tied to the people's concept of an inseparable union between sky male principle and earth female ; it was part of their creation story and their view of the cosmos.
This union was viewed as critical to perpetuation of all living forms and pervaded Omaha culture. The tribe was divided into two moieties or half-tribes, the Sky People Insta'shunda and the Earth People Hon'gashenu ,  each led by a different hereditary chief, who inherited power from his father's line. Sky people were responsible for the tribe's spiritual needs and Earth people for the tribe's physical welfare. Each moiety was composed of five clans or gente, which also had differing responsibilities.
Each gens had a hereditary chief, through the male lines, as the tribe had a patrilineal kinship system of descent and inheritance. Children were considered to be born to their father's clan. Individuals married persons from another gens , not within their own. The hereditary chiefs and clan structures still existed at the time the elders and chiefs negotiated with the United States to cede most of their land in Nebraska in exchange for protection and cash annuities.
Pow-Wow Princess Song
Only men born into hereditary lines through their fathers, or formally adopted by a male into the tribe, as Joseph LaFlesche Iron Eye was by the chief Big Elk in the s, could become chiefs. Big Elk designated LaFlesche as his son and successor chief of the Weszinste. Although whites considered Logan Fontenelle a chief, the Omaha did not.
They used him as an interpreter; he was of mixed-race with a white father, so was considered white, as he had not been adopted by a man of the tribe. Today the Omaha host an annual pow wow. At the celebration, a committee elects the Omaha Pow Wow Princess. She serves as a representative in the community and a role model for younger children. As the tribe migrated westward from the Ohio River region in the 17th century, they adapted to the Plains environment.
They replaced the Woodland custom of bark lodges with tipis borrowed from the Sioux for the buffalo hunting and summer season, and built earth lodges borrowed from the Arikara ,  called Sand Pawnee,  for the winter. Tipis were used primarily during buffalo hunts and when they relocated from one village area to another. They used earth lodges as dwellings during the winter.
Wambli Sapa Memorial Pow Wow
Omaha beliefs were symbolized in their dwelling structures. During most of the year, Omaha Indians lived in earth or sod lodges, ingenious structures with a timber frame and a thick sod covering. At the center of the lodge was a fireplace that recalled their creation myth. The earthlodge entrance was built to face east, to catch the rising sun and remind the people of their origin and migration upriver from the east.
The Huthuga , the circular layout of tribal villages, reflected the tribe's beliefs.
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Sky people lived in the northern half-circle of the village, the area that symbolized the heavens. Earth people lived in the southern half, which represented the earth. The circle opened to the east. Within each half of the village, the clans or gentes were located based on their members' tribal duties and relationship to other clans.
When the tribe removed to the Omaha Reservation about , they initially built their village and earth lodges in the traditional patterns, with the half-tribes and clans in their traditional places in the layout. The Omaha revere an ancient Sacred Pole, from before the time of their migration to the Missouri, made of cottonwood. An annual renewal ceremony was related to the Sacred Pole. In Francis La Flesche , a young Omaha anthropologist, helped arrange for his colleague Alice Fletcher to have the Sacred Pole taken to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University , for preservation of it and its stories, at a time when the tribe's continuity seemed threatened by pressure for assimilation.
The tribe was considering burying the Pole with its last keeper after his death.
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The last renewal ceremony for the pole was held in , and the last buffalo hunt in In the twentieth century, about years after the Pole had been transferred, the tribe negotiated with the Peabody Museum for its return. The tribe planned to install the Sacred Pole in a cultural center to be built. When the museum returned the Sacred Pole to the tribe in July , the Omaha held an August pow-wow in celebration and as part of their revival. The Sacred Pole is said to represent the body of a man. We went through Shell River. He's 22 and is single. Map 6. Western tribes: 1, Oglala ; 2, Omaha ; 3, Cayuse ca.
EVENT PHOTO GALLERIES
Woodland tribe: A, Ojibwa He's almost blind. He's 25, is married and has two children. He's the son of a Chief. He is painted an eyeglass on his face. She's 50 and is married to Yellow Stone, the Chief of the tribe. The child on her knees is the son of Mnigh-di-tai. He's 5 years-old and has no name according to the Indian tradition. She's married to Village-Maker. He's 42, his father is American and his mother is Indian. He's 45, is married and has ten children.
He's 35 and is the son of Village-Maker and Beautiful Hill. He's 42, is married and has 3 children. He's 40, is married and has two children.
He has small pox marks. She's 13 and is the first wife of Hard Chief. Il a 35 ans, est le fils de Village-Maker et de Beautiful Hill. During World War I American Indians enlisted in the armed forces, and members of Indian tribes that were once mortal enemies fought side by side to defend the United States. At their homecoming most veterans laid their tribal differences aside to dance with their comrades to a common drumbeat. The American flag, once a symbol of the destruction of Indian lives, acquired a new status at twentieth-century Indian gatherings.
In a renaissance of ancient warrior societies, commemorations began to reemerge to honor veterans as modern-day warriors. Tribal elders who remembered specific tribal protocol contributed their knowledge of conducting ceremonies for Indian servicemen. As a result, new procedures, combined with ancient traditions, developed to fit the times. By the Plains Indian tribes of southwestern Oklahoma held their first intertribal powwow at Dietrich Lake. As intertribal powwows became more numerous, new songs and organizations were instituted to commemorate contemporary events.
By the s the intertribal powwow reached the cities as tribe members relocated to find employment. This provided an even greater opportunity for cultural exchange among a wider variety of Indian peoples. Their need to identify with other Indians encouraged them to seek mutual "lndianness" in intertribal powwows. From Alaska to Florida to southern California to Maine and everywhere in between, wherever there is a pocket of Indians, there are powwows.
The powwow circuit is analogous to the professional rodeo, golf, and tennis circuits. Following the powwow circuits is a year-round way of life for many Indians. The central, most significant focal point of any powwow is the drum and singers. They provide the musical accompaniment and set the tempo for the dances.