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1905 -lUUO 




Smithsonian Institution, 
^ Bureau of American Ethnology, 

\' . ■ Washington, D. C, August 10, 1907. 

Sir: I ha^'e the honor to submit herewith the Twenty- 
seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Eth- 

The preliminary portion comprises an account of the 
operations of the Bureau during the fiscal year ending 
June 30, 1906, and this is followed by a monograph on " The 
Omaha tribe," by AUce C. Fletcher and Francis La Flesche 
(a member of the Omaha tribe) . 

Permit me to express my appreciation of your aid in the 
woi'k under my charge. 

Very respectfully, vours, 

W. H. Holmes, Chie;f. 
^Ir. Richard Rathbun, 

Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. 




Research work 7 

Permits granted for exploration.s on public lands 11 

Collections 12 

Study of Indian delegations 12 

Editorial work 12 

Illustrations 12 

Publications 13 

Library 13 

Clerical work 13 

Property 14 

Accompanying paper 14 


The Omaha Tribe, by Alice C. Fletcher and Francis La Flesche (,a mem- 
ber of the Omaha tribe); plates 1-65, (igures 1-132 15 

Index 1)55 



T 25 N 



T24 N 

R lO E 






■ * 








W. H. Holmes, Chief 


Researches among the Indian tribes were conducted in 
accordance with the plan of operations approA'ed iDy the 
Secretary June 5, 1905; these inchide investigations among 
the aborigines of Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Indian Ter- 
ritory, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Florida, and, more 
especially, researches in the office of the Bureau and in 
various musevmis and libraries throughout the country. The 
scientific staff of the Bureau remains the same as during the 
previous year with the single exception that Mr. F. W. 
Hodge was transferred from the Secretary's office of the 
Smithsonian Institution to the Bureau, with the title of 
Ethnologist — a step which permits him to devote his entu*e 
time to the completion of the Handbook of the Indians. 

Aside from his administrative duties, the chief was occu- 
pied with the completion and revision of papers for the 
Handbook of the Indians and in the preparation of a mono- 
graphic work on the technology and art of the tribes. He 
also continued his duties as Honorary Curator of the Divi- 
sion of Prehistoric Archeology in the National Museum. 

Mrs. M. C. Stevenson remained in the office during the 
early months of the yeai', reading the final proofs of her 
monograph on the Zuni Indians, which issued from the 
press in December. In January she again entered the field, 
having selected the pueblo of Taos, New Mexico, as a suit- 
alile place for the continuation of her researches. In initi- 
ating her work in this pueblo IMrs. Stevenson encoimtered 



many difficulties, and her progress at first was slow; but 
later, owing largely to the very coiu^teous cooperation of the 
Commissioner of Indian Affaii's, her study of the history, 
language, and customs of the tribe was facilitated, and was 
progressing favorably at the close of the year. 

During the early part of the year Mr. James Mooney was 
chiefly occupied, in collaboration with other members of 
the Bureau, with the Handbook of the Indians, which work 
was continued at intervals after he took the field. On 
September 19, 1905, he left Washington for western Okla- 
homa to continue researches among the Kiowa, Southern 
Cheyenne, and allied tribes, partly in fulfillment of the joint 
arrangement between the Bureau and the Field Museum of 
Natural History. His stay while with the Kiowa was chiefly 
at the agency at Anadarko, Oklahoma. Among the Chey- 
enne he made headquarters at Cantonment, Oklahoma, the 
central settlement of the most conservati\'e element of the 
tribe. Mr. Mooney returned to Washington aljout the end 
of April, and resumed work on his report, giving much 
attention also to the Handbook of the Indians. 

Dr. J. Walter Fewkes completed during the year his report 
on the aborigines of Porto Rico and neighboring i.slands. He 
prepared also an account of his field work in eastern Mexico, 
conducted under the joint auspices of the Smithsonian Insti- 
tution and this Bureau during the winter of 1905-6. These 
papers were assigned to the Twenty-fifth Annual Report and 
were in type at the close of the year. Doctor Fewkes also 
made considerable progress in the preparation of a bulletin 
on the antiquities of the Little Colorado A'alley, Arizona. 

During the year Dr. John R. Swanton completed and pre- 
pared for the press all of the Tlingit material, ethnological 
and mythological, collected by him during previous years; 
all of the ethnological and a portion of the mythological ma- 
terial has been accepted for introduction into the Twenty- 
sixth Annual Report. Doctor Swanton interested himself 
particularly also in the study of the linguistic stocks of Louisi- 
ana and southern Texas, many of which are either on the 
verge of extinction or are ah'eady extinct; and a grammar 


and dictionary of the Tunica language is well advanced, while 
a dictionary of the Natchez is in course of preparation. 

^Ir. J. N. B. Hewitt was engaged almost entirely in investi- 
gating and reporting on etymologies of terms and names and 
in elaborating and preparing important articles for the Hand- 
book of the Indians, and also in reading proof of that impor- 
tant work conjointly with the other collaborators of the 

During the year Dr. Cyrus Thomas was engaged almost 
continuously on the Handbook of the Indians, assisting in 
final revision of the manuscript and in reading proof. Dur- 
ing the first two or three months he assisted also in reading 
and correcting proofs of Bulletin 28, which treats of Mexican 
antiquities — a work for which his extensive researches regard- 
ing the glyphic wi'iting of middle America, especially fitted 

The manuscript of the body of the Handbook of the In- 
dians was transmitted to the Public Printer early in July. 
In view of the fact that munerous tribal and general articles 
were prepared l^y specialists not connected directl}- with the 
Bureau, it was deemed advisable to submit complete galley 
proofs of the Handbook to each as received. While this in- 
volved consideraJDle delay in the proof reading, the correc- 
tions and suggestions received showed the wisdom of the plan. 
B)^ the close of the }-ear all the material was in type through 
the letter "N," and of this, 544 pages, to the article "Her- 
aldry," have been finally printed. 

The work on the Handbook of Languages, in charge of Dr. 
Franz Boas, honorary philologist of the Bureau, was contin- 
ued during the year. The several sketches of American lan- 
guages — sixteen in number — which are to form the body of 
this work are now practically complete, with the exception of 
those on the Eskimo and the Iroquois. Field work was con- 
ducted during the year Ij}' Edwai'd Sapir among the Yakima 
of Oregon and by Frank J. Speck among the Yuchi in Indian 

^Ir. Stewart Culin, curator of ethnology in the Brooklyn 
Institute of Arts and Sciences, whose monograph on Indian 
Games forms the bulk of the Twenty-fourth Annual Report, 


was engaged during the year in reading the proofs of that 
work; but owing to his absence in the field for a protracted 
period the work was not completed at the close of the year. 

The movement for the enactment by Congress of a law 
for the preservation of American antiquities, which was inaug- 
urated dm'ing previous years, was continued by various 
individuals and institutions during the last year, and the 
perfected measure l^ecame a law in June. With the view of 
assisting the departments of the Government having charge 
of the public domain in the initiation of practical measures 
for the preservation of the antiquities of the Southwest, the 
Bureau has actively continued the compilation of a card 
catalogue of the archeological sites, especially the ruined 
pueblos and cliff-dwellings, and during the year has made 
much progress in the preparation of a series of l:)ulletins to 
be devoted to the fuller presentation of all that is known 
regarding these antiquities. In promoting this work Mr. 
E. L. Hewett was commissioned to proceed to New Mexico 
for the purpose of making a surA-ey of the ancient remains 
of the Jemez Plateau region, a large part of which is now in- 
cluded in the Jemez Forest Keserve. A preliminary report 
on this work was submitted immediately on Mr. Hewett's 
return to Washington, and later a papei- was prepared in the 
form of an illustrated descriptiAe catalogue of the antiqui- 
ties, to be pul)lished as Bulletin 32 of the Bureau series. In 
March ]\Ir. Hewett was called on to represent the Bureau as 
a member of the Interior Departm-ent SurA-ey of certain 
boundary lines in southern Colorado, the principal object 
being to determine the relation of the more important ruins 
of the Alesa A'erde region to the boundaries of the proposed 
Mesa Verde park, a measiu"e for the establishment of which 
was pending in Congress. Shorth' after the receipt of Mr. 
Hewett's report this measure l)ecame a law. A leading 
object kept in view by Mr. Hewett on this expedition was 
the collection of data for the compilation of a bulletin on 
the antiquities of the Mesa Verde region, for the Bureau's 
bulletin series. 

In February Dr. Ales HrdliC'ka, of the National ^fuseum, 
was commissioned to proceetl to Osprey, on Sarasota bay. 


Florida, for the purpose of examining several localities where 
fossil human bones, apparently indicating great age, have 
been discovered. The evidence obtained is adverse to the 
theory of the great antiquity of the remains, but the 
observations made by Doctor Hrdlicka and Dr. T. Wayland 
Vaughan, who accompanied him as a representative of the 
Geological Survey, on the unusual activit}^ of fossilizing 
agencies in the locality, are of extreme interest. 

Dr. Walter Hough, of the National Museum, who has taken 
a prominent part in the investigation of the antiquities of 
the Southwest, has in preparation for the Bureau series a 
bulletin on the antiquities of the Upper Gila valle}'. 


During the year applications for permits to conduct explo- 
rations on the public lands and reservations of the South- 
west were acted on as follows: 

(1) In September, 1905, the Southwest Society of the 
Archaeological Institute of America applied for permission to 
conduct archeological explorations on Indian reservations 
and forest reserves in the Southwest, the work to begin in the 
spring of 1906. Later, permission to make a preliminar}- 
reconnaissance during the latter part of 1905 was asked. 
Recommended by the Bureau; granted by the Office of 
Indian Affairs and the Forest Service. 

(2) In January, 1906, the request of the Bureau of Ameri- 
can Ethnology for authority to prosecute ethnological 
researches in New Mexico, particularly at Taos, was favor- 
ably acted on by the Office of Indian Affairs. 

(3) In April, 1906, the American Museum of Natural 
History, through Dr. Clark Wissler, Curator of Anthropology 
in that institution, requested permission to conduct explora- 
tions on Indian reservations in southern CaUfornia. Recom- 
mended by the Biu-eau; granted by the Indian Office. 

One application for a permit was denied, one was with- 
draAvn, and one was pending at the close of the year. 



The collections of archeolosical and ethnological specimens 
made during the year are more limited than heretofore, 
owing to the reduced amount of field work undertaken. The 
most important accession is the product of Mr. E. L. Hewett's 
explorations among the ancient ruins of the Jemez plateau. 
Other collections worthy of note are those made by Mr. 
Mooney in Oklahoma and by Doctor Hrdli^.ka in Florida. 
All collections were transferred to the National Museum in 
accordance with established custom. 


The study of the Indian delegations visiting Washington 
diu'ing the year was continued, as heretofore. One hundred 
and fort3"-two portrait negatives were made and measure- 
ments and casts were olitained in a nvmiber of cases. 


Mr. John P. Sanborn, jr., who was probationally appointed 
on April 6, 1905, E^ditor and Compiler, was permanently 
appointed October 6; but on October 19 he was, at his 
own request, indefinitely furloughed. On February 16, 1906, 
Mr. Joseph G. Gurley was probationally appointed Editor 
through certification by the Civil Service Commission. The 
Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth Annual Reports and Bulletins 
31 and 32 were read and prepared for the press, and proof 
reading of the Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Reports and 
of Bulletins 30, 31, and 32 further occupied the attention of 
the Editor, although Mr. Hodge and the various collabora- 
tors on Bulletin 30 (the IIandl)Ook of the Indians) assumed 
the main burden of the reading of that work. 


The illustratioi: work, including photography, conthmed in 
charge of Mr. De L;,ncey Gill, who was assisted, as heretofore, 
by Mr. Henry Walthei . The number of illustrations prepared 
for the reports was 8o- and the whole number transmitted 
to the printer was 1,023. 



During the year the Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth Annual 
Reports were submitted to the Secretary and the Twenty- 
fifth was transmitted to the Pubhc Printer, the Twenty-sixth 
being retained in the Bureau pending the completion of the 
two next preceding volumes. Bulletin 30 (part 1), submitted 
at the close of the preceding year, is in press, Bulletin 32 is 
in the l)indery, and Bulletin 31 was transmitted to the printer 
toward the close of the year. The distribution of publica- 
tions was continued as in former years. Bulletin 28 was 
published in October and Bulletin 29 and the Twenty-third 
Annual Report followed in December. 


The library remained in charge of Miss Ella Leary, who 
completed the work of accessioning and cataloguing the 
books, pamphlets, and periodicals up to date. Owing to the 
crowded condition of the library, about 600 publications, 
chiefly periodicals, received b)^ gift or through exchange, but 
not pertaining to the work of the Bm-eau, were transferred to 
the library of the National Museum. During the year there 
were received and recorded 306 volumes, 900 pamphlets, and 
the current issues of upward of 500 periodicals. One hun- 
dred and fifty volumes were boimd at the Government Print- 
ing Office. The library now contains 12,858 bound volumes, 
9,000 pamphlets, and a large number of periodicals which 
relate to anthropology and kindred topics. 


The clerical force of the Bureau consists of five regular em- 
ployees: Mr. J. B. Clayton, head clerk; Miss Emilie R. Smedes 
and Miss May S. Clark, stenographers; Miss Ella Leary, clerk 
and acting librarian; and Mrs. Frances S. Nichols, t^'pewriter. 
During the year Mr. William P. Bartel, messenger, was pro- 
moted to a clerkship and subsequently transferred to the 
Interstate Commerce Commission. 



The property of the Bureau is comprised in seven classes: 
Office furniture and appUances; field outfits; linguistic and 
ethnological manuscripts, and other documents; photo- 
graphs, drawings, paintings, and engravings; a working 
library; collections held temporarily by collaborators for 
use in research ; and the undistributed residue of the editions 
of Bureau publications. 

The additions to the property of the Bureau for the year 
include a typewriter and a few necessary articles of furniture. 


With this report appears a comprehensive monograph 
on the Omaha tribe, which, it is believed, constitutes au 
important contribution to North American ethnology, 
especially to our knowledge of the great Siouan group. 
This monograph is peculiarly fortunate in its authorship. 
For thirty years Miss Fletcher has been a close student of 
the Omaha, enjoying a measure of their friendship and 
confidence rarely accorded one of alien race, while Mr. 
La Flesche, a member of the tribe and the son of a former 
])rincipal chief, has brought to the work a thorough grasp 
of the subject combined with an earnest desire to aid in 
the preservation and diffusion of information relating to 
his people. 

The purpose and plan of the authors are thus succinctly 
stated : 

Thi.s joint work enibodics tlio results of iiiuhsual opportunities to got 
close to the thoughts that underlie the ceremonies and customs of the 
Omaha tribe, and to give a fairly truthful picture of the people as 
they were during the early part of the last century, when most of the 
men on whose information this work is based were active participants 
in the life here described. In the account here offered nothing has 
been borrowed from other observ(!rs; only original material gathered 
directly from the native people has been used. 

The paper is rounded out hj the inclusion of a final 
section dealing with the relations between the Omaha 
and the whites, in which are traced in outline from the 
beginning the ever-increasing encroachments of civiliza- 
tion and. the gradual but inevitable molding of the weaker 
race to conform to the conditions imposed by the new 
order of things. 






Holder of the Thaw Fellowship, Peabody Museum, Harvard University 


A Member of the Omaha Tribe 

83993°— 27 eth— 11 2 17 


Fdrewnn! 29 


Location; linguistic rflationi^hips 3;? 

Tribal concept; the name Omaha 85 

The five cognate tribes — evidence of former unity S7 

The Ponca tribe 41 

Rites and customs of the gentes 4-2 

Legendary accounts 47 

Recent history; personal names 51 

The Osage, or AVazha'zlu', tribe 57 

Recent history; organization 57 

..--^Kinship groups 58 

Adoption ceremony _ 61 

Legendary accounts 62 

Personal names tl-l 

The Kansa tribe 66 

Gentes 66 

The Quapaw tribe 67 

Gentes 68 


Environment; resultant influences 70 

Omaha Sacred Legend 70 

Early habitat ami conditions 70 

Western movements 72 

Contact with the Arikara 75 

Separation of Poni'a from Omaha; finding of horses 78 

Meeting with the white men XI 

Influence of traders 82 

The Omaha country 85 

Villages on the Missouri 85 

Streams known to the Omaha 89 

The village 95 

Site 95 

Dwellings 95 

Historic villages and places 99 

Tribes known to the Omaha 101 

Fauna and flora km iwn to the ( hnaba 103 

Animals 103 

Birds 104 

Insects 106 

Fish 106 

Trees 106 



Environment; resultant influences — Continued Page 

Tlie liuman liody as known to tlie Omalia 107 

Miscellaneous terms used by the (_)maha 110 

Natural objects and jihenomena 110 

Taste 110 

Colors Ill 

Points of the compass Ill 

Divisions of time Ill 

Weather signs 11:3 

Summary 112 


Kites pertaining to the individual 115 

Intriiiluction of the Omaha child to the Cosmos 115 

Introduction of the child into the tribe 117 

Ceremony of turning the child 117 

Consecration of the boy to Thunder 122 

Ceremonial introduction to individual life and to the supernatural. . . 128 


^ Tribal organization 134 

i Basic princ pies 134 

The hu'lhnga — the Omaha tribal form 141 

Gentes of the Omaha tribe 142 

Ho^'gashenu division 142 

We'zhi^shte gens 142 

I^ke'f abe gens 146 

Ho^'ga gens 153 

Tha'tada gens 159 

Ko°'ve gens 169 

I°shta'5'U°da division 171 

Mo'"thi"kagaxe gens 171 

Teyi^'de gens 175 

Tapa' gens 177 

Pgthe'zhide gens is:; 

I°shta''5u''da gens 1S5 

The Omaha gens not a political organization 195 

Interrelation of the two grand divisions 196 


Tribal government 199 

Development of political unity 199 

Chieftainship 202 

C»rders of chiefs 202 

The Council of Seven Chiefs 206 

Emoluments of chiefs and keepers 212 

Offenses and punishments 213 


The Sacred Pole 217 

Origin 217 

Mark of hnnor 219 

The Sacred Tents 221 

Legend and description of tlie Sacred Pole 223 

Sacred Packs and contents 226 



The Sacred Pole — Continued Page 

Anointinfr the Sacred Pole 230 

Ritual songs 233 

Ceremonies of the Sacred Pole 243 

The He'dewachi 251 


The quest of food 261 

The ritual of the maize 261 

Cultivation of maize 269 

Names of parts and of preparations of maize 269 

Hunting 270 

Rules observed in butchering 271 

Te'une, or annual buffalo hunt 275 

The watho-' 276 

The White Buffalo Hide 283 

The ritual of the White Buffalo Hide 286 

The Ponca feast of the soldiers 309 

Ritual - 310 

Fishing 312 


Social life 313 

. Stn?liip terms 313 

Courtship and marriage 318 

Care and training of children 327 

Ktiquette 334 

Avocations of men 338 

Avocations of women 339 

Cooking and foods 340 

Dressing and tanning skins 342 

(Juill work 345 

Weaving 347 • 

Personal adornment 349 

Clothing 354 

The wai"' or robe. 356 

Personal significance 356 

Social significance* 358 

Language of the robe 360 

\ Property 362 

Amusements 363 


Music 371 

Instruments 371 

Songs, singing, and rhythm 373 

The Wa'wa" ceremons- 376 

The ceremony among the Ponca 400 


Warfare 402 

Influence on tribal development 402 

Wai^'waxube 404 

Authorization of a war party 405 

Organization of a war j)arty 408 

Dress of warriors 409 


Warfare — ("ontinned 

Inlluence on trilml developiiient — Continued Page 

SacTed War Pack and content-; 411 

Departure ceremonies i if an aggressive war party 415 

The we'to" waa" 4l'1 

Sending out .scouts _ 42;i 

Departui'e of a defensive war jiarty 4L'(i 

Return of a war party 

The Wate'gictu 4:i4 

Graded war honors 437 

War honor decorations 438 

Tlie Ponca ceremony of conferring war honors _ 430 

' ' The Crow " 441 

The feather war bonnet 446 

Weapons 448 

Contents of the Tent of ^\'ar 452 

The Sacred Shell 454 

The Cedar Pole 457 


Societies 459 

Social societies 459 

The Hethu'shka _ 459 

The Pu'gthn" 481 

The Ki'kunethe 485 

TheT'e ga'xe 486 

The Mo"wa'dathi'' and the Toka'lo 486 

Secret societies 480 

The Mo"chu' ithaethe 486 

TheTe' ithaethe - 487 

The Wano"'xe ithaethe 489 

The I°gtlui"' ithaethe 490 

The Ho°'hewachi 493 

The one hundred \vathi"'ethe 495 

The Watha'wa (Feast of the Cuunti 497 

The Feast of the Ho"'hewachi 500 

The tattooing 503 

The Washis'ka athin ( Shell society ) 509 

Origin ; 509 

Organization 516 

Regular meetings 520 

Ceremonies on the death of a mendier 553 

^fagic ceremony for punishing offenders 554 

The r"kugthi athi° (Pebble society ) 565 

Opening ritual 568 

Ritual for sweat lodge, Xo. 1 571 

Ritual for sweat lodge, No. 2 574 

Ritual for sweat lodge, No. M 575 


Disease and its trcalmcnt .582 

Some curative ] plants .■),'<4 


Death and burial customs 588 




Keli^inii and ethics f^^S 

The keeper 595 

AVe'warpe S*' 

Wako"'da 597 

Interrelation of men anil animals 599 

Veneration for the Ancients fiOl 

Position of chiefs - - 601 

Totems - - 602 

Magic 602 

Warfare and ethics - 602 

Terms for good traits and conduct 603 

Terms tor bad traits and conduct 604 

Proverbs 604 


Language 605 


Conclusions 608 

Appendix: Recent history of the Omaha tribe 611 

Contact with the white race 611 

Early traders 612 

Introduction of metal implements 613 

Decline of old avocations and the effect on tlie ppojile 614 

Changes in ornaments and decoration-. 615 

Introduction of cloth. 616 

Introduction of guns 617 

Introduction of money; pelt values 617 

Introduction of intoxicants 618 

Drunkenness and its punishment 618 

Government control of traders 619 

Introduction of new foods, games, and diseases 620 

Introduction of new words 620 

Treaties with the United States 622 

Work of missionaries 625 

The Mission 627 

Xew reservation and agency 629 

Agency buildings 630 

Pressure of traders on tribal affairs 630 

Joseph La Flesche 631 

" The village of the ' make-believe ' wliite men " 633 

Survey of the reservation 634 

Extermination of the buffalo 634 

Establishment of " the Council " 635 

The Ponca tragedy '135 

Appeal for land patents 636 

Present condition 641 

Original owners of allotments on Omaha reservation.. 643 



Plate 1. Francis La Flesche 30 

2. Standing Buffalo 49 

3. White Eagle (Xitha'(;ka} 49 

4. We'ga(;api 50 

5. Standing Bear 51 

6. Smoke-maker (Shu'degaxe) 52 

7. Gahi'ge. 52 

8. Black Crow (Kaxe'^abe) 54 

9. Big Goose 55 

10. Buffalo Chip 55 

11. BigSnake 56 

12. Osage chief 57 

13. Osage Chief 57 

14. Washi°'ha (Osage) __ 58 

15. Black Dog and other Osage chiefs. 62 

16. Kansa chief. 66 

17. Tipis 71 

18. Bark houses 74 

19. Earth lodge. 75 

20. Blackbird hilLs, Nebraska 83 

21. Country known to the Omaha (map)_ 88 

22. Earth .lodge — framework and structure _ 97 

23. Pait of Omaha village (about 1860). 99 

24. Nuga'xti 145 

25. l°shta'thabi, the last ualho"'. 147 

26. Mi'gthito''i'» and grandchild 153 

27. Sacred Tent of the White Buffalo Hide 155 

28. Hu'petha 103 

29. Wa'thishnade ( Waje'pa) 168 

30. ^Mu'xano^zhi" 170 

31. Gahi'zhi"ga (Little Chief). 17(1 

32. Sho-^geryka (White Horse) 173 

33. To-^'wo^gaxczhi^ga ( Little Village Jilaker) 173 

34. AVaho^'tlii-ge 1 76 

35. Uho^'geno'V-hi" 184 

36. An old Oniuha chief L'04 

37. Gthedo"'nn"zhi" (Standing Hawk) and wife L'U4 

37a. Tattooed Osage- 219 

38. The Sacred Pole 224 

39. I'shibazhi 280 

40. Arrow release 282 

41. The Wliite Buffalo Hide 284 

42. An elderly beau. 325 

43. Pe'degahi and wife 337 

44. Domestic scene 340 

45. Costume and adornment of woman 347 




Plate 46. Costume and adornment of man 347 

47. Bead necklaces 348 

48. Crupper for horse used by woman 353 

49. Costume and adornment of man . . 354 

50. Costume and adornment of man 354 

51 . Moccasins worn by men and women 356 

52. The language of the robe 360 

53. The language of the robe 361 

54. Wolfskin war robe worn by Zlii"ga'gahige 409 

55. War honor decorations 441 

56. Ponca chief 442 

57. Ponca chief 446 

58. The Sacred Shell 4.56 

59. "The Four children," Shell society 516 

60. Members of the Shell .society 519 

61. Members of the Shell society 519 

62. Members of the Shell society 519 

63. Members of the Shell society 519 

64. Memljers of the Shell society 519 

65. Title map, Omaha reservation, Thurston county, Nebraska 643 

Figure 1. Skin boat or "bull-boat" 37 

2. Diagram of Ponca Im'lhuijd 42 

3. Cut of hair, Waca'be gens (Ponca) 42 

4. Cut of hair, Tlii'xida gens ( Ponca) 43 

5. Cut of hair, Ni'kapashna gens ( Ponca) 44 

6. Cut of hair, Poi^caxti gens (Ponca) 45 

7. Cut of hair, Washa'be gens ( Ponca ) 45 

8. Cut of hair, Wazha'zhe gens (Ponca) 46 

9. Diagram of Osage hu'thuga — usual order 58 

10. Diagram of Osage ha'thurja — hunting order 58 

11. Diagram of Osage ha'thurja — sacred order 58 

12. Kansa chief 66 

13. Quapaw man 67 

14. Quapaw woman . 68 

15. Big Elk 83 

16. Tipi 96 

17. Common form of cache 98 

18. Logan Fontenelle 101 

19. Family group 139 

20. Diagram of C):uaha Iia'thni/ii. (tribal circle) 141 

21. Wand used in ceremony when first thunder was heard in the 

spring 143 

22. Mo'^hi"thi''ge, last keeper of the Tent of War, and his daughter. . 1 44 

23. (^at of hair, We'zhinshte gens 144 

24. Cut of hair, Nini'bato" subgens 148 

25. Cut of hair, Ho^ga gens 149 

26. Du'bamo-thi" 151 

27. AVasha'be 155 

28. Cut of hair, Ho°'ga gens 155 

29. Mo°xe'wathe 15S 

30. Cut of hair, Wa(;a'be subgens 160 

31. Cut of hair, Wazhi"'ga ita/.hi subgens 161 

32. Cut of hair, Ke'i° suljgens 161 

33. Cut of hair, Te'pa itazhi subgens 162 



Fkh'kk :!4. ('ha'oathi°<.'e 167 

35. Cut of hair, Ko"'(;c trons Kig 

36. Cut of hair, Mo"'tlii"kat;axe gen.s 17l' 

37. Cut of hair, Te5i°'ile freni^ 17.) 

38. Cut of hair, Tapa' gens 1 78 

39. (,'i"'dexo".\o'' ( Mike'nitha) 1 SO 

40. Hetlii'lvuwi''xe (,son of ShC'set/abe ) ] ,S2 

41. Cut of hair, Pgthe'zhiile gens ]S4 

42. Cut of hair, I".<3hta'(,'u"cia gens ]8S 

43. Teu'ko"ha ],S9 

44. \Vano°'lvUge I'.VJ 

45. Diagram of ball game 197 

46. Kase'no"ba, who freijuently served as a " soldier "' I'lO 

47. Rattlesnake heads and fangs 214 

4S. Tattooed design, ' ' mark i if honor ' ' (O.^sage ) 220 

49. Joseph La Flesehe 222 



50. Mo°chu''nn''be ( Shu'<ienai,'i ) 

51. A section of the Sacred Pole showing incrustatinn from ancient 

anointings 225 

52. Pack 1 lelonging to Sacred Pole 226 

53. Pipe belonging to Sacred Pole 227 

54. Pipe-cleaner 227 

55. Divining arrows 228 

56. Brush used in painting Sacred Pole 228 

57. Ancient Cedar Pole 229 

58. Communal ceremonial structure ( native drawing) 232 

59. I'zhi^'eti 234 

60. Wako^'mo-thi" 250 

61. Wako°'mo°thi"'s house 2.")0 

62. Ile'dewachi pole (native drawing) 2.54 

63. Painting on warrior's face 256 

64. Pipe belonging to White Buffalo Hide 285 

65. Playing on the flute 318 

66. Omaha mother and child 328 

67. Sitting posture of women 330 

68. Bowl made from walnut Imrr 339 

69. Burden strap 340 

70. Implements for dressing skins .343 

71. Sera) ling a skin 344 

72. Hairbrushes 348 

73. Costumes of young men 349 

74. Man's nei-klace :!.i0 

75. Man's garters .'i51 

76. Mounted warriors 352 

77. Painting a tent cover 353 

78. Paint brush 353 

79. ( )rnamentation of chiefs' leggings 354 

80. Shirt 355 

81. Woman's costume 356 

82. Language of the robe— .\nger 361 

83. (iroup of ( )maha lioy s 365 

84. Implements used in game of fia'qi«:}iii)ir ,')(i7 

85. Flute or flageolet 372 



FiiiiKE 86. Deer-hiicif rattle (native drawing) 372 

87. Objects used in Wa'wa" ceremony 377 

88. Pipe bearers and pipes in Wa'wa" ceremony 385 

89. Hu°'ga painting ' 397 

90. Sacred War Pack (unopened ) 411 

91. Sacred War Pack (opened to show contents) 412 

92. Flag found in Sacred War Pack 412 

93. Objects from Sacred War I'ack 4! 3 

94. Swallowtail kite from Sacred War Pack_ 413 

95. Wolf skin and other objects from Sacred War Pack 414 

9(3. Eagle feather in bone socket, from Sacred War Pack 414 

97. Pipes from Sacred War Pack 415 

98. Deer-tail headdress.. 438 

99. War club (native ilrawing) 449 

100. Quiver 450 

101. Mo"'hi"thi''ge - 453 

102. Bag containing Sacreil Shell 454 

103. Bag opened to show Sacred Shell 455 

104. Sacred Shell and contents 45G 

105. Tattooed design — "mark of honor" 505 

106. Design tattooed on hand of Ponca girl (native drawing) 507 

107. Mythic animal in legend of Shell society (native drawing) 515 

108. Diagram illustrating meeting of Shell society 517 

109. Moccasin design belonging to " I'ldest son's" regalia, Shell society 

(native drawing) 519 

110. Otter-skin bag, Shell society 520 

111. Diagram showing positions of oflicers and of ceremonial articles 

at meeting of Shell society. 521 

112. Diagram showing arrangement and four ceremonial movements 

of officers at meeting of Shell society 526 

113. Pack belonging to a lodge of the Shell snciety 554 

114. Largest bag in pack ( lig. 113) 555 

115. Bag found in pack (fig. 113) 556 

116. Bag found in pack (tig. 113) .556 

117. Objects found in bag (lig. 116). 557 

lis. Bag found in pack (fig. 113) 558 

119. Contents of bags (flgs. 118, 120) 559 

120. Bag found in pack (fig. 113) 560 

121. Bag found in pack (fig. 113) 560 

122. Tobacco bag and figure found in jiack (fig. 113) 561 

123. Diagram illustrating arrangement of Shell society at secret meet- 

ing for j)unishnieiit of an offender .562 

124. Diagram illustrating final ceremony of secret meeting of Shell 

society 563 

125. Waki'dezhi-ga ^ 567 

126. Graded school at Walthill, Nebraska 625 

127. The old "Mission," now fallen to decay 627 

128. An Omaha girl, a "Mission" scholar 628 

129. The Omaha church 629 

130. A modern Indian home, not far from the aite of the old 

' ' Mission " 639 

131. An Omaha farmer's home 640 

132. A well-to-do Omaha farmer and his family 641 


All vowels have the continental values. 

Superior n (") gives a nasal modification to the vowel immediately 

X represents the rough sound of h in the German hocli. 

ih has the sound of th in the. 

p has the sound of th in thin. 

Every syllable ends in a vowel or in nasal n ("). 



The following account of the Omaha tribe embodies the results 
of personal studies made wliile living among the peojjle and i-e vised 
from information gained through more or less constant intercourse 
throughout the last twenty-nine years. During this period the 
writer has received help and encouragement from the judicious criti- 
cisms of Prof. Frederic Ward Putnam, liead of the Department of 
Anthropology of Harvard l^niversity, and the completion of the task 
undertaken has been made possible by means of the Thaw Fellow- 
ship. Objects once held in reverence by the Omaha tribe have been 
secured and deposited in the Peabody Museum for safc-keej^ing. 
Professor Putnam, curator of that institution, has j^ermittetl the free 
use of the Omaha material collected under its aus]>ices and preserved 
there, for reproduction m the present volume. 

At the time the writer went to live among the Omaha, to study 
their life and thought, the tribe had recently been forced to abandon 
hunting, o\ving to the sudden extmction of the buffalo herds. The 
old life, however, was almost as of yesterday, and remauied a com- 
mon memory among all the men and women. Many of the ancient 
customs were practised and much of the al)original life still Imgered. 

Contact with the wliite race was increasing daily and beguming to 
press on the people. The environ.ment was changing rajndly, and the 
changes brought confusion of mind to the old people as well as to 
many in mature life. The beliefs of the fathers no longer apj^hed to 
the conditions wliich confronted the people. All that they formerly 
had relied on as stable had been swept away. The buifalo, which they 
had beeii taught was given them as an mexhaustible food supply, 
had been destroyed by agencies new and strange. Even the wild 
grasses that had covered the prairies were changuig. By the force 
of a power he could not understand, the Omaha found liimseLf re- 
stricted in all his native pursuits. Great unrest and anxiety had 
come to the people through the Government's dealmgs with their 
kurdred, the Ponca tribe, and fear haunted every Omaha fireside lest 
they, too, be driven from their homes and the graves of their fathers. 
The future was a dread to old and young. How ])itiful was the 
trouble of imnd everj'where manifest m the tribe can hardly be pic- 
tured, nor can the relief that came to the people when, in 1882, 
their lands were assured to them by act of Congress. 



Tlio story ol' tlioir relations with tiie Cioveriiineiit, of coiitiict witli 
tiie wliito race, of tiu" o\'crtlii-ow of their ancient institutions, and of 
tiio Una! socnrin<j of tJicir lionics in indivithnil lioklin<;8 on tlieir tril)al 
h-uuls, is briefly told in an appendix to this volume. To-day, towns 
with electric lights dot the ])rairies where the writer used to camp 
amid a sea of waving grass and flowers. Railroads cross and recross 
the gullied paths left by the departed game, and the plow has oblit- 
erated the broad westward trail along the ridge over wliich tlie tribe 
moved when starting out on the aiuuial IjufTalo hunt. The past is 
overlaid by a thriving present. The old Omaha men and women 
sleep peacefully on the Iiills while their grandchildren farm beside 
their white neighbors, send their children to school, speak English, 
and keep bank accoimts. 

When these studies were begun nothing laid been i)ul)lisiied (ui the 
Omaha tribe except short accounts by passing travelers or the com- 
ments of government officials. None of these writers had sought to 
penetrate below the external aspects of Indian life in searcli of the 
ideals or beliefs wliich animated the acts of the natives. In the 
account here offered notJiing has been borrowed from other observers; 
only original material gathered tlirectly from the native jx'ople has 
been used, and the writer has striven to make so far as i)ossible the 
Omaha las own interpreter. 

The following presentation of the customs, ceremonies, and beliefs 
of the Omaha is a joint work. For more than twenty-live years tJic 
writer luis had as collaborator Mr. Francis La Flesche (})1. ] ), the son 
of Joseph La Flesche, former piinci|)al chief of tlie tribe. In his boy- 
hood Mr. La Flesche enjoyed the o|)])ortunity of witnessing some of 
the ceremonies iierein described. Later tliese were exphiined to him 
by his father and by the old men who were the keepers of these ancient 
rites and rituals. Po.sse.ssed of a good memory ami having had 
awakened in his nimd the desire to preserve in written form the his- 
tory of his people as it was known to them, their music, the poetry of 
their rituals, and the meaning of their social anil religious ceremonies. 
Mr. La Flesche early in his career determined to perfect himself in 
English and to gather the rapidly vanishing lore of the tribe, in 
order to carry out his cherished ])urpose. 

This joint work embodies the results of unusual o))port unities to get 
close to the thoughts that underlie the ceremonies and customs of the 
Omaha tribe, and to give a fauly truthful picture of the people as they 
were during the early ])art of the last century, when most of the men 
on whose information this work is based were active participants in 
the life here described — a life that has passed away, as have those 
who shared in it and made its history possible. 

Mr. Eilwin S. Tracy has given valuable assistance in transcribing 
some of the songs, ])articularly those of the Shell society. Se\eral of 





tlie Hionfjs presented were transcrihed and arrannjed for translation on 
tlie ])iuno l)y tlie late Prof, .lolm Comfort Fillmore, who for several 
years had carefully studied the music of the Omaha. 

To enumerate all the Onialia men and women who have contributed 
of their knowledy;e and memory toward the making of tlus volume 
would be to catalogue the best part of the tribe. Unfortunately, but 
very few are now living to see the outcome of the assistance tliev ren- 
dered duruig the gathering of the material herein preserved for their 
descendants. A. C. F. 


By Alice C. Fletcher and Francis La Flesche 



The people of the Omaha tribe live in the State of Nebraska, in 
Burt, Cuniinsi, and Thurston counties, about 80 miles north of the 
city which bears their name. 

The Omaha tribe has never been at war with the United States and 
is the only trilie now livmg in the State of Nebraska that was there 
when the white settlers entered the countrj'. 

In 1SS2 Congress passed an act under which every Omaha man, 
woman, and child received a certam number of acres of the land 
which the tribe selected as their reservation in 1854, when they ceded 
to the United States their extensive huntmg grounds. The Omaha 
are dependent for their hvelihood on their own exertions as farmers, 
mechanics, merchants, etc. : by the act of 1882, they were placed under 
the laws, civil and crimmal, of the State of Nebraska. Their ancient 
tribal organization has ceased to exist, o^\'ing to changed cnvu'on- 
ment, the extinction of the buffalo, and the immediate ]jresence of the 
white man's civilization. Nothing remains intact of the ancient cus- 
toms except the practice of exogamy between the kinship groups 
and the people still give their children names that belong to the 
gentes into which the children are born. A few of the societies exist 
but their influence is on the wane, although they are enjoyed because 
of their social character and the pleasure derived from their songs 
and dramatic dances, which revive the memory of the days when the 
Omaha were a distinct and independent people. 

In June, 1884, the Omaha tribe numbered 1,179. In that month 
the allotment of lands to members of the tribe was completed. The 
people were divided as follows: 

Males. Females. 

Adults 305 338 

Under 18 years 259 277 

Total 564 615 

Excess of females over males, 51. Of these, 33 were adults and 18 
were minors. 

Number of families, 246. 

Families having no children, 41. 
83993°— 27 eth— 11— 3 33 



Owing to the unwillingness of the people to speak of the dead, it 
was impracticable to attempt to get the' exact number of children 
that had been born. 

Tlie following summary shows the proport ion of the sexes at differ- 
ent stages of life: 

Males. Females, 

Under 3 years 87 82 

Between 3 and 7 years 69 82 

Between 7 and 17 years 103 113 

Between 17 and 40 years 192 232 

Between 40 and 55 years 72 55 

Over 55 years 41 51 

The marked disproportion between the sexes of ages between 1,7 
and 40 years may be due to the fact that during this stage of life all 
the men were exposed to the hazards of hunting and of war. As 
these avocations of the men did not cease until 1S76, eight years before 
this census was taken, the influence of these duties on the length of 
life of the men is probablj^ showni in the above table. 

Formally centuries before they became knowTi to the wliite race 
through early travelers, traders, and colonists, the aboriginal peoples 
of North America north of ^lexico had been passing and repassing one 
another from east to west or west to east, and from north to south or 
from south to north." Many traces of these ancient movements had 
been overlaid by movements the outcome of which is shown by the 
map, and it is the task of the archeologist to disclose them and read 
their history. That the sj'stem of inland waterways ami the exten- 
sive coast lines on two oceans have favored the spread of the culture 
of one region to another seems not improbable, viewed in the light of 
recent researches, whOe the accumulating evidence showing attrition 
between the various stocks indicated on the map in time will permit 
of generalizations touching the cultural development of the native 
peoples of this continent. 

The Omaha tribe belongs to the Siouan linguistic stock. The map 
referred to represents the majority of this stock as having already 
moved westward beyond the Mississippi while some branches had 
advanced nearly to the eastern foothills of the Rocky mountains and 
north to the fiftj^-third parallel. There were also a few outlying Siouan 
communities — those wlio may have laggetl behind — for example, the 
group dwelling on the eastern slope of the Appalachian mountams 
and spreading down toward the coastal plains of the Atlantic, and a 
group on the northern coast of the Gulf of ilexico that seem to have 
been cut off from that portion of their kindred who had pressed to the 
southwest. The story told by the map both explains anil is explained 

a Consult the Map of the Linguistic Fiimilics of American Indians north of Mexico (in the Seccuth An- 
nunl Report and in Bulletin SO, part 1, of the Hurouu of American^ which sliows ajiproxi- 
mately the territories occupied by tha several linguistic stocks whca they became known to the whites. 


by the traditions of many of the tribes belonginj^ to this hnguistic 
stock. Ail of tliese traditions speak of a movement from the east to 
the west, covering a lonii; period of time. The primordial habitat of 
this stock lies hidden in the mystery that still enshrouds the beginnings 
of the ancient American race; it seems to have been situated, liow- 
ever, among the Appalachian mountains, and all their legends indi- 
cate that the people had knowledge of a large body of water in the 
vicinity of their early home. This water may have been the Atlantic 
ocean, for, as shown on the map, remnants of Siouan tribes survived 
near the mountains in the regions of Virginia, North Carolina, and 
South Carolina until after the coming of the white race. 

In the extended westward migration of the Siouan stock groups 
seem to have broken off, some earlier than others, and to have made 
their way into localities where certain habits incident to their environ- 
ment appear to have become fixed on them, and contact with other 
stocks during the migration to have influenced their culture. A 
group which kept together until within the last few hundred years 
seems to have been composed of the five closely cognate tribes now 
known as the Omaha, Ponca, Osage, Kansa, and Quapaw. Their 
languages as yet have hardly differentiated into distinct dialects. 
There are other groups of the Siouan stock which, from the evidence 
of their language, were probably similarly associated tribes. Some 
of these groups seem to have developed individual j)eculiarities of 
language which prevented them from coalescing with their kindred 
when in the course of wanderings they met. An instance in point is 
the meeting and journeying together of the Iowa and the Omaha 
without establisliing tribal imion. Although they belonged to the 
same linguistic stock, the Iowa tongue was practically unintelligible 
to the Omaha. The final parting of these tribes took place within 
the last two centuries. 

The five cognate tribes, of which the Omaha is one, bear a strong 
resemblance to one another, not only in language but in tribal 
organization and religious rites. This account of the Omaha tribe 
with incorporated notes taken among their close cognates is pre- 
sented in order to facilitate a comparative study not only of these 
tribes but of others of the Siouan stock, in the hope of thereby 
helj)ing to solve some of the pi'oblems presented by this extensive 
Unguistic group. 

Tribal Concept; the Name Omaha 

TJhi'te, the word for tribe, has a double import: As a verb, it means 
"to fight;" as a noun, it signifies "tribe." It seems probable that 
the noun has been derived from the verb; at least it throws light 
on the Omaha concept of what was an essential to the formation of 
a tribe. The verbal form signifies "to fight" against external foes. 

36 THE OMAHA TRTBE [eth. ANN. 27 

to take part in conflicts in wliich honor and fame can bo won. 
Those who thus fought had to stand as one body against their assail- 
ants. The terra uki'te is never apphed to quari'els among members 
of the tribe in which fists and missiles are used; the words niu'^' , 
nage' , Tci'na are used to designate such contentions, from which the 
winner receives no renown. Uli'te alone in the Omaha tongue means 
"to fight" as men against men. The wamors of a tribe were the 
only bulwark against outside attacks; they had to be ever ready 
"to fight" (jiki'te), to defend with their lives and safeguard by their 
valor those dependent on them. The word nki'te, as " tribe," explains 
the common obligation felt by the Omaha to defend, as a unit, the 
community, tlie tribe. 

The descriptive name Omaha (um.o^'Jio'", "against the current" 
or "upstream") had been fixed on the people prior to 1541. In 
that year De Soto's party met the Quapaw tribe; quapaw, or 
uga'xpa, means "with the current" or "downstream," and is the 
complement of umo^'ho^, or OmaJia. Both names are said by the 
tribes to refer to their parting company, the one going up and the 
other going down the river. 

There are two versions of how this parting came about. One 
account says that — 

The people were moving down the Uha'i ke river. " TOien they came to a wide 
river they made skin boats (see fig. 1) in which to cross the river. As they were cross- 
ing, a storm came up. The Omaha and Iowa got safely across, but the Quapaw drifted 
down the stream and were never seen again until within the last century. AMien the 
Iowa made their landing they camped in a sandy place. The strong wind blew 
the sand over the people and gave them a grayish a[3pearance. From this circum- 
stance they called themselves Pa'.iurff, "gray head," and the Omaha have known 
them by that name ever since. The Iowa accompanied the Omaha up the Mis- 
sissippi to a stream spoken of as " Raccoon river" — probably the Des Moines, and 
the people followed this river to its headwaters, which brought them into the region 
of the Pipestone quarry. 

The other version of the parting between the Omaha and the 
Quapaw is that — 

When the wide river was reached the people made a rope of grape vines. They 
fastened one end on the eastern bank and the other end was taken by strong swim- 
mers and carried across the river and fastened to the western bank. The people 
crossed the river by clinging to the grapevine. When about half their number were 
across, including the Iowa and Omaha, the rope broke, leaving the rest of the people 
behind. Those who were left were the Quapaw. This crossing was made on a foggy 
morning, and those left behind, believing that their companions who had crossed 
had followed the river downward on the western side, themselves turned down- 
stream on the eastern side, and so the two groups lost sight of eachiother. 

If an Omaha were accosted by a stranger and asked to what tribe 
he belonged, or were the same question to be asked him in the dark, 
when recognition was impossible, he would reply, Uixo^'ho" bthi" ha, 
"I am an Omaha." Should he be asked "Who are you? " he would say: 

a Uha'i ke, " the river down which they came;" the uame is still applied by the Omaha to the Ohio 



''I am [giving his name] the son or the nephew of So-and-so," men- 
tioning the name. 

If a group of Omaha should be asked to what tribe they belonged, 
they would reply, "We are Omaha." If they were asked, "Who 
are you?" the one making answer would say, "I am the son or 
nephew of So-and-so, and these are the sons of So-and-so." 

If yoimg men were jilaying a game in which there were two parties 
or sides, as in ball, and one of the players should be asked, "To which 
side do you belong?" he would say, The'giha hthi^hn, "1 belong to this 

Fig. 1. Skin boat or " buH-hoat." 

side or party." The'giha means "on this side," and the word can 
be used only as a designation of a side or party in a game. It has 
no tribal significance whatever, nor has it ever been used to indicate 
the Omaha people or their place of abode. 

The Five Cognate Tribes — Evidence of Former Unity 

Traditions common to the Omaha, Ponca, Osage, Kansa, and 
Quapaw tribes state that thej- were once one people. Their lan- 
guage bears witness to the truth of this tradition and the similarity 

38 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

of tlu'ir tribal ort^janization ofTers equally strong testimony. It would 
seem that the parent organization had so impressed itself upon the 
mode of life and thought of the people that when groups branched 
off and organized themselves as distinct tribes they preserved the 
familiar characteristic features; for all of these cognate tribes 
have certain features in common. All are divided into kinship 
groups which practise exogamy and trace descent through the father 
only. Each group or gens has its own name and a set of personal 
names, one of which is bestowed on each child born within the gens. 
These personal names refer either to the symbol which belongs to 
and marks the kinship group or to the rites allied to the symbol, 
which were the especial charge of the gens. 

According to traditions preserved among the Omaha, Ponca, 
Osage, Kansa, and Qiiapaw tribes, their severance from the parent 
organization of which they once formed a part, as well as their 
later partings from one another, did not occur through any concerted 
action; they were the result of accident, as in the case already cited 
of the Omaha and the Quapaw, or of strifes fomented by ambitious 
chiefs, or of circumstances incident to following the game. A tradi- 
tion of the Wazha'zhe or Osage tells that they broke away from the 
Ponca because of a quarrel over game. The Wazha'zhe gens 
of the Ponca have a like story, which says "The partmg was due 
to a quarrel about game. Those who left us became lost but we 
hear of them now as a large tribe bearing our name, Wazha'zhe." 

Tradition indicates also that when, for some reason or other, a 
group broke off, not all of the members belonged to one gens but 
to several gentes of the parent organization, and when this group 
organized as a distinct tribe, those of gentile kmdred retained their 
identity in name and the practice of a common rite, ami formed 
a gens in the new tribe. These traditions are corroborated by con- 
ditions which obtain in all of these cognate tribes. 

For instance, among the Omaha, Osage, Kansa, and Quapaw a 
turtle group is found as a subgens in each tribe, and in each instance 
its members are the kcepere of the turtle rites of the tribe. 

Agam, among the Omaha, Osage, Kansa, and Quapaw the Kansa, 
or Wind people, form a gens in each tribe, and m each of the tribes 
are the keepers of rites pertaining to tlie wind. 

Among the Omaha, Osage, Kansa, ami Quapaw tribes tliere is in 
each a gens similar to the Mo°'thi''kagaxe ("earth makers"). 

A Nu'xe, or Ice gens, is found in the Ponca tribe, and the name 
is borne also by a subgens in each the Osage, Kansa, and Quapaw 

There is a tradition that the Ponca were once a gens in the Omaha 
tribe and broke awav in a bodv, and that when thev became a tribe 


the subdivisions of the Ponca gens became the gentes of the Ponca 
tribe. This may possibly be true. It would seem, however, that 
in earlier days some, at least, of the Ponca had accompanied the 
Osage, Kansa, and Quapaw groups when they separated from the 
parent organization, and when these groups became distinct tribes 
the Ponca kindred appear to have combmed to form a Ponca gens, 
for we find a gens of that name in each of the cognate tribes just 

Another class of evidence which has relation to the former union of 
these tribes is found in personal names, some of which refer to cere- 
monies no longer observed m the tiibe in whicli the names exist but 
still practised in some of the cognate tribes — a fact which indicates 
apparent^ that the rite was once known and observed by the tribe 
in which the personal name is now found. For instance, in the 
Washe'to° subgens of the I^shta'^u^da gens of the Omaha tribe is 
the name Ushu'demo°thi°, meaning "he who walks in the mist" or 
"ill the dust raised by the wind." This name has no significance 
taken merely as an Omaha name, but its meaning becomes apparent 
when we turn to the cognate Osage. In that tribe there is a gens 
called Mo°so'tsemo°i°, meaning "they who walk concealed by the 
mist or dust." The word refers to a rite in the keeping of this gens, 
a rite that pertained to war. When a war party was about to make 
an attack or was forced to retreat, it was the office of tliis gens to 
perform the rite, which had the effect of causing a mist to rise or a 
strong wind to blow up a cloud of dust in wliich the warriors could 
walk concealed from their enemies. Again, the Omaha personal 
name Uzu'gaxe, meanmg"to clear the pathway," finds its explana- 
tion in the office of the Osage gens of the same name, whose duty it 
was to find a way across or around any natural obstacle that lay 
in the path of a war party, as a safe place to ford a dangerous river 
or a pathway over or around a clifl^. 

Instances similar to those oited above could be multiplied, all 
going to show that rites and customs lost in one tribg have frequently 
been preserved in another of these cognates. It is probable that 
were all the rites and customs of these tribes brought together and a 
comparative studj^ made of them, much of the ancestral organiza- 
tion from which these cognates took their rise might be discovered 
and light throwai on the question, Wliy certain forms, rehgious and 
secular, were lost and others retained and developed; also, as to 
which of these were original with the people, which were adopted, 
and of the latter from what culture they were taken. 

In all the traditions that touch on the common source from which 
these cognates have come no reference to the name of the parent 
or common organization is to be foimd. Ponca, Kansa, Wazha'zhe 


(Osage) are old terms the jiieiuiiiigs of which are lost; these occur 
as names of gentes in the cognate tribes, and tlu'ee of the five cog- 
nates bear them as tribal names. It is to be noted that the descrip- 
tive nar es Omaha and Quapaw do not appear in any of these 
tribes as terms denoting kinship groups. Among the names used 
to denominate kinsliip groups we find one occurring frequently and 
always used to designate a group that holds important offices in 
the tribe. The same term also appears in the designation of tribal 
divisions which are more comprehensive than the gens. This name is 
Ilo^'ga, meaning "leader." In the Kahsa tribe there are gentes called 
the Great Ho^'ga, the Small Ho°'ga, and the Separate Ilo^'ga. In 
the Quapaw are two gentes having this name, the Great antl the Small 
Ho°'ga. In the Omaha the term is applied to one of the two grand 
divisions of the tribe, the Ho°'gashenu,IIo°'ga people, and one of the 
gentes in this division bears the name Ho^'ga. In the Osage, one of 
the five divisions of the tribe is called Ho°'ga. Witliin this division 
there is also a Ho°'ga gens. Another of the divisions of the Osage is 
called Ho^'ga iitanatsi, Separate Ho°'ga. The followmg Osage tra- 
dition tells who the IIo°'ga utanatsi were and how they came to be a 
part of the Osage organization: 

The Osago in their wanderings on the hunt came across a tribe whose language was 
the same as their own. This strange people called themselves Ilo^'ga. The Osage 
made peace with them and invited them to join and become a part of the Osage tribe. 
The Ilo^'ga tribe consented, and it is their descendants who are known to-day as the 
Ho"'ga utanatsi. 

The term IIo°'ga utanatsi may be rouglily translated as " the 
Separate Ho^'ga," but the words utaim tsi imply something more than 
merely "separate;" they explain why this group had to be so desig- 
nated. The strange IIo°'ga whom the Osage met and invited to become 
a part of their tribe would not give up their own name Ho^'ga, and as 
the Osage were themselves called Ho^'ga people, explanatory" words 
had to be added to tlie name Ho"'ga in order to identify and at the 
same time to distinguish the newcomers from the rest of the tribe. 
These explanatory words were utana Ui, by itself ("separate "). Hence 
the group in the Osage tribe called Ilo^'ga utanatsi. 

The name of the Ho'^'ga utanatsi gens of the Kansa tribe has the 
same meaning, and indicates that the Kansa people, as did the Osage, 
claimed Ilo^'ga as their common name. 

There is a tradition preserved among the Ponca that in the past 
they and the other cognate tribes knew the Omaha by the name 
Ho°'ga. An incident is relateil that explains the meaning of a name 
given to a small stream in northern Nebraska, Ho°'ga she'no°watha- 
i ke (or IIo°'gawa'xthi i ko), "where the IIo"'ga were slaughtered." 
On this creek a battle is said to have taken place in which the Omaha 


met with a disastrous defeat from an unknown enemy, which deci- 
mated the tribe. The tradition conceriaing the name of this stream 
is known to both Omaha and Ponca, and in both tribes the tradition 
is that the name Ho°'ga, as here used, referred to the Omaha. The 
Omaha name for the month of January was Ho°'ga umu'bthi, mean- 
ing " the driftuig of the snow into the lodges of the Ho°'ga," that is, 
of the tribe. 

From these traditions and the use of the term Ho^'ga as appHed 
to divisions and gentes in the Omaha, Osage, Kansa, and Quapaw 
tribes, together with the fact that these tribes either claimed for them- 
selves tills name or were known to one another by it, it seems not 
improbable that Ho"'ga may have been the name by which the 
people called themselves when they were living together as one com- 
munity or tribe. The general meaning of Ho"'ga ("leader") is not 
unlike that belonging to names by wliich other Indian tribes designate 
themselves, i. e., "the men," "the people," etc. The term Ho°'ga is 
sometiines combined with another word to form the title of an officer, 
as Nudo° Ho"'ga, "war leader" or "captain." 

The following data concerning the gentes, personal names, and other 
features of the Omaha cognate tribes are taken from original notes 
made by the writers. 


Po^'ca is an old word, tlie meaning of wliich is lost. It occurs as 
the name of a gens or subtUvision of a gens in the Osage, Kansa, and 
Quapaw tribes, but not in the Omaha, a fact wliich may have sig- 
nificance because of the tracUtion that the Ponca constituted a gens 
of the Omaha before the separation of the tribes. As the Omaha 
retained at the parting possession of the sacred tribal objects, their 
rituals and ceremonies, the Ponca were everward after spoken of as 

There are seven gentes in the Ponca tribe, namely: Waca'be, 
Thi'xida, Ni'kapashna, Po"'caxti,Waslia'be,Wazha'zhe, Nu'xe. These 
camped in the order indicated in the diagram (fig. 2) , beginning on the 
southern side of the eastern entrance of the tribal circle, to wliich 

a The Ponca tribe is now divided. One part is living in northern Olilahoina on lands purchased by the 
Government from the Cherokee in 1SS3, which were allotted in severalty to the tribe some ten years later. 
The other part lives in northern Nebraslcaon the Niobrara river. Their land was given them in ISSl, and 
some years later was allotted to them under the Severalty act. Already these two parts are spoken of by 
different designations. Those in Oklalioma are "the hot-country Ponca;" those in Nebraska, "the cold- 
country Ponca " ' Relations between the Ponca and the United States were olhcially opened by a treaty 
made in 1817 "to reestablish peace and friendship as before the w-ar of 1812." In 182.5 another treaty was 
made by which only American citizens were to be allowed to reside among the trilie as traders, and the 
tribe agreed to delegate the punishment of offenders to the United States Government. In 1S58 the 
Ponca ceded their hunting groimds to the United States, reserving, however, a certain tract for their 
own use. In 18G5 the Government, by treaty, reconfirmed this tract. In 1877 the tribe was forcibly 
removed to the then Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). See note, p. 51. 



(BTH. ANN. 27 

the Poiica give the name Jm'ihuya, the word used by the Omaha 
also to designate their tribal circle. 

Rites and Custom.s of the Gentes 


To the Hi'^ada subgens of the Wa- 
9a'be gens belonged the keeping of the 
ritual songs sung at the ceremony held 
when the first thimder was heard in 
the spring. This subgens, whose tabu 
was birds, was spoken of as the Eagle 
group of the gens, and the people were 
supposed to be connected with thun- 
der. At death they went to the thun- 
der villages, and their voices would be 
heard in the thunder-storms. They 
were forbidden to chmb trees, as by so 
doing they would be going upward, thus 
'xida; tabu, blood. (6) i"gtho°'(;i»?n(^ anticipating their deaths and therefore 

reti (i^gthoT'tjinQnedc , puma; weti, to , . ,i • i- t ji i i 

el! in): tabu, blue (or green) paint. 3. sliortenmg their lives. In the legend 

(see p. 4S) the people of this gens were 
said to wear wTeaths of cedar ; in all the 
cognate tribes cedar was associated 
with thunder rites (note the Ni'ka 
wako^dagi of the Osage (p. 60) ; the 
Cedar Pole of the Omaha (p. 229) ; the 
association of the bear and the eagle in 
the Tha' tada gens of the Omaha (p. 1 59) ; 
also the connection of thunder with war 
and of the eagle with war and thun- 
der. The position of the Wa^a'be gens 
in the Ponca tribal 
circle was similar to 
that of the We'zlu°shte gens in the Omaha tribal 
circle, which was also associated with thunder. 

It was a custom in the Ponca tribe for each gens 
to have its peculiar manner of marking arrows, so 
there should be no dispute in hunting as to the gens 
to which a fatal arrow belonged. Tliis mark, how- 
ever, did not exclude or interfere with a man's pri- 
vate mark. The arrow of the Wa^a'be had the 
shaft red about one-half the length of the feathers. 

The symbolic cut of the children's hair consisted in closely crop- 
ping one side of the head and leaving the other side untouched to the 
neck (fig. 3.) 

Fig. 2. Diagram of Ponca hu'lhuga. 

1. Waqa'be. Blacli bear. Subgentes: (a) 
Wa^a'be; tabu, fat of the black hear, (fi) 
Ili'^ada (stretched, referring to the stretch 
of the legs ia running); tabu, birds. 2. 
Tm'xiDA. Meaning lost. Subgentes: (a) 

Ni'kapashna. a man's skull. Subgentes: 
(a) Taha'ton itazhi (fa, deer; fta,skin;/on, 
possess: iVas/if, do not touch): tabu, deer. 
(6) Te<?iii'de itazhi (te, buffalo; (^i<t'dc, 
tail; itazhi, do not touch): tabu, buffalo 
tail. 4. Po°'CAXTi. Real or original Ponca. 
Subgentes: (a) Po^'caxti; (6) Mo^ko"' 
(mystery or medicine): one tabu, buffalo 
head. 5. Washa'be. A dark object, as seen 
against the horizon: tabu, skin of buf- 
falo calf. 6. Wazha'zhe. An old term. 
Subgentes: (a) Wazha'zhe (real Wa- 
zha'zhe): name said to refer to the snake 
afler shedding old skin and again in full 
power. {h) Wazha'zhexude (gray Wa- 
zha'zhe): refers to the grayish appearance of 
the snake's cast-off skin: one tabu, snakes. 
7. Nu'XE. Ice: tabu, male buffalo. 

rio.3. Cut of hair,Wa- 
Ca'be gens (Ponca). 




It is said that the Pawnee call all the Ponca by tlie name Thi'xida. 
To this o'cns belonged a pack used in testing the truth of warriors 
when they were accorded war honors. Formerly there were two of 
these packs, but one was buried some twenty years ago with its 
keeper, To°'deamo"tlii". The other, near the close of the last cen- 
turj^ was kept b}' Shu'degaxe. The ceremony of conferring honors 
was similar to the Omaha Wate'gi(,'tu (p. 434). To this gens belonged 
the right to preside at the election of chiefs. 

The members of the subgens I°gtho°'ci"(;'nedeweti painteil the 
peace pipe (that used in the Wa'wa" ceremony, p. 376) on one side 
of their tents anil the puma on the other. The tabu, green or 
blue paint, was used on these pipes. 7?!/ was tlie word for green; 
du fobe, blue; fuhe means black; the words indicate that the two colors 
were regarded as the same, one l>eing merely a tlarker shade than 
the other. The skin of the puma was used to cover or wrap up these 
pipes. The name of the sub- 
division (meaning "to dwell 
with the puma") refers to the 
covering of the peace pipes; 
these and the puma were rep- 
resented in the tent decora- 
tion and helped to interpret 
the name of the subgens — , 
" those who dwell with the 
covered pipes that give 
peace." The arrow shafts of tliis gens were painted black where the 
feathers were fastened, and the sinew was painted red to represent 
the tabu of the gens, blood. 

The symbohc cut of the child's hair consisted in leaving only a 
roach running from the forehead to the nape of the neck. This 
roach was trimmed by notching it like a saw. A small tuft of hair 
was left on each side of the roach (fig. 4). This notched roach is 
similar to the cut of hair of a buffalo gens in the Oto tribe (also of 
the Siouan stock), and but for the notcliing is like that of a buffalo 
gens of the Omaha. These resemblances suggest that the tabu of 
the gens may refer to the blood of the slain buffalo. 

The people of this gens were said to have the power to cure pain 
in the head, in the following manner: The sufferer brought a bow 
and arrow to the Thi'xida, who wet the arrow with saUva, set it 
on the bow string, pointed it at the sick man's head four times, 
then rubbed the head with the arrow, and so effected a cure of the 

Fig. 4. Cut of hair, Thi'xida gens (Ponca). 

44 THE OMAHA TRIBE [bth. axn. 27 

3. ni'kapashna r.EKs 

T\u\ name Ni'kapashna (''skull ") is said to refer to the exposure of 
the bone bv the process of scalping. This gens had charge of the 
war pipes and directed the council of war. To them belonged also 
the supervision of all hunting of the deer. 

When a member of the subdivision Taha'to" itazlii cUed, moccasins 
made from the skin of the deer (wliich was tabu to the living) were 
put on liis feet that he might not "lose his way," but go on safely 
ami "be recognized by Ids own people" in the spirit world. 

The symbohc cut of the child's hair consisted 
in removing all the hair except a fringe around 
the head, as shown in figure 5. 


The Po°'caxti {xti, "original," or "real") 
camped in the rear part of the tribal circle, fac- 
ing the opening. This gens and its subdivision, 
Fig.:, { iitofhair.xi'ka- the Mo°ko°', had charge of the principal pipes, 

poshnagensCPoma). ^^^^ ^j ^j^^j^ ^^^^ ^j^^ ^^^^,^ pjp^ ^^^^^ ^^.^^ ^^^^^j 

for conjuring. In this gens was preserved the tradition of the 
finding of the Omaha Sacred Pole ; it was a man of the Mo°ko°' sub- 
gens who in the race was the first to reach the Pole (p. 218). 

There were only two ceremonies during which the Ponca tribe was 
required to camp in the order shown on the diagram, when, as it was 
said, "the people must make the hu'tkuga complete." These cere- 
monies were the Feast of Soldiers, which generally took place wliile 
the tribe was on the buffalo hunt, and Turning the Cliild. At the 
latter ceremony the lock was cut from the boy's head and a name 
which belonged to its gens was given to the cliild. The Mo^ko"' subdi- 
vision had the direction of both of these ceremonies. The ceremony 
connected with the cliild took place in the spring. A tent was pitched 
in front of the ^fo^ko"' subdivision and set toward the center of the 
tribal circle, "made complete" for tliis ceremony. The tent was 
dedicated — "made holy" — a stone placed in the center near the fire 
and sweet grass laid on it. It was tlie duty of the mothers to bring 
their children to the old man to whom belongetl the hereditary right 
to perform the ceremony of Turning the Child. After the child had 
entered tlie tent lie took it by the hand, led it to the center of the 
tent, and stood it on the stone, facing the east ; then he hfted the child 
by the shoulders, turned it to the south, and let its feet rest on the stone. 
In the same manner he again hfted the child, turned it to the west, 
and then rested its feet on the stone. Once more he Hf teil it, as before, 
causing it to face the north, and set its feet on the stone; finally he 
hfted it back, with its face to the east. " The Turning of the Child," 
the old informant said, "brought the cliild face to face with the life- 



I'iG. 11. t'lit of hLiir, I'o"'- 
caxli gens (ronca). 

giving winds of the four directions," wliile "the stone represented long 
hfe." The child's babj^ name was then "tlirown away," and a name 
from the gens to which its father belonged was publicly announced 
and bestowed upon it. All children were "turned " but only boj's had 
the lock of hair severed from the crown of the 
head, the lock being laid away in a pack kept by 
the old man who performed the rite. The boy 
was then taken home and the father cut his hair 
in the symbolic manner of his gens. (See Omaha 
rite of Turning the Cliild, p. 117.) 

(For an account of the Feast of the Soldier 
and its ritual, see pp. 309-311.) 

Tliis gens had duties also in connection with 
the buffalo hunt. 

The people of the lIo°ko°' subdivision painted their tents with 
black and yellow bands. 

The symbolic cut of the cliild's hair consisted in leaving onl}^ a 
tuft on the forehead, one at the nape of the neck, and one on each 
side of the head (fig. 6) . 

5. \v.\sh.\'be gens 

The name of this gens, Washa'be, was the same as the name of the 
ceremonial staff used by the Omaha leader of the annual tribal buffalo 
hunt, and also of that subdivision of the Omaha 
Ho°'ga gens wliich had charge of the tent contain- 
ing the White Buffalo Hide, of its ritual, and of that 
of the maize (see p. 261). The Ponca gens, like the 
Omaha Washa'be subdi'\'ision, had duties connected 
with the tribal buffalo hunt, and was associated 
with the Mo°ko"' subdivision of the Po^'caxti gens 
in regulating the people at that time and appointing 
officers to maintain order on the hunt. There were 
no ceremonies in the Ponca tribe relative to the 
planting or the care of maize. The Ponca are said 
to have depended for food principally on hunting, and to have 
obtained their maize more bj' barter than by cultivation. 

The symbolic cut of the child's hair consisted in leaving only a 
tuft on the forehead and one at the nape of the neck (fig. 7). 

6. wazha'zhe gen.s 

The name Osage is a corruption of the native term v:azha'zhe. 
Whether or not in the tabu and customs of this gens the Ponca have 
conserved sometliing of the early rites of the Wazha'zhe, or Osage, 
people (rites connected with the snake) can be determined only by 
more careful research than it has been possible for the writers to 

Fig. 7. Cut ni hjir. w 
sha'be gens ( I'onca) . 



[EXIT. VNN. 27 

A nieinlior of this ^jcns must nut tducli or kill a snake, and care had 
to bo exercised always to enter the tent by the door, otherwise snakes 
would go in and do harm. Mothers in this gens were very particular 
to impress on their children the importance of entering the tent by 
the door anil little children were watched lest one should creep under 
the tent cover and so bring harm to itself or the inmates. 

A man harboring a grudge against a person could bring about the 
punishment of that individual by droj)ping inside the offender's tent 
a figure of a snake cut out of rawlude. Shortly afterward the man 
would be bitten by a snake. A drawing made of the snake to be cut 
out showed it to be a rattlesnake. 

When any one in the tribe chanced to be bitten by a snake, he sent 
at once for a member of the Wazha'zhe gens, who on arriving at the 
tent fjuickljr dug a hole beside the fire with a stick, and then sucked 
tiie wound so as to draw out the blood and prevent any serious trouble 
from the injury. The purpose in digging the hole 
could not be learned from the writer's informant. 
When on the tribal hunt, the women gathered 
the bones of the buffalo and boiled them to ex- 
tract the marrow for future use. If a person 
wished to tease a woman so employed, he would 
catch up with a stick and throw away some of the 
scum from the pot. This act would prevent any 
more marrow from leaving the bones, and the only 
way to imdo the mischief was to send for a Wa- 
zha'zhe, who on arriving removed by means of a stick some of the fat 
from the boiling bones. The marrow would then come out freely at 
once and the woman would be able to secure an ample supply of 
tallow. "That is the mystery of my people," said the okl informant, 
with a sly smile, in response to inquiries on the subject. 

It is said that the Wazha'zhe were a warlike and quarrelsome peo- 
ple, and that at the organization of the tribe a peace pipe was given 
into their keeping. By accepting this trust they committed them- 
selves to more peaceful and orderly conduct in the tribe. It is still 
a matter of dispute witliin the gens as to wliich of the two subdi- 
visions the custody of the peace pipe originally belonged, whether 
to the "real" or to the "gray" Wazha'zhe. 
The office of tribal herald was in this gens. 

The symbolic cut of the hair consisted in leaving a lock on the 
forehead, one at the back of the head, and one over each ear (fig. 8). 

Fig. S. Cut of hair, Wa- 
zha'zhe gens (Fonca). 


The name of this gens, Nu'xe ("ice "), found also in the Osage tribe, 
refers to the hail. The Osage gens of tliis name is closely associated 
with the Buffalo-bull people, and in this connection it is to be noted 


that the tabu of the Ponca Nu'xe gens is the male bufTalo. The 
Osage have a tradition that the Ponca were once a part of their 
tribe, but that very long ago the people became separated on the 
bufl'alo hunt, and the Ponca never came back. It will be noted that 
the Osage have a Ponca gens and the Ponca a Wazha'zhe gens, that 
there is a Wapa'be gens in each tribe, also a Ili'pada gens, wliich in 
each tribe had rites referring to thunder; all of these resemblances 
are probably the result of movements which took place long before 
the Ponca and the Omaha were as closely associated as at a later 
period, prior to finally becoming distinct tribes. 

Legendary Accounts" 
the peace pipes 

The people came across a great water on rafts — logs tied together — and pitched 
their tents on the shore. While there they thought to make themselves n'shhon, 
limits or bounds within which to move, and regulations by which their actions were 
to be governed. They cleared a space of grass and weeds so that they could see one 
another's faces, and sat down, and there was no obstruction between them. 

\\'hile they were deliberating they heard the hooting of an owl in the timber near by, 
and the leader, who had called the people together, said, "That bird is to take part in 
our action; he calls to us, offering his aid." Immediately afterward they heard the 
cry of the woodpecker and his knocking against the trees, and the leader said, "That 
bird calls and offers his aid; he will take part in our action." 

The leader then addressed the man he had appointed to act as servant, and said, "Go 
to the woods and get an ash sapling." The servant went out and returned with a 
sapling having a rough bark. "This is not what we want," said the leader. "Go 
again, and get a sapling that has a smooth bark, bluish in color at the joint " (where a 
branch comes). The servant went out, and returned with a sapling of the kind 

AMien the leader took up the ash sapling, an eagle came and soared above where the 
council sat. He dropped a downy feather; it fell, and balanced itself in the center of 
the cleared space. This was the white eagle. The leader said, "This is not what we 
want;" so the white eagle passed on. 

Then the bald eagle came swooping down as though making an attack upon its prey, 
balanced itself on its wings directly over the cleared space, uttering fierce cries, and 
dropped one of its downy feathers, which stood on the ground as the other eagle's 
feather had done. The leader said, "This is not what we want;" and the bald eagle 
passed on. 

Then came the spotted eagle and soared over the council and dropped its feather, 
which stood as the others had done. The leader said, "This is not what we want;" 
and the spotted eagle passed on. 

The eagle with the fantail (imperial eagle, Aquila heliaca ^&v\gay) then came, and 
soared over the people. It dropped a downy feather which stood upright in the center 
of the cleared space. The leader said, "This is what we want." The feathers of this 
eagle were those used in making the peace pipes, together with the other birds (the 
owl and the woodpecker) and the animals, making in all nine kinds of articles. These 
pipes were to be used in establishing friendly relations with other tribes. 6 

o Obtained from chiefs and other prominent Ponca. 

ti This account of the Ponca introduction to the Wa'wa" pipes should be compared with the Omaha 
account of receiving these pipes from the Arikara (p. 74) and the Omaha ceremony (p. 376). The nine 
articles are as follows: Owl feathers, eagle feathers, woodpecker, rabbit, deer, ash tree, paint, cat-tail, and 

48 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ANN. 27 


WTien the peace pipes were made (those for "establishing friendly relations with 
other tribes"), seven other pipes were made for the keeping of peace within the tribe. 
These pipes were also for use to prevent bloodshed. It one man should kill another, 
in such a case the chiefs were to take a pipe to the aggrieved relatives and offer it to 
them. If they refused, the pipe was to be again offered them; if the pipe was offered 
and refused four successive times, then the chiefs said to them, "You must now take 
the consequences; we will do nothing, and ycu can not ask to see the pipes," meaning 
that if trouble should come to any of them because of their acts taken in revenge they 
could not appeal for help or mercy. 

^Tien these seven pipes were finished they were taken to be distributed among the 
different bands of the tribe. 

The first band to which the pipe bearers came was the Waga'be. They were found 
to be engaged in a ceremony that did not pertain to peace, but rather to the taking of 
life. The Hi'fada sat in a tent with red-hot stones, and had on their heads wreaths of 
cedar branches. The pipe bearers passed them by, and even to this day they are 
reminded of this occurrence by the other bands saying, "You are no people; you have 
no peace pipe! " 

The next band the pipe bearers came to was the Thi'xida. To them a pipe was 
given, and they were to have charge of the counc-l which elected chiefs. 

Next they came to the Ni'kapashna, and to them a pipe was given, and they were to 
have the management of the council of war and also the direction of the people when 
they went to hunt the deer, so that order might be preserved in the pursuit of that 

The Po^'caxti and the Mo^ko"' were reached next, and a pipe was given them. 

The Washa'be were next, and a pipe was given them. This band, together with the 
Mo^ko"', were given charge of the tribal buffalo hunt — the direction of the journey, 
the making of the camps, and the preservation of order. From these two bands the 
two principal chiefs must come. 

\^Tien the pipe bearers reached the Wazha'zhe the latter were divided, and there were 
trouble and murder between the factions. So,. instead of giving them a flat-stemmed 
pipe, they gave them one with a round stem, ornamented. Because of the feud there 
was carelessness, and to this day there is a dispute as to the division to which the pipe 
for the maintenance of peace was presented. 

When the pipe bearers reached theNu'xe, they gave them a ]iipe and an otfi<e in the 
buffalo hunt. 

Each band had its pipe, but there was one pipe which was to lielong to the chiefs. 
This could be filled only by the leading chiefs, and was to be used to punish people 
who made trouble in the tribe. It was placed in charge of the Mo"ko"' band. 

When a man was to be punished, all the chiefs gathered together and this pipe was 
filled by the leader and smoked by all the chiefs present. Then each chief put his 
mind on the offender as the leader took the pipe to clean it. He poured some of the 
tobacco ashes on the ground, and said, "This shall rankle in the calves of the man's 
legs." Then he twirled the cleaning stick in the pipe and took out a little more ashes, 
and, putting them on the earth, said, "This shall be for the of the sinews, and he 
shall start with pain" (in the back). A third time he twirled the cleaning stick, put 
more ashes on the earth, and said, "This is for the spine, at the base of the head." A 
fourth time he twirled the cleaning stick in the pipe, poured out the ashes, put them 
on the ground, and said, " This is for the crown of his head." This act finished the 
man, who died soon after. 









Standing Buffalo (pi. 2), of the Wazha'zhe gens, told the follow- 
ing story some ten years ago : 

When I was a boy I of ton asked my mother where my people eame from, but she 
would not tell me, until one day she saiil, " I will give you the story as it has been 
handed d.;wn from generation to generation. 

"In the real beginning Wako"'da made the Wazha'zhe— men, women, and 
children. After they were made he said 'Go!' So the people took all they had, 
carried their children, and started toward the setting sun. They traveled until 
they came ta a great water. Seeing they could go no farther, they halted. Again 
Wako"'da said ' Go! ' And once more they started, and wondered what would happen 
to them. As they were about to step into the water there appeared from under the 
. water rocks. These projected just above the surface, and there were others barely 
covered with water. Upon these stones the people walked, stepping from stone to 
stone until they came to land. When they stood on dry land the wind blew, the 
water became violent and threw the rocks upon the land, and they became great 
cliffs. Therefore when men enter the sweat lodge they thank the stones for pre- 
serving their lives and ask for a continuation of their help that their lives may be 
prolonged. Here on the shore the people dwelt; but again Wako^'da said 'Go!' 
And again they started and traveled on until they came to a people whose appearance 
was like their own; but not knowing whether they were friends or foes, the people 
rushed at each other fur combat. In the midst of the confusion Wako"'da said, 
'Stand still!' The people obeyed. They questioned each other, found they sjjoke 
the same language, and became friends. 

" Wako^'da gave the people a bow, a dog, and a grain of corn. The people made 
other bows like the one given them and learned to use them for killing wild animals 
for food and to make clothing out of their skins. The dogs gave increase and were 
used as burden bearers and f vr hunting. The corn thev planted, and when it grew 
they found it good to eat, and they continued to plant it. 

"The people traveled on and came to a lake. There the Omaha found a Sacred 
Tree and took it with them. The people (Ponca) went on and came to a river now 
called Nishu'de (the Missouri). They traveled along its banks until they came to 
a place where they could step over the water. From there they went across the land 
and came to a river now called Nibtha'cka (the Platte). This river they followed, 
and it led them back to the Missouri. 

"Again they went up this river until they came to a river now called Niobrara, 
where we live to-day." 

The latter part of this legend, which deals with the Ponca move- 
ments after the Omaha found the Sacred Tree, has been obtained 
from a number of old men. All follow the general outline given 
by Standing Buffalo, while some preserve details omitted by him, 
as the meetmg witli the Padouca (Comanche), the obtaining of 
horses, etc., which are given elsewhere. (See p. 78.) 


The following account of how White Eagle (pi. 3) came to be a 
chief was given by him ten years or more ago and was introductory 
to the information he then imparted to the writers. lie regarded 
83993'=— 27 eth— 11 i 

50 THE OMAHA TRTBE [ei n. a.nn. 27 

the story as important, I'or it served to make clear his tribal status 
and therefore, he thought, to give weight to his statements concern- 
ing the Ponoa tribe. The story is repeated here as throwing light 
on Ponea customs during the eighteenth century: 

A chief by the name of Zhi^ga'gahige (Little Chief), of the Washa'be band, had 
a son who went on the warpath. The father sat in his tent weeping because he had 
heard that his son was killed, for the young man did not return. As he wept he 
thought nf various persons in the tribe whom he might call on to avenge the death 
of his son. As he cast about, he recalled a young man who belonged to a poor family 
and had no notable relations. The young man's name was Waca'bezhi"ga (Little 
Bear). The chief remembered that this young man dressed and painted himself 
in a peculiar manner, and thought that he did so that he might act in accordance 
with a dream, and therefore it was probable that he possessed more than ordinary 
power and courage. So the chief said to himself, " I will call on him and see what 
he can do." 

Then the chief called together all the other chiefs of the tribe, and when they were 
assembled he sent for Little Bear. On the arrival of the young man the chief 
addressed him, saying, "My son went on the warpath and has ne^'er returned . I do not 
know where his bones lie. I have only heard he has been killed. I wish you to go and 
find the land where he was killed. If you return successful four times, then I shall 
resign my place in your favor." 

Little Bear accepted the offer. He had a sacred headdress that had on it a ball of 
human hair; he obtained the hair in this manner: AMienever men and women of his 
acquaintance combed their hair and any of the hair fell out, Little Bear asked to have 
the combings given to him. By and by he accumulated enough hair to make his 
peculiar headdress. This was a close-fitting skull cap of skin; on the front part was 
fastened the ball of human hair; on the back part were tied a downy eagle feather and 
one of the sharp-pointed feathers from the wing of that bird. He had another sacred 
article, a buffalo horn, which he fastened at his belt. 

Little Bear called a few warriors together and asked them to go with him, and they 
consented. Putting on his headdress and buffalo horn, he and his companions started. 
They met a party of Sioux, hunting. One of the Sioux made a charge at Little Bear, 
who fell over a bluff. The Sioux stood above him and shot arrows at him ; one struck 
the headdress and the other the buffalo horn. After he had shot these two arrows the 
Sioux turned and fled. Little Bear, who was uninjured, climbed up the bluff, and, 
seeing the Sioux, drew his bow and shot the man through the head. Besides this scalp 
Little Bear and his party captured some ponies. On the return of the pai-ty Little 
Bear gave his share of the booty to the chief who had lost his son. 

Little Bear went on three other expeditions and always returned successful, and each 
time he gave his share of the spoils to the chief. When Little Bear came back the 
fourth time the chief kept his word and resigned his ofTice in favor of the young man. 

Little Bear was my grandfather. \Mien he died he was succeeded by his eldest son, 
Two Bulls. At his death his brother, We'ga^api (pi. 4), "who was my father, became 
chief, and I succeeded him. 

o An old Ponca, speaking of Wc'gaQapi, said: " He was a .succe.s<!ful man, and had a pafk wliioh had 
descended to him. He always carried it in war. Both he and the original owner of the pack are .said to 
have had dreams of wolves." We'gagapi had the honor of having some of Ills brave deeds pre.servcd 
in song by the Hethu'shka society, and the song is known to members of the society in both the Ponca 
and C»maha tribes. 








Recent History; Personal Names 

The following list of Ponca names was taken in November, 1874, 
wliile the entire tribe was living on the Niobrara river." 

The total population of the tribe at that time was 733, divided as 
follows : '' 

Full bloods. Mixed bloods. Full bloods. Mixed bloods. 

Men 172 32 , Girls 129 45 

Women 164 21 , Families 185 32 

Boys 135 35 | 

The people dwelt in three villages. The village at the Ignited 
States agency contamed 89 families and 377 persons. The village 
called Hubtho"' ("those who smell of fish") had 46 families and 144 
persons. "Point" village had 82 families and 248 persons. 

There were eight chiefs, each of whom had his "band." These 
bands were probably composed of persons from the gens or subgens 
to which the chief belonged. 

Families. Persons. 

■^Tiite Eagle's band (Wa^a^be, Hi'fada subgens) 26 89 

Big Soldier's band (Waga'be, Hi'<;ada subgens) 31 97 

Traveling Buffalo's band (Thi'xida) 23 72 

Black Crow's band (Ni'kapashna) 28 90 

Over the Land's band (Ptf"caxti and Mo"ko'") 21 73 

Woodpecker's band (Washa'be) 27 75 

Standing Bear's band (Wazha'zhe) 20 82 

Big-hoofed Buffalo's band (Nu'xe) 9 22 

In ISoS the Ponca ceded their hunting grounds to the United States, and reserved for their home the 
land about their old village sites on the Niobrara river They -were never at war with the Government or 
the white race. Their reservation was reconflrmed to them by the Government in 1865. In 1S68 a large 
reservation was granted to the Sioux, in which the Ponca reservation on the Niobrara was included- 
The Ponca tribe was ignorant of this official transfer of its land. In 1S77 the Ponca, without any warning, 
were informed they must move to the Indian Territory, and the eight chiefs were conducted there 
by an official and told to select a new reservation The reason for leaving their old home was not explained 
to the protesting chiefs or to the people. The chiels who went with the official refused to select a home in 
" the strange land." They begged to be allowed to go back Being refused, they left the official, and, in 
the winter, with but a few dollars and a blanket each, started home, walking 500 miles in forty days. When 
they reached the Niobrara the United States Indian agent summoned the military and on the 1st of May 
the entire tribe was forcibly removed to the Indian Territory. The change from a cool climate to a warm 
and humid one caused suffering. Within a year one-thu-d of the people were dead and nearly all the sur- 
vivors were sick or disabled. A son of Chief Standing Bear (pi. 5) died The father could notburj-him 
away from his ancestors, so taking the bones, he and his immediate following turned from "the hot 
country," and in January, 1S79, started to walk back They reached the Omaha reservation in May, 
destitute, and asked the loan of land and seed, which was granted. As they were about to put in a crop, 
soldiers appeared with orders to arrest Standing Bear and his party and take them back. They were 
obliged to obey. On their way south they camped near Omaha city. Their storj- was made known, the 
citizens became interested, lawyers offered help, and a writ of habeas corpus was secured. The United 
States denied the prisoners' right to sue out a writ, because " an Indian was not a personwithin themean- 
ingof the law." The case came before Judge Dundy, who decided that "An Indian is a person within the 
meaning of the law," and that there w'as no authority under the laws of the UnitL-d States forcibly to 
remove the prisoners to the Indian Territory, and ordered their release. In the winter Standing Beai vis- 
ited the principal cities of the East, repeating the story of his people. The United States Senate ordered 
an investigation of the Ponca removal, when all the facts wore brought out. Those Ponca who chose to 
remain in Oklahoma w^ere given good lands. Their old homo on the Niobrara was restored to Standing 
Bear and his followers and lost property was paid for In September, 1908, Standing Bear died and 
was buried with his fathers. By his sirfiEerings and courage he was instrumental in putting an end to 
enforced Indian removals. 

6 Data ftnnished by Office of Commissioner of Indian Affairs. 



[ETII. ANN. 27 

Personal Names " 


White Eagle's baiul 

ri'ha— Soles (O.: Te'pa. Tha'tada.Tapa'). 
(.'ithe'dezhi"ga— Little heel (O., I»shta'- 

De'mo"thi"— Talks walking. 
Gahi'ge zhi"ga— Little chief (O.: Pke'- 

(;abe, Ko"'(;e). 
Gaku'wi"xe — Whirled by the wind. 
Gamo'^'xpi — Wind strikes the clouds (O.: 

Wazhi^'ga, Tha'tada). 
Gashta'gabi — Beaten into siibmi.ssion. 
Ha'nugahi — Nettle weed. 
Ke'to°ga— Big turtle (O.: Wazhi°'ga, 

Mi'xazhi"ga — Duck. 
MCchu'nita — Grizzly bear's ears. 
Mo°chu''wathihi — Stampedes the grizzly 

Mo"chu'zhi''ga — Little grizzly bear. 
Mo"'e'gahi — Aitow chief (O., I"ke'(;abe). 
Mo^'sho^zhide — Red feather. 
Mo^'tega — New arrow. 
Ni'i.'tumo^thi"— Walking backward (O.: 

Xu'ka, Tha'tada). 
Ni.-hu'dezho" — Missouri River timber. 
Niwa'i — Gives water. 
No^pabi — One who is feared (O.: \\'a- 

Ca'be, Tha'tada). 
Nudo^'hCga— Leader (O.. Ilo^'ga). 
Nudo"'mo°thi° — Warrior walking. 
0"'po"i;abe— Black Elk. 
Pe'degahi — Fire chief (O.: Wazhi^'ga, 

Sho"to"ga — Gray wolf. 
Shu'dcgaxe — Smoke maker (pi. 6). 
Shui'na — Meaninguncertain(0.:Wava'be, 

Shuka'rao"thi° — Walking in groups (O., 

Tefo"'— White buffalo (().: Wazhi°'ga, 

Tenu'gacabe — Black bull. 
Thi'o"bagigthe — Lightning passing (O., 

Thi'o"batigthe— Sudden lightning (O., 

Tide'gigthe — Passes by with a roar. 

Ti'uthio"ba — Lightning llaalics in the tent 

Wahu'to-the— Gun. 
Wai'''gabtha — Spreads robe. 
Wazhi'dathi" — Has red medicine. 
Xitha'fka— White eagle (O., Tapa'). 


Mi'gasho^thi"— Traveling sun (O., 

Mi'texi — Sacred moon (O., Mo"'tlii"ka- 


Big Soldier's band 


Agi'chidato°ga — Big soldier. 
A'hi^^ka— 'VMiite wings (0.: Tc'pa, Tha'- 
A'shkano"ge — Short runner. 
A'xewo" — Covered with frost. 
Gahi'ge— Chief (0.: Pkc'fabe, Te'pa, 

Tha'tada), plate 7. 
He'xude— Gray horns (O., Tevi"'de). 
I'kuhabi — He who causes fear 
I"shta'duba — Four eyes (O.: Waca'be, 

Ki'shtawagu — Said to be a Pawnee name 

Mo"'hi°gahi— Knife chief. 
Mo^'thumo^fe — Metal or iron chief. 
Nini'ba— Pipe (O., Te'pa, Tha'tada). 
Ncyba'mo"thi"— Two walking (O.: Wa- 

zhi'-'ga, Tha'tada). 
No^'gemo^thi" — Tra vels running (,()., Mo"'- 

Nudo"'axa — Cries for war. 
Paho^'gamo^thi" — Walking first (O., I"ke'- 

Shage'duba — Four hoofs (O., Tapa'). 
Shu'kabi — Bunch of clouds. 
Tato°'gapa— Bull head. 
Tenu'gafka — White bull. 
Te'thiti— Buffalo ril. (().: Wa^a'be, 

Thi'tiaxa — Cries for rib. 
U'ho"zhi"'ga — Little cook (O., I"shta'- 

Uzho°'ge— Road. 
Wac,a'bezhi''ga— Little black bear (O.: 

Waga'be, Tha'tadaV 

" This list is necessarily incomplete. Names found in tribes other than the Ponca are followed by 
the names of the respective tribes, accompanied by tiiose of the gentes where known, in parentheses. 
(0.= Omaha.) 









Wako"'dagi — Monster. 

Wazhi"'ga— Bird (O.: Wazhi-'ga, Tha'- 

Wazhi""gai-ab<^Blackbird (O., Ro"'!)!!"- 

Wazhi"'gagahi — Bird chief (().:Wazhi'''ga, 

We'Ehno^wathe — He who eauses fog. 
Zha'bcfka — White beaver. 
Zhi°'gapezhi — Bad little one. 
Zho°'xude — Grav wood. 

A'o"wi" — Meaning uncertain (O. , Hc'ga). 
Mi'tena — Meaning uncertain (O., Ho^'ga). 
Mi'wa?o" — WTiite moon (0., Ho^'ga). 
No°9e'i°?e-— Meaning uncertain (0.,We'- 

Tefo-'dabe— WTiite buffalo (0., Htf"ga). 
Tefo^'wi" — WTiite buffalo woman (O., 

To^'i^gthihe — Sudden appearing of new 

moon (O., Pke'fabe). 
Zho^i'wathe — To carry wood (O., We'- 



Traveling Buffalo's band 

Gaku'wi^xe — Soaring eagle (O.: Te'pa, 

Ha'shimo''thi" — Walking last in a tile (O., 

Ile'shathage — Branching horns lO., I"- 

Hewo"'zhi°tha — Cue horn ( Dakota). 
Hezha'ta — Forked horns (O., Tapa'). 
IIezhi"'ga — Little horn. 
Ka'xeno^ba — Two crows (O., Ilo^'ga). 
Keba'ha — Turtle showing himself (O., 

Ma'azhi^ga — Little cottonwood (O.: Wa- 

zhi"'ga, Tha'tada). 
Mixa'cka — AMiite swan (O., Mo'''thi''ka- 

Mtf'a'zhi''ga— Little bank (O., I"g(he'- 

Mo^chu'^ka — \Miite bear. 
Mo°shi'ahamo''thi'' — Moving above (O., 

No''bc'thiku — Cramped hand. 
O^'po-trf^a— Big Elk (O., We'zhi°.«hte). 

Pa'thi"no°pazhi" — Fears not Pawnee (O.: 

Waca'be, Tha'tada). 
Sha'gecka— White claws (O., Tha'tada). 
Sha'geshuga — Thick claws. 
Sha'nugahi — Meaning uncertain (O., 

Shathu' — Gurgle (water). 
Tato^'ga — Great male deer (old name) 

(0., Tapa'). 
Tato'"'gano'>zhi''— Standing bull. 
Tenu'gano^ba — Two buffalo bulls (O., 

Tenu'gazhi"ga— Lit tie bull (0.,Te<;i°'de). 
U'do" — Good. 
Uga'sho^to" — The traveler or wanderer 

(O.. Tegi-'de). 
Waba'hizhi°ga — The little grazer (O., 

Wafa'beto"ge — Big black bear (O., Mo"'- 

Wada'thi"ge— Refers to chief (O., Pke'- 

Wami'— Blood (O., Ko^'ce). 
Wano">'xe— Ghost. 

Washi'chufabe — Black man (Sioux). 
Washi^'nuka — Wet fat, or fresh fat. 
Washi'shka— Shell (0., Mtf"thi"'kagaxe). 
Washu'she — Brave (0., Pke'fabe). 
Wazhi°'?ka— Wisdom (O., I"shta'?u"da). 
Wazhi"'gaci — Yellow bird. 
Wazhi"wathe — He who provokes anger. 
Xitha'i;ka— \A'hite eagle (O., Tapa'). 

Mi'gasho"thi° — Traveling moon (O-.I^ke'- 

9abe) . 
Mi'gthedo^wi" — Moon hawk woman (O., 

Mi'gthito"i° — Return cf new moon (O., 

Mi'o"bathi° — Moon moving by day (O., 

Mi'tena — Meaning uncertain (O., Ho'''ga). 
Nazhe'gito" — Meaning imcertain (O., 

No^fe'l^^e — Meaning uncertain (O., 

To^'ithi" — New moon moving (O., 

Wate'wi" — May refer to the stream Wate 

(0., Tha'tada). 
We'to"na — Meaning uncertain (O., I"- 

shta'tu^da) . 



[eTK. ANN. '2~ 


Black Crow's hand 


A'kidagahigi — Clhiet who watchea (O., 

Qiko^xega — Brown ankles (O., Pke'^abe) . 
Gahi'gewaahushe — Brave chief. 
Gahi'gezhi"ga— Little chief (O.. Ko°'ve). 
Gthodo^'no^zhi" — Standing hawk (O.: 

Wazhi"'ga, Tha'tada). 
Gthedo"'xude— Gray hawk (O.: Wa- 

zhi'-'ga, Tha'tada). 
ne'i;ithi°ke — New yellow horn (O., We'- 

Hethi'shizhe — Crooked horn. 
Hi^'xega — Brown hair (Omaha). 
Hu'to°tigthe — Cries out in the distance. 
I'baho^bi — He is known (O., Pshta'- 

I^chu^'ga^ka— White weasel (O., Tapa'). 
Kaxe'^abe — Black crow (0., Tapa'), 

plate 8. 
Ke'zhi°ga— Little turtle (0.: Ke'i", Tha'- 
Mika' — Raccoon . 

Mixabaku — Bent goose (O.: Ke'i°, Tha'- 
Mo"chu'dathi" — ^^Crazy bear. 
Mo"'geuti" — Strikes the breast. 
Mo''hi'"thi''ge — No knife (O., We'zhi"- 

Mo°no'"uto° — Paws the earth. 
Mo^'shkaaxa — Cries for (O.: 

Waga'be, Tha'tada). 
Mo°sho°'9ka— White feather (O., I"gthe'- 

No^ba'ato" — Treads on two. 
No"'getithe — Passes by running. 
No"ka'tu— Blue-back (O., I"gthe'zhide). 
Nudo"'gina — Returns from war. 
Sho°'gehi"9abe — Black horse. 
Tato^'gamo^thi" — Big deer walking (O., 

Ta'xtifka— TVTiite deer. 
Wa^e'zhide — Red paint. 
Wano°'pazhi — Without fear (O.. I"gthe'- 

Zhi"ga'u''5a — Little runner. 


Gthedo°'shtewi" — Ilawk woman (O., 

Mi'gthedo"'wi'' — Moon hawk woman ((). 

Mo°'shadethi" — One moving on high (()., 

To"'i°gina — New moon coming (0., I°- 


pqN'caxti gens 
Over the Land's hand 
gi-^defka— \^Tiite tail (Omaha), 
gio'dedo'-ka— Blunt tail (a.,We'zhi"shte). 
f ithi"'ge— No feet. 
Ezhno'''no"zhi'' — Stands alone. 
Gthedo"' texi — Sacred hawk. 
Ho^'gazhi^ga — Little IIo""ga (0., Ho^'ga). 
Pke'to^ga— Big shoulder (O., fshta'- 

I"shta'pede — Fire eyes (O., I"ke'fabe). 
Keo°'hazhi— Turtle that flees not (O.: 

Wa^a'be, Tha'tada"). 
Kigtha'zho°zho'' — Shakes himself (O., 

Mika'xage — Crying raccoon (O., Tapa'), 
Mo°ka'ta — On the land (old name, now 

used among the Dakota). 
Mo"ko"'to"ga — Big medicine. 
Mo"zho"'ibaho" — Knows the land. 
No"'gethia — Not able to run (O., 

Nuga' — Male (O., Pke'gabet. 
Nuga'xte — Original male (O., We'- 

0°'po"zhi"ga— Littleelk(0.,We'zhi''shte). 
Sheno^'zhi" — Stands there. 
Te'mo°thi°— Buffalo walking (O., 

Tenu'gawakega — Sick bull. 
Thae'gethabi — One who is loyed (O., 

The'baxo" — Broken jaw. 
The'dewathe — Looks back. 
Thihie'no" — Frightens the game. 
Une'gtho"xe — Seeks poison. 
Waba'hizi — Yellow grazer (O., Mo^'thi"^ 

Wagi'o"— Thunder bird (Dakota). 
Washko'^zhi"ga — Little strength. 
Wa'xano^zhi" — Standing in advance (O., 

Xitha'gahige— Eagle chief (O., Tapa'). 
Xitha'gaxe — Eagle maker (O., Tapa'). 
Zhi°ga'nudo° — Little warrior. 












|HBSr?? ^H 




fe >#■ 















A^e'to^ga — Moanins uncertain (O., 

Gthedon'wi°texe — Sacred hawk woman 

(0., Tapa'). 
Mi'ako°da — Sacred moon (O., Tefi'^de). 
Mi'bthiwi" — Moaning uncertain (O., 

Mi'mo"shiliathi" — Moon moving on high 

(0., Tha'tada). 
Mi'tena — Meaning uncertain (O., Ho^ga). 
Mi'wafo" — ^"hite moon (O., Ho^ga). 
Ponca'fo" — ■^'hite Ponca (O., Mo^'thi"- 

Zho°'i°wathe — To carry wood (O., A^'e'- 


washa'be gens 

Woodpecker' s band 

A'gahamo°thi'' — Walks outside (O.: 

Xu'ka, Tha'tada). 
Qi^'defabe— Black tail. 
E'tho^tho^be — To appear repeatedly (O., 

Hexa'gajabe — Black elk. 
Hexa'gamo^thi" — Standing elk (O., Mo"'- 

Hi"fi'zhi°ga — Little yellow hair (O., 

Hu'hazhi — Meaning uncertain (O., 

Pshta'fabe— Black eyes (O., Tefi-^de). 
Pshta'dathi"— Crazy eyes. 
I^shta'duba — Four eyes (O., Waga'be, 

Ko'''(;eto"ga — Big Kansa. 
Ma'fito" — Lone cedar tree. 
Mi'kayixthaha — ^Lean coyote. 
Mi'xato''ga — Big goose (pi. 9). 
Mo°'fedo° — Meaning uncertain (O., I"- 

Mo''chu'fi°dethi''ge — Bob-tailed bear. 
Mo^ga'azhi — Not afraid of arrows (O., 

Mo^'gazhi'iga — Little skunk. 
No^(;o"dazhi — Does not dodge (O., 

No'^kagka— White back. 
No^zhi'^mtf'thi" — Rain travels (0., 

Mo^thi^kagaxe) . 

Nudo^'ho^ga — Leader (O., Ho^'ga). 

Pafi'duba — Four buffaloes — very old 
name (O., Ko^'fe; Osage). 

Sha'ge — Hoofs. 

Sho°'gefabe — Black horse (O., Tapa'). 

Te'tehi^fabe — Black hair on belly of buf- 
falo (0., Tapa'). 

Te'nuga— Buffalo bull (O., Ho"'ga). 

Tezhe'bate— Buffalo chip (pi. 10). 

Te'zhi"ga— Little buffalo (O., Pglhe'- 

Thigthi'^emo^thi" — Zigzag lightning walk- 
ing (0., I"shta'fu''da). 

Tishi'muxa — Spreading tent poles (O., 

Uga'sho''zhi"ga— Little traveler (O., Mo°'- 

Ugtha'atigthe — He who shouts (victory 

Ilio^'no^ba — Two cooks (O.: 'Wazhi^'ga, 

ITio^'zhi'iga— Little cook (O., I"shta'- 

Wahaxi — Yellow skin (O., I"shta'5U°da). 

Waho-^thi-ge— Orphan (O. Tefi-'de). 

Wa'ino^zhi" — Standing over them (O., 

Wajja'de — One who cuts the carcass 
(O., Tapa'). 

^^'ashko='mo°thi'' — Walking strength (O.: 
Wazhi-'ga, Tha'tada). 

Zhi°ga'gahige— Little chief (O., Tapa') 

Zhi"ga'washushe — Little brave. 


Gthedo"'wi°texi — Sacred hawk woman 

(0., I-ke'vabe). 
Mi'gthedo^wi'' — Moon hawk woman (O., 

Migthi'to"!" — New moon. (O., I°ke'- 

Mi'tena — Meaning uncertain (O., Ho^'ga). 
Mi'wagon — ^Tiite moon (O., Ho^'ga). 
Mo^sha'dethi" — Moving on high (O., I"- 

shta'f u^da) . 
Po'^caeo'" — Pale Ponca. (O., Mo^'thi^ka- 

Po"'cawi° — Ponca woman (O., Mo^'thi"- 

Wihe'to^ga— Big little sister (O., We'zhi"- 




[ETH. ANN. 21 

wazha'zhe gens 

Standing Bear's band 


A'gahawashushe — Distinguished for brav- 
ery (O.: Waga'be, Tha'tada). 
A'lhiude— Abandoned (O., I°shta'- 

Bachi'zhithe — To rush tlirough obstacles 

(0., Tapa'). 
Cigthe'no''pabi — One whose footprints are 

feared (0., Mo^'thi^iiagaxe). 
Da'do"thi°ge — Has nothing (0., Ko^'fe). 
Gafu'be — Meaning uncertain (O., 

Gahi'gezhi''ga— Little chief (0., -,I°ke'- 

Gakuwi^xe — Eagle soaring (O.: Te'pa, 

Eexa'ga — Rough horns (0., Tapa'). 
Ho°'gashenu — Ho^'ga man (O., l"shta'- 

I°de'xaga — Rough face. 
Ki'mo^ho" — Facing the wind (O., I^shta'- 

Ko"'teho"ga— Kansa leader (O., Mo'"thi°- 

kagaxe) . 
Maci'kide — Shooting cedar (O., I°shta'- 

Mo"chu'duba — Four bears, grizzly. 
Mo"chu'kino"pabi — The bear who is 

Mo°chu'no''zhi'' — Standing bear. 
Mo"chu'to''ga — Big bear. 
Mo"shti"'c;ka— ^^■hite rabbit (O. ; Wazhi""- 

ga, Tha'tada). 
Ni'juba — Little water. 
No^'kahega — Brown back (O., Tapa'). 
No°o'"bi — One who is heard (O., Te- 

No^pe'wathe — One who is feared (O.: 

\Vazhi"'ga, Tha'tadaV 
No"xi'dethi"ge — The incorrigible. 
Nushia'hagino" — Returns bending low. 
Pcthi'shage — Curly brows. 
Sho°'gehi"i;i — Yellow horse. 
Tade'umo^thi" — Walking wind (O., 

Tai'hi'^to'^ga — Big mane. 
Tato°'gano''zhi°zhi°ga — Little standing 

Tato"'gashkade — Buffalo playing (O., Te- 


Tenu'gazhi°ga— Little buffalo bull (()., 

The'9e<;abe— Black tongue (O., I"ke'- 

9abe) . 
IT(;u'gaxe — To make paths (0., I°shta'- 

LTzha'ta — Confluence. 
Waa-'— To sing (O., l-'gthe'zhide). 
Waba'ate— He puts to flight (0., I"shta'- 

Wabahi' zhi^ga — Little nibbles (O., 

Wagi'asha — Meaning lost (O., I°shta'- 

Wako^'da— Power (O., Mo^'thi^kagaxe). 
Wano^'shezhi^ga— Little soldier (O., I°- 

Washko^'hi— Strong (O., I°shta'i,-u"da). 
Washu'she— Brave (O., I"ke'(,-abe). 
Wa'thidaxe — Sound of clavs-s tearing 

(0.: WazW'ga, Tha'tada). 
Wathi'xekashi — He who pursues long. 
Waxpe'sha — Old name, meaning lost 

(0., Tapa'). 
Wazhe'thi°ge — Without graticule (0., 

\Ve'?'a— Snake {O., I"shta'i,-u"da). 
We'f'ahtf'ga— Snake leader (O., Tapa'). 
We't'ato^ga — Big snake (pi. 11). 
We'f'azhi^ga— Little snake (O., Inshta'- 

Xitha'nika — Eagle person (O., Tapa'). 
Xitha'zhi-ga— Little eagle (O.: Te'pa, 


Fe male 

Afe'xube — Sacred paint (O., We'zhi"- 

Mi'tena — Meaning uncertain (O., Ilo^'ga). 
No°(;e'i°9e — Meaning uncertain (O., We'- 

No^zhe'gito" — Meaning uncertain (()., 

Ta'v'abewi" — Black deer woman (O., \\c'- 

Te'fO^wi"— White buffalo woman ^O., 

To°'i"gthihe — New moon soaring (0., 

I'mo'^ho''wau — Omaha woman. 
Wihe'to"ga— Big little sister (O., We'- 














Big-hoofed hu(falo's band 

Btho^'ii — Scent borne by wind (O., We'- 

Ci'-'dethiho"— Lifting the tail (O., Te- 

Du'bamo^thi" — Four walking (O., I"ke'- 

?abe) . 
I°sha'gemo"thi° — Old man walking (<)., 

l"shta'ba?ude — Shedding hair about the 

eyes (O., Ho^'ga). 
No°'gethia — Not able to run (O., Te(;i"Me). 
Nu'xezhi°ga — Little ice. 
Pahe'agthi" — Sits on hill. 
Pude'lha — Meaning unknown (O., I°ke'- 

Sha'beno"zhi"— Stands dark (0., Ho"'ga)- 
Sho^ge'fka— ^^^lite horse (O., Mo°'thi"- 

Tenu'gagahi — Male buffalo chief (0.: 

Wazhi-'ga, Tha'tada). 

Tenu'gashageto"ga — Big-hoofed bull. 

Thae'go"— Pitiful. 

Uho"'gemo"thi° — "Walking at end of file 

(O., I°gthe'zhide). 
TJho°'geno°zhi" — Standing at end of file 

(0., Pgthe'zhide). 
Uki'pato"— Rolling himself (O., I°gtho' 

U'shkadazhi— Undaunted (O., Mo'-'thi"- 

Uthi'xide — Looking about (O., I"ke'- 

Uzhna'gaxe — To make clear (refers to 

buffalo wallows) (0., Tefi-'de). 
Wa^a'apa — Meaning uncertain (O.: Wa- 

ca'be, Tha'tada). 
Wara'bezhi"ga — Little black bear (O.: 

Waca'be, Tha'tada). 

Mi'mite — Meanin;:; uncertain (O., I"ke'- 

We'to^na — Meaning uncertain (O., I^ke'- 



Recent History; Org.\niz.\tton 

The Osage tribe is composed of five kin.sliip groups, eacli of whicli 
is made up of a miml)er of suligroups. Of these latter many have a 
group attached that acts as sJw'lri — servant or attendant at a given 
ceremony. Of the five kinsliip groups two always camp on the north- 
ern side of the eastern opening of the tribal circle. The other three 
remain on the opposite side of the circle, but change their relative 
positions. The tribe, therefore, has two grand divisions, that on the 
northern side being composed of two kinship groups and that on the 
southern side of three kinship groups. 

a The Osage now live in the northern part of Oklahoma, on the Arkansas river. This locality was not 
their home when they were first i^t by the white race. They were then d well injj on the western side of the 
Mississippi, both north and south of the Missouri, ineludtig the Ozark Mountain region, the name Ozark 
being a corruption of the native term Wazha'zhe. The territory occupied by the Osage, lying, as it did, 
adjacent to the Mississippi river, was very soon needed by the wliite people who were pressing westward. 
The Osage made anumber of cessions to the t'nited Stat.'s, theearliestin 1S08, when they parted with ter- 
ritory on the Mississippi. In 1S18 they gave up their claim to land on the Arkansas and Verdigris rivers. 
In IG-.J tliey ceded all their lands in Missouri and Arkansas. Further cessions were made in 1S39 and 1S65. 
Finally, in ir.71 and 1S72 lands were purchased from the Cherokee in the then Indian Territory, and on 
these lands the Osage are living to-day. The payments for lands ceded by them In Missouri and Kansas 
were placed in the L'nited States Treasury at interest, 3'ielding the Osage a considerable sum per capita 
and relieving the people from urgent necessity to labor in order to obtain food and clothing— a condition 
not altogether favorable to the Ijcst development of a naturally strong and promising tribe. ( Pictures o, 
Osage chiefs are shown in pis. 12, 13, 15.) 



tETH. ANN. 27 

Owing to thp shifting of the positions of the three groups forming 
the southern side, there were tliree arrangements of the tribal circle 

(see figs. 9-11), which was called tsi'- 
uthuga. This is the same as the Omaha 
Jiu'ihuga, with the dialectic difference 
in pronmiciation. Moreover, the Osage 
circle was s_ymbolically oriented, as was 
the case with the Omaha, the actual 
opening being in the direction the 
tribe was moving. The marked simi- 
larity in the form of camping and in 
the f imdamental ideas representing the 
tribal organization seems to show that 
the two tribes are organized on the 
same plan. (See p. 138.) 

F:g. 9. Diagram of Osage hu'lhuga~»SM3\ order. 1. hqN'ga utanatsi (pp. 5S-59). 2. Wazha'zhe 
(p. 69). Subgroups: (a) Wazha'zhe?ka; (ft) Ke'k'i- (c) Mike'estetse; (d) Wa'tsetsi; (e) Uzu'ga.xe- (/) 
Tathi'hi; (?) Hu zhoigara. 3. no--<'GA (p. 60). Subgroups: (a) Waga'beto"; (ft) I=gro»'ga zhoigara- 
(c) Op.™n; (d) Mo"'i-kaga.xa; (r) Pon'ca washtage; (/jXi'tha; (3) I'batsetatse. 4.'zhu (p. 60)' 
Subgroups: (a) Tsi'zhu wano»; (6) Si«'lsagre; (c) Pe'tono«ga zhoigara; (d) Tseto'ga i«tse- (e) 
Mi'k'i» wano«; (/) no» zhoigara; (j) Tsi'zhu uthuhage. 5. ni'ka wakqI'daqi or gron'iN (p 60- 
61). Subgroups: (0) Xo"'tsewatse; (6) Nu'.te. 

Fig. 10. Diagram of Osage A »//i>tt,TO-hunting order. 2. w.«ha'zhe. 3. noN'o^. 1. ho^'ga utanatsi 
4. TSI'ZHU. 6. Ni'KA wakqNdagi Or geon'iN. The dots represent, the same order of subgroups as 
given in figure 9 

Fig. 11. Diagram of Osage A«'(Au(7o-sacred order. 3. hoN'ga. 1. ho^'ga 2. wazha'zhe 
4. tsi'zhu. 5. Ni'KA wakoNdagi or GRON'iN The dots represent the onlnr of the subgroups, which 
IS the same as in figure 9. 

Ki.N.«Hip Groups a 
Ho°'ga utanatsi 


• Comprising southern half of Jiu'thuga. 

Ni'ka wako^dagi or Groni" ) _, 
T=,-',u„ } Compris 


sing northern half. 

aThe information here gi\-en relative to tlie names, duties, and positions of tlie kinship groups was fur- 
nished by the followingmen,membersof the tribe: Sho^'tot^gabe, Wazha'zhewadainga, \Vaslu"'ha (pl. 14), 
and Big Heart. 










■ ' 



^^^^^m ' Mt 

^ J9 




^I^K^ ^^^^^^^^^^1 




















1. Ho""GA,(the s'kparate ho'^'ga) group 

The meaning and aignificance of tliis name have been ab-eady 
expkmed. (Soo p. 40.) The Ho"'ga iitanatsi are spoken of as 
" Instructor of rites." 

Subdh-isior) : Mo^'hi^fi ("stone laiife")." This i^i'oup was sho'lca, 
or servant, to the Ho"'^a utanatsi. This office was an honorable one, 
being that of intermediary between the officials in charge of a cere- 
mony and the people who took part in it. 

2. WAZHa'zHK GROUl' 

This is un old and untranslatable term. The group was divided 
into seven sul)groups, each with its distinctive name and attendant 
sJio'Jca group, l)ut all having a right to the general name Wazha'zhe. 

•'^ubgroii ps 

(a) Wazha'zhe fka ("the white" or "jnire Wazha'zhe"); f^a is 
the Osage equivalent of the Omaha .r^;, meaning "original," "un- 
mixed." This group is the keeper of the seven pipes for making 
peace within the tribe. I"gr()"'ga ni mo"tse ("puma in the water") 
is the name of the Sho'ka subdivision. 

(b) Ke'k'i° ("great turtle"). 

Pak'a zhoigara {pak'a, mystery; shoigara, those who are with, i. e., 
the group whose rites pertain to), Sho'ka subdivision. 

(c) Mike'estetse, the cat-tail {Typlm latifolia). 
Ka'xewahuf.a, the loud-voiced crow,** Sho'ka subdivision. 

(d) Wa'tsetsi. It is said that a comet fell from the morning star 
and came to join the council of this subgroup. Xutha'papo" zhoigara 
{xuiha' pa^V^, the bald eagle), Sho'ka subdivision. 

(e) Uzu'gaxe* {uzu' , straight; gaxe, to make — they who make the 
path straight). It was the duty of this subgroup to make clear the 
way of a war party ; to find a safe way around any obstruction. The 
scouts of the war parties were taken from this group. 

Mo°so'tsemo°i° (mo", l&mX; so'tse, smoke; mo"i", to walk — they 
who walk in smoke, fog, or dust), the Sho'ka subdivision, was called 
on to cause a fog, or a wind to raise the dust in order to conceal the 
movements of a war party. 

(/) Tathi'hi, wliite-tail deer. 

Watsi'tsazhi°ga zhoigara {■watsi'tsazhi^ga, small animals), subdi- 

"•Articles of utility In the past, although they may have passed out of daily use among the people, are 
frequently conserved m sacred rites. For example, the stone knile was the only kind of knife that could 
be used ceremonially and its name appears as a personal name among the Omaha families that had 
hereditary duties connected with rites that belonged to the I".shta?unda and \Ve'zlii"shte gentes. 

b The name of this subdivision appears as a personal name in the Omaha tribe. 

60 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. axn. 27 

(g) IIu zlioigara Qiu, fish). Eno°!mi°tse to" (e/io", they alone; 
miHse, bow; <o", to liave or possess — they alone possess the bow), 
Sho'ka subdivision. These were known as the bow makers. 

3. ho^'ga (leader) group 

This kinship group was divided into seven subgroups, as follows: 

(a) Wafa'be to" {waf-a'be, bear; to", to possess). 

Wacj-.a'be ?ka ("white" or "original bear"), Sho'ka subdivision. 

(b) I"gro"'ga zhoigara {i^gro^'ga, puma). 

Hi°wa'xaga zhoigara {hi"xva'xaga, porcupine), Sho'ka subdivision. 

(c) O'pxo", elk. Tahe'shabe zhoigara (tahe'sJiube, male elk with 
dark horns), Sho'ka subdivision. 

(d) Mo"'i°kagaxe {mo^i^Tca, earth; gaxe, to make — earth-makers). 
{e) Po°'ca washtage (washtage, peace). Tliis subgroup had the 

office of peacemakers. 

(/) Xitha ("white eagle"). 

{g) Ho^'gashi^ga (" httle Ho°'ga"). I 'batsetatse (i&afsr, coming 
together; tatse, the wind — associated by rites pertaining to the wind), 
Sho'ka subdivision. The office of herald was in this group. 

4. TSI'ZHU (household) GROUP 

Tliis kinship group also had seven subgroups: 

(o) Tsi'zhu wano" {wano", the oldest; age implies wisdom), or 
Wako'"da no°pabi {wako'^'da, gods; no^pabi, afraid of). 

Waba'xi, Sho'ka subdivision. 

(b) Si"'tsagre ('wearing the wolf's tail on the scalp lock"). 

Sho°'ke zhoigara {sho^'lce, wolf), Sho'ka subdivision. 

(f) Pe'to" to°ga zhoigara (pc'to^, crane; to^ga, big). 

{(]) Tseto'ga i"tse (fsdo'ga, buffalo bull; i"tst', face). It is said 
that Waba'xi went in search of game. He found a buffalo, pointed 
his finger at its face, and killed it; Wako°'da reproveil him for the 
act. Because of this deetl his people were called Buffalo-face people. 

Tsea'ko", Sho'ka subdivision. 

(e) Mi'k'i" wano" {mi, sun; t'i", to carry; irano^, the oldest). 
Tsi'zhu washtag? (ivasJitage, peaceful), division. This division made 
peace. Red-eagle people. 

(/) Ho° zhoigara (/(o", night). 

'Ta'pa zhoigara {ta'pa, the name of the Pleiades), .'^iKi'ka subdi- 

ig) Tsi'zhu uthuhage {utliuhage, the last). The last household 
refers to the end of the line of the group. 


This kinship group had three subgroups. (Derivation of name: 
Ni'lca, people; walioHlagi refers to the thunder — ^the Thumler people). 

(a) Xo"'tsewatse {xo"tse, cedar; watse, to touch, as the striking 
of an enemy). The name refers to the cedar tree upon which the 
thunder rested as it descended. 


This subgroup acts as slio'ka in the rites oi the Thunder people. 

(&) Nu'xe, ice. This is the name of a people from the upper 
world. When one came down he was asked, "Wliat are you?" 
He answered, "I am Nu'xe," ice or hail. 

Sub-Shoka group, Tseto'ga zhoigara {tseto'ga, buffalo bull). 

The two divisions of the Osage tribe were called the Tsi'zhu and 
the Ho"'ga. The Tsi'zhu was composed of two kinsliip groups 
and occupied the northern side of the tribal circle viewed as having 
the opening at the east. The position of the Osage Thunder group 
was similar to that occupied b}^ the Omaha Pshta'fu^da, whose 
name and rites referred to thunder, and the Tsi'zhu division seems 
in a measure to correspond to the ideas symbolized by the northern 
half of the Omaha tribal circle. (See p. 138.) 

The Ho^'ga division was composed of three kinship groups. Those 
given in the diagram on page 58 show that their positions with rela- 
tion to one another changed during tribal rites and ceremonies, but 
remained stable in comparison with the Tsi'zhu division. The simi- 
larity between the position and the duties devolving on this southern 
half of the oriented Osage tribal circle and those of the correspond- 
ing division of the Omaha suggests a strong probability that both 
organizations had a common pattern or origin. 

'VYliile the Ponca tribe does not present, the picture of a closely 

organized body, the similarity in the position of the Xu'xe gens of 

the Ponca as compared with thr.t of the Nu'xe group of the Osage 

seems to indicate the perpetuation of some idea or belief common 

to the two tribes. 

Adoption Ceremony 

The ceremony of adoption into the Osage tribe throws light on 
the functions and symbolism of the Osage groups. It was described 
by old chiefs as follows: 

\\'hen a war party took a captive, anyone who had lost a child or who was without 
children could adopt the captive to fill the vacant place. After the ceremony the 
person became an Osage in all respects as one bom in the tribe and was subject to 
the duties and requirements of the family into which he entered by a kind of new 

^^'heu a captive was held for the purpose of adoption, the captor sent an invitation 
to the leading men of the Tsi'zhu washtage, who were peacemakers, and also to the 
chiefs of the l°gro"'ga, who had charge of war rites. Food was prepared and set before 
these leaders, when the host, in a solemn speech, set forth his desire to adopt the cap- 
tive. Thereupon these leaders sent for the leading men who were versed in the rituals 
of the groups which were to take part in the ceremony. These were the Nu'xe, ice; 
the O'pxo", elk; the I'batse, wind; the Wa'tsetsi, water; and the Ho^'ga, who were 
the leaders of the tribal hunt. When all were assembled the captive was brought and 
placed in the back part of the lodge opposite the entrance, the seat of the stranger. 
Then the ritual used at the initiation and naming of a child born in the tribe was given. 
This ritual recounts the creation and history of the tribe and the four stages of man's 
life. At the close the captive was led to the chief of the Tsi'zhu washtage, who 

62 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

passed him on to the I"gro'''ga, whose place was on the south side of the tribal circle. 
By this act the captive symbolically traversed the tribal circle, passing from those on 
the north, who made peace, to those on the south, who had charge of war — the act indi- 
cating that he was to share in all that concerned the tribe. 

Then the chief of the I "gro"'ga took a sharp-pointed flint knife and made a quick 
stroke on the end of the captive's nose, causing the blood to flow. The chief of the'zhu wa.«htage wiped away the blood . Then the chief of the Wa'tsetsi brought water, 
and the chief of the IIo"'ga food (corn or meat), and these were administered to the 
captive by the chief of the Tsi'zhu washtage, who then took the sacred pipe, filled it, 
and placed on it fronds of cedar brought by the I'batse. The pipe was lit and cere- 
monially smoked by the captive. Then the chief of the Nu'xe brought buffalo fat and 
anointed the body of the captive, after which the chief of the O'pxo" painted two 
black stripes across the face from the left eyebrow to the lower part of the right cheet. 
This done, the chief of the Tsi'zhu washtage announced the name, Ni'wathe ("made 
to live "), and the captive became the child of the man who adopted him. 

The letting of blood symbolized that the captive lost the blood and kinship of the 
tribe into which he had been born. All trace of his former birth was removed by the 
washing away of the blood by the Wa'tsetsi. He was then given food by those who led 
the tribe in the hunt when the food supply was obtained. The new blood made by 
the Osage food was thus made Osage blood. 

This symbolic act was confirmed and sanctified by the smoking of the pipe, the 
aromatic cedar being provided by the I'batse. Finally, the anointing of the body by 
the Nu'xe (who, together with the Buffalo people, controlled the planting of the corn) 
brought the captive entirely within the rites and avocations of the tribe. The black 
stripes put on by the O'pxo" were in recognition of the Thunder as the god of war and 
the captive's future duties as a warrior of the tribe. The giving of the name Ni'wathe 
explained and closed the ceremony. 

It was further explained that the drama "means to represent the 
death of the captive not only to the people of his birth but to his past 
life, and his rebirth into the family of the Osage who saved him and 
"made" him " to live" by adopting him." 

At the close of the ceremony all the chiefs who had taken part in 
the rites partook of the feast which the man who adopted the captive 
had provided for the occasion. Not long after, the name Ni'wathe 
was dropped and the adopted child without further ceremony was 
given a name belonging to the father's group. 

Legendary Accounts 

the present tr1b.\i, organization 

(Given liy Blai-k Dog. pi. 15.) 

The Wazha'zho kinship group had seven pipes. These were used to make peace 
within the tribe. If a quarrel occurred, one of these pipes was sent by the hand of 
the sho'ka, and the difficulty was settled peaceably. 

^\^len the Wazha'zhe met the Ho"'ga, they were united by mean.-* of one of these 
peace pipes. After they were united they met the IIo"'ga utanatsi, who had a pipe 
of their own; but peace was made, and the no"'ga united with the Wazha'zhe 
and the IIo"'ga. Later these three met and united with the Tsi'zhu. 

According to Big Heart and others, each of the five groups had 
its own traditions, and one diil not interfere with another. 


wazha'zhe group 

Way beyond (an expression similar to "once upon a time") a part of the Wazha'zhe 
lived in the sky. They desired to Icnow their origin, the source from which they 
came into existence. They went to the sun. He told them that they were his chil- 
dren. Then they wandered still farther and came to the moon. She told them 
that she gave birth to them, and that the sun was their father. She told them that 
the)' must leave their present abode and go down to the earth and dwell there. They 
came to the earth, but found it covered with water. They could not return to the 
place they had left, so they wept, but no answer came to them from anywhere. They 
floated about in the air, seeking in every direction for help from some god; but they 
found none. The animals were with thera, and of all these the elk was the finest 
and most stately, and inspired all the creatures with confidence; so they appealed 
to the elk for help. He dropped into the water and began to sink. Then he called 
to the winds and the winds came from all quarters and blew until the waters went 
upward as in a mist. Before that time the winds traveled only in two directions, 
from north to south and then back from south to north; but when the elk called they 
came from the east, the north, the west, and the south, and met at a central point," 
and carried the water upward. 

At first rocks only were exposed, and the people traveled on the rocky places that 
produced no plants, and there was nothing to eat. Then the waters began to go down 
until the soft earth was exposed. WTien this happened the elk in his joy rolled over 
and over on the soft earth, and all his loose hairs clung to the soil. The hairs grew, 
and from them sprang beans, corn, potatoes, and wild turnips, and then all the grassea 
and trees. 

The people went over the land, and in their wanderings came across human foot- 
prints, and followed them. They came upon people who called themselves Wazha'- 
zhe. The Ho"'ga and the Elkb affiliated with them, and together they traveled 
in search of food. In these wanderings they came across the Ho"'ga utanatsi. The 
Wazha'zhe had a pipe. This they filled and presented to the Ho^'ga, who accepted 
it, and thus the Ho"'ga utanatsi were incorporated with the three affiliated bands. 
Then they came upon the Tsi'zhu, and they were taken in, with their seven bands. 

ho'-'ga group 

The Ho^'ga came down from above, and found the earth covered with water. 
They flew in every direction seeking for gods to call upon who would render them 
help and drive away the water; but they found none. Then the elk came and with 
his loud voice shouted to the four quarters. The four winds came in response to 
his call, and they blew upon the water and it ascended, leaving rocks vi.sible. The 
rocks gave but a limited space for the people to stand on. The muskrat was sent 
down into the water and was drowned. Then the loon was sent, but he also was 
drowned. Next the beaver was sent down, and was drowned. Then the crawfish 
dived into the waters, and when he came up there was some mud adhering to his 
claws, but he was so exhausted that he died. From this mud the land was formed. 

wa'tsetsi group 

The stars are believed to be the children of the sun and moon. The people of the 
Wa'tsetsi c are said to have been stars that came down to the earth like meteors and 
became people. 

a Note the name I'batsetatse (" winds coming togetlier" ) of the Sho'ka subdivision of (g) of the Ho'^'ga 
group (p. (iO). 

6 The O'p.xoo, or Elk, is (c) of the Ho°'ga group. Note tlie use of the terra IIo"'ga in tMs legend as the 
name of a peoiile, in connection with what has already been pointed out on pp. 40-41. 

c The Wa'tsetsi subgroup (d) of the Wazha'zhe group, p. 59. 

64 fi. THE OMAITA TRIBE [etii. ann. 27 


There are people who came from under the water. They lived in the water weeda 
that hang down, are ^reen in color, and have leaves on the stem. The i)eo])Ie who 
lived in water dwelt in shells which protected them from the water, keeping the 
water out and serving as houses. 

There were creatures who lived under the earth, as the cougar, the bear, the buf- 
falo, and the elk. These creatures came up out of the ground. The land creatures 
and those that lived in shells came to the earth, and the star people came down ; all 
three came together, intermarried, and from these unions sprang the people of to-day. 

The men of the Ho°'ga division cut the hair so that there should 
be five bunches in rows running from front to back. 

The men of the Tsi'zhu tlivision wore the hair in three bunches — 
one just above the forehead, one at the top of tlie head, and one 
at the nape of the neck. 

Person.\l N.\Mes 

The following Osage names were obtained iit 1896: 

tsi'zhu washtaoe (peacem.\kers" household) 

A'huzhi°e — Little wings. 
Blo'gahike — All the chiefs. 

Bpabaxo" — Cut head. Refers to war. Cutting off the head. 
Dho^'tsewahi— Bone heart (()., Tapa'). 
Dto'''wo"gaxe — Village maker (O., Mo"'thi"kagaxe). 

Dto"'wo"ihi — Refers to war. The warriors cause the villagers to stampede. 
Gahi'geste— Tall chief (O.. I"ke'fabe). 

Gahi'gkewadai"ga — Chief's power to control the people (O., Mo"'thi"kagaxe). 
Gka'washi''ka — Little horse. 

Gko'"sano"bawahri — Kills two Kansa. War name. 
Gko'''sawatai"ga — Gko"'s(i, Kansa; uatai'^ga, eccentric (old word). 
Gredo"'shi"ka— Little hawk (O.. Tha'tada). 
Grezhe'ruse — War name. Captures spotted horses. 
Haxu'mizhe — Woman's name. Ropes. 

Howa'saope — War name. Goes on the warpath after mourning. 
Hua'shutse — Red eagle. 

I"shta' mo"ze — Iishta', eye; mo":e, protruding like lireasts (O.. \\'e'zhi"shte). 
Mo"'hogri° mo"kasabpe — Sitting by the bank. Refers to a Ullage site. 
Mo"'kasabe — Black breast. Refers to the elk. 
Mo"'zeno"opi" — Iron necklace. 
Mo^'zhakita — (Moizha, land; kila, watches — watches over the land). Refers to the 

wind (O.. Ko"\-e). 
Mo'''zhakuta — (Kuta, shoots; guards or shoots over the land). Refers to the wind 

(O., Kansa). 
Ni'wathe — Made to live. (See Adoption ceremony, j). 61 ) 
No"be'ze — Yellow claws. Refers to the eagle. 
Opxo"shibpe — Elk entrails. 

Ota 'no" — Space between two objects. Refers to warriors passing between the tents. 
Othu'hawae — Envious. 

Pahu'fka— ^^'hite hair. Refers to white buffalo (O., Ho"'ga and Tapa'). 
Pasu' — Hail. 

Po"ho°'gregahre — War name. (.)ne who strikes the enemy first. 
Sa'pekie — Paints himself black. 


To"wo"!;axe — Village-maker (O., Mo"'tlii''kagaxe). 

Tsesi'"euo"pe — Buffalo-tail necklace. 

Tsi'zhuho"ka (2) — Ho"'ga household. Leader name. 

Tsi'zhuni"kashi"ka— Little Ho^'ga household. 

Tsi 'zhushi °ka — Little household . 

Tsi'zhutsage — Old man of the Tsi'zhu gens. 

Tso'he — Puckery taste. Nickname. 

I'ki'sa — Deserted (as an empty \'illage or house) (O., I"shta'9u"da). 

Wako"'daokie — Talks to Wako"'da (an old Omaha name — Moo'thinkagaxe). 

Wathigro"ringe (2) — No mind (0., Mo'''thi°kagaxe) . 

'V\'atsa'no"zhi" — War name. One who graepe the enemy. 

Wazhi^'bpizhi — Anger. 

Wazhi"'gasabpe — Blackbird (O., Mo"'thi"kagaxe). 

Wazhi^liotse — Gray bird. Refers to hawk (O., Tapa'). 

Wazhi'i'sabpe — Cautious mind. 

Mi'tai"ga — Coming, or new moon (O.). 
Mi'tai"gashi"ka — Little new moon. 



Ba'zo^tsie — War name. Going into the midst; attacking a village. 

Bpa'htato"!" — Big head. Refers to buffalo head. 

Bpa'ri°wawexta — War name. Attacking the Pawnee. 

Do"he'mo°i° — Good walker. 

Gahi'gashi — Not a chief. 

Gka'wasabpeagthi" — One who rides a black horse. 

Gko^'segaxri — War name. One who kills a Kansa. , 

Gko^'sekibpa — War name. Meeting the Kansa. 

Gredo"'mo"i" — Walking hawk (0., I°ke'5abe). 

Ho'moni " — Howler. 

Hone'go" — War name. Refers to the success of the warrior. Success comes as though 

seeking the man. 
Hutha'watoni°te — War name. The light of the eagle soaring on high. 
I^'dokawadai^ga — War name. Refers to taking trophies. 
Mo'^zeuno"zhi° — Iron shirt (Ponca). 

Ni'gka'sabegaxri — War name. One who kills a black man. 
Ni'kano"tsewa — War name. One who kills the enemy. 
Ni'koibro" — Smelling a human being (O., Tha'tada). 
Otha'hamo''i° — War name. Follower; one who follows the leader. 
Sho"'gkeihi — War name. Refers to the barking of dogs when the warriors approach. 
Tha'bthi^waxri — Kills three. 
Tsewa'hu — Buffalo bone. 

Wa'bisu"tse — War name. A warrior presses an enemy to the ground. 
Wa'dashtae — War name. Refers to setting fire to the grass to scare out the enemy. 
Wadoh'kie — War name. Refers to taking the scalp. 
\^'aho'''gashi — Mischievous. Nickname. 
Wa'i"no"zhi'' — War name. Holding the captive. 
Waki'ashke — Refers to hunting and packing the buffalo meat. 
Watse'wahe — War name. 
Waxri' — Stingy. Nickname. 

Wazha'kibpa — War name. Refers to meeting a Wazha'zhe. 
We'i''gaxe — Refers to hunting. Making a pack strap. 
83993°— 27 eth— 11 5 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

MI K l'' WANO'* 


Be'ga'xazhi (\t\. 12) — War name. One who can not be nutslrippecl. Refers to run- 
Bpahi'thagthi"— Good hair. 
Ilo'thasthi" — Good voice. 
Mis;k'i'"wadai"ga — Eccentric sun carrier. 

Mi'hifo — Yellow hair. 

Refers to buffalo calf. 
Mio'tamo''i'' — S traight 

sun or moon. 
Shi^niva — Refers to in- 
tercepting the game. 
We'to^mo^i" — War 
name. Refers to the 
women singing iceto'^ 


The name Kansa 
is an old term. As 
the rites pertaining 
to the winds belong 
to the Kansa gens in 
the several cognate 
tribes, it may be 
that the word had 
some reference to 
the wind. 


The following list 
of gentes is not com- 
plete, nor has it been 
possible to obtain 
satisfactory' infor- 
mation as to the lo- 
cation of each gens 
in the tribal circle, 
owing to the disintegration of the tribe apd the breaking up of their 
ancient customs and ceremonies. The information obtained goes to 

a Of the Ivansa tribe tewer than 300 are now living: these are in northern Oklahoma. Their lands adjoin 
those of the Osage. They, too. have been jmslied from the plaee where they were dwellingwhen thewhito 
people first came into their vieinity. They wcto then northwest of the Osage, in the region along the river 
which bears their naiiie. They began ceding land to the Inited States in 1.S25. Further relinquishments 
were made in 1S4G. and again in lSo9 and 1802. In 1S72 their present reservation \va5 purchased from the 
Osage. While the Kansa have not been so reduced as the Quapaw, they have failed to maintain fully their 
old tribal organization; though much has lapsed from the memory of the people owing to disuse of former 
customs and rites, considerable knowledge of the ancient tribal life still might possibly be recovered. ( Por- 
traits of Kansa chiefs are shown in pi. 16 and flg. 12.) 

Fig. 12. Kansa chief. 






show that their former organization was simihxr to that of the other 
cognates, that the tribe was composed of two great divisions, and 
that the names of Kansa gentes are to be found in the Osage, Ponca, 
Omaha, antl Qiuipaw tribes. Tlie names obtained and verified are: 

1. Mo^i^'ka ("earth"). This name corresponds to Mo°'i''kagaxe of the Osage tribe, 
and to Mo"'thi°kagaxe of the Omaha tribe, both of which mean " earth makers." 

2. Wazha'zhe. This name occurs as the name of the Osage tribe and of one of the 
large kinship groups in that tribe; also as the name of a gens in the Punca tribe. 

3. Ponca. This name occurs as the name of a gens in the Osage and Ponca tribes. 

4. Kansa. There is a Kansa gens in 
the Omaha tribe. 

6. Wazhi"'ga inikashikithe (uazhi^'- 
ga, bird; inikashikithe corresponds to 
the Omaha i'nikashiga, and means that 
\vith which they make themselves a 
people — that is, by observing a com- 
mon rite they make themselves one 
people). (See Wazhi^'ga subgens of 
the Tha'tada, p. 160.) Birds figure in 
the rites of all the cognates, and are 
tabu in those gentes practising rites 
which pertain to certain birds. 

6. Te inikashikithe {te, buffalo), 
Buffalo rites occur in all the five cog- 

7. O'pxo" inikashikithe {o'pxo"^, 
elk). Gentes bearing the name of the 
elk occur in the Osage and Quapaw 
tribes, and in the Omaha the elk is 
tabu to the We'zhi"shte gens. 

8. Ho" (night). This name occurs in 
the Osage tribe as the name of a group. 

9. Ho°'gashi"ga ("little Iio'"ga"). 
This name occurs in the Osage and 
Quapaw tribes, and the name Ho-'ga p,„ ,3 Q,,^p,^, „,^„ 
in the (Jmaha and Osage tribes. 

10. Ho"'gato°ga ("big Ho^'ga"). This name is found also in the Quapaw. 

11. Tsedu'ga ("buffalo bull "). This occurs also in the Osage tribe. 

12. Tsi'zhu washtage (imshlage, docile, peaceable). Tsi'zhu is the name of a large 
group of the Osage, and Tsi'zhu washtage of the peacemakers of that grouj). 


The origin of the word quapaw has already been explained 
(see p. 36). 

o The remnant of the Quapaw tribe (hardly a hundred in number) are living in the northern part of 
Oklahoma. (See figs. 13, U.) When first met by the white people they were living south of the Osage. 
The Quapaw came into contact with the French and Spanish traders of the sixteenth centurj-, being in the 
line of march of these early traders from the South. With the stimulus given to immigration and settle- 
ment after the Louisiana I'urchase, their lands were soon wanted. In 1818 they ceded to the t^nited States 
their country lying between the Arliansas, Canadian, and Red rivers, receiving a tract for themselves 
south of the ^Vrkansas and Washita rivers. This reservation they relinquished in 1824, retiring to a 
smaller tract in the vicinity of their present home. Their vicissitudes have been such as to shatter their 
tribal life, so that it is now difhcult to oI)tain accurate information concerning their ancient organiza- 
tion. Only fragments can lie gathered here and there, to he pieced together by knowledge gained from 
those cognates who have been more fortunate in preserving their old triltal form and rites. 



[ETH. ANN. 27 


It has been difficult to obtain definite information concerning the 
gentes of the tribe. The people have become so disintegrated that 
questions are usually met with a weary shake of the head as the 
answer comes, "All is gone; gone long ago!" A fragmentary list of 
gentes has been secured. Some of the following may be subgentes. 
There were two divisions in the tribe, but how the following groups 
were divided between these it has been thus far impossible to learn. 

1. Ho'''gato"ga— Big Ho^'ga. 

2. Ho'"gazhi"ga— Little Ho"'ga. 

3. Wazhi^'ga inikashiha (wazM^ga, bird; inikashiha, meaning with which they 

make themselves a people, i. e., by the 
rite of which the bird is the symbol). 

4. Te'nikashiha (te, buffalo). 

5. 0"'po" inikashiha {on'pon, elk). 

6. Hu'inikashiha (hu, fish). 

7. Ke'nikashiha {he, turtle). 

8. Na^'pa^ta— deer. 

9. Wa'sa inikashiha {icasa, black 

10. Mo"chu' 
grizzly bear). 

11. Miha'ke 

12. Pe'to" inikashiha (pf/o", crane). 

13. Mi'inikashiha (mi', sun). 

14. Wako°'ta inikashiha— Thunder. 

inikashiha {mo^chu, 
nikashiha (miha'ke. 

Fig. 14. Qiiapaw woman. 

The foregoing brief account 
of the four tribes that are close 
cognates of the Omaha has been 
given for the following reasons: 
First, to indicate some of the 
peculiarities of tribal organiza- 
tion which, while common to 
all, are remarkably developed 
among the Omaha, as will be apparent from the following detailed 
account of that tribe. 

Second, to suggest the importance of careful stuily of such a cognate 
group as likely to throw light on the manner in which tribes have 
come to be built up into separate organizations and to bear on the 
reason why each shows different phases of development. 

In the Omaha and the four cognates there appear to be certain 
stable characteristics which indicate a common ideal of organization, 
as the two divisions of the tribal circle and the functions pertaining 
to each; the ceremonies connected with warfare and the awarding of 
war honors. There seems to be also a ciunmon type of religious 


ceremonial for the recognition of those cosmic forces which were 
believed to affect directly the life of man, as the rites attending the 
naming of children and the class of names given, and the customs 
relating to birth and to death. These resemblances between the 
tribes will become clearer as the story of the Omaha tribe is told and 
discussion is had of customs among the cognates which seem to be 
similar in purpose even when they differ in detaUs, the differences 
being as suggestive as the similarities." 

a Since the foregoing brief account of the Osage tribe was written an ethnological study of that tribe 
has been undertaicen by Mr. Francis La Fiesche for the Bureau of American Ethnologj'. It is expected 
that, as a result of this investigation, additional light will be thrown on the relationship between the 
ribes of the cognate group to which the Osage and the Omaha belong. 



Omaha Sacred Legend 

early habitat and coxditioxs 

The Omaha do not claim to have been bom in the region they 
now occupy. On the contrary, their traditions, like those of their 
cognates, place their early home in the East, "near a great body 
of water." This account of their ancient environment had become 
blended %vith the idea of a phj-sical birth, as was explained by Shu'- 
denafi when he repeated the fragmentary Legend, at the time the 
Sacred Pole was turned over to the writers to be deposited for safe- 
keeping in the Peabod}' «Museum of Harvard Universit}-. This 
Legend was in the custody of those who had charge of that cere- 
monial object and was considered sacred. 

The Legend says: 

In the beginning the people were in water. They opened their eyes but they 
could see nothing. From that we get the child name in the Ho^'ga gens, Nia'di 
i^shtagablha , " eyes open in the water." As the people came out of the water they 
beheld the day, so we have the child name Ke'tha gaxe, '"to make (or behold) the 
clear sky." As they came forth from the water they were naked and without shame. 
But after many days passed they desired covering. They took the fiber of weeds 
af!d grass and wove it about their loins for covering. 

It is noteworthy, when taken in connection with the traditions 
anil usages already mentioned as associated with the name Ho^'ga, 
(p. 40) that the personal names which refer to the birth of the people 
are preserved in the Ilo'^'ga gens. 

The Legend continues: 

The people dwelt near a large body of water, in a wooded country where there wa.« 
game. The men hunted the deer with clubs; they did not know the u.<e of the bow. 
The people wandered about the shores of the great water and were poor and cold. 
And the people thought, \Miat shall we do to help ourselves? They began chipping 
stones; they found a bluish stone that was easily flaked and chipped and they made 
knives and arrowheads [sic] out of it. They had now knives and arrows [sic], but 
they suffered from the cold and the people thought, What shall we do? A man 
found an elm root that was very dry and dug a hole in it and put a stick in and rubbed 
it. Then smoke came. He smelled it. Then the people smelled it and came near; 
others helped him to rub. At last a spark came; they blew this into a flame and so fire 
came to warm the people and to cook their food. After this the people built grass 
houses; they cut the grass with the shoulder blade of a deer. Xow the people had 



Omaha Sacred Legend 

early }1ab1tat and conditions 

The Omaha do not claim to have been bom in the region they 
now occup3'. On the contrary, their traditions, Hke those of their 
cognates, place their early home in the East, "near a great body 
of water." This account of their ancient environment had become 
blended with the idea of a physical birth, as was explained by Shu'- 
denafi when he repeated the fragmentary Legend, at the time the 
Sacred Pole was turned over to the writers to be deposited for safe- 
keeping in the Peabody "Museum of Harvard University. This 
Legend was in the custody of those who had charge of that cere- 
monial object and was considered sacred. 

The Legend says: 

In the beginning the people were in water. They opened their eyes but they 
could see nothing. From that we get the child name in the Ho"'ga gens, Nia'di 
{'"■shlagabtha, " eyes open in the water." As the people came out of the water they 
beheld the day, so we have the child name Ke'tha gaxe, "to make (or behold) the 
clear sky." As they came forth from the water they were naked and without shame. 
But after many days passed they desired covering. They took the fiber of weeds 
afld grass and wove it about their loins for covering. 

It is noteworthy, when taken in connection with the traditions 
and usages already mentioned as associated with the name Ho°'ga, 
(p. 40) that the personal names which refer to the birth of the people 
are preserved in the Ho'^'ga gens. 

The Legend continues: 

The peojile dwelt near a large body of water, in a wooded country where there was 
game. The men hunted the deer with clubs; they did not know the u.'ie of the bow. 
The people wandered about the shores of the great water and were poor and cold. 
And the people thought, What shall we do to help ourselves? They began chipping 
stones; they found a bluish stone that was easily flaked and chipped and they made 
knives and arrowheads [sic] out of it. They had now knives and arrows [sic], but 
they suffered from the cold and the people thought, A\'hat shall we do? A man 
found an elm root that was very dry and dug a hole in it and put a stick in and ruljbed 
it. Then smoke came. He smelled it. Then the people smelled it and came near; 
others helped him to rub. At last a spark came; they blew this into a flame and .so fire 
came to warm the people and to cook their food. After this the people built grass 
houses; they cut the grass with the shoulder blade of a deer. Now the people had 





fire and ate their meat roasted; but they tired of roast meat, and the people thought, 
How shall we have our meat cooked differently? A man found a bunch of clay that 
stuck well together; then he brought sand to mix with it; then he molded it as a vessel. 
Then he gathered grass and made a heap ; he put the clay vessel into the midst of the 
grass, set it on fire, and made the clay vessel hard. Then, after a time, he put water 
into the vessel and it held water. This was good. So he put water into the vessel 
and then meat into it and put the vessel over the fire and the people had boiled meat 
to eat. 

Their grass coverings would fuzz and drop off. It was difficult to gather and keep 
these coverings. The people were dissatisfied and again the people thought. What 
can we do to have something different to wear? Heretofore they had been throwing 
away the hides they had taken from the game. So they took their stone knives to 
scrape down the hides and make them thin; they rubbed the hides with grass and with 
their hands to make them soft and then used the hides for clothing. Now they had 
clothing and were comfortable. 

The women had to break the dry wood to keep up the fires; the men had some con- 
sideration for the women and sought plans for their relief. So they made the stone 
ax with a groove, and put a handle on the ax and fastened it with rawhide. This 
was used. But they wanted something better for breaking the wood. So they made 
wedges of stone. [These were of the same shape as the iron wedges used for splitting 
logs, explained the old narrator.] 

The grass shelter became unsatisfactory and the people thought, How shall we bet- 
ter ourselves? So they substituted bark for grass as a covering for their dwellings. 

The comfort derived from their skin clotliing seems to have sug- 
gested the idea of trying the experiment of covering their dwelhngs 
with skins, for the Legend says: 

The people determined to put skins on the poles of their dwellings. They tried the 
deerskins, but they were too small. They tried the elk, but both deer and elk skins 
became hard and unmanageable under the influence of the sun and rain. So they 
abandoned the use of the skins and returned to bark as a covering for their houses. 

There is no mention made in tliis Legend, or in any known tradi- 
tion, as to when or where the people met the buffalo ; but there is an 
indirect reference to the animal in this Legend from wliich it would 
seem that the meeting with the buffalo must have taken place after 
they had left the wooded region where they could obtain elm bark 
for the covering of their houses, and that the need of a portable 
shelter started the idea among the people of experimenting again 
with a skin covering for their tents, for the Legend says: 

Until they had the buffalo the people could not have good tents. They took one 
of the leg bones of the deer, splintered it, and made it sliarp for an awl and with sinew 
sewed the buffalo skin and made comfortable tent covers. (PI. 17.) 

From this Legend and other traditions both the buffalo and the 
maize seem to have come into the life of the people while they were 
still in their eastern habitat. The stor}^ of finding the maize is told 
as follows in this Legend: 

Then a man in wandering about found some kernels, blue, red, and white. He 
thought he had secured something of great value, so he concealed them in a mound. 
One day he thought he would go to see if they were safe, ^^'hen he came to the mound 

72 THE OMAHA TRIBE [kth, ann. 27 

he found it covered with staUcs havin"; ears bearing kernels of these colors. He took 
an ear of each kind and gave the rest to the people to experiment with. They tried 
it for food, found it good, and have ever since called it their life. As soon as the people 
found the com good, they thought to make mounds like that in which the kernels had 
been hid. So they took the shoulder blade of the elk and built mounds like the first 
and buried the corn in them. So the com grew and the people had abundant food. 

In their wanderings the people reached the forests where the birch trees grow and 
where there were great lakes. Here they made birch-bark canoes and traveled in 
them about the shores of the lakes. A man in his wanderings discovered two young 
animals and carried them home. He fed them and they grew large and were docile. 
He discovered that these animals would carry burdens, so a harness was fixed on 
them to which poles were fastened and they became the burden bearers. Before 
this every burden had to be carried on the back. The people bred the dogs and they 
were a help to the people. 


The western movement of the people is not definitely traced in 
any of their traditions, nor is there any accoimt of the separations 
of kindred which from time to time must have taken place. By 
inference, there must have been considerable warfare, as the making 
of peace with enemies is referred to. The tribe seem to have lin- 
gered long in the northern territory now covered by the States of 
Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa, and between the 
Mississippi and Missouri rivers; their claims to portions of this 
territory were acknowledged in the last centur}^ when they joined in 
the treaty made at Prairie du Chien in 1S30, at which time they 
relinquished all their rights to this land to the United States. Six 
years later they made a like relinquishment of their claims east of 
the Missouri river in the States of Missouri and Iowa. Tradition is 
silent as to their movements from the Lake region south to the Ohio 
river, where it is said they parted from the Quapaw, as already told. 

A period of considerably more than three hundred years must have 
elapsed between the time of parting from the Quapaw on the banks 
of the Mississippi, at the mouth of the Ohio, and the date of the 
Omaha's first cession to the United States, mentioned above. After 
the separation from the Quapaw it is not probable that the Omaha 
were ever again as far south as the Ohio river or as far east as Lake 

Tradition says that the Omaha after parting from the Quapaw 
followed the Mika'to" ke river (the Des Moines) to its headwaters, and 
wandered northeast. One day about tliirty years ago the old men 
were talking of tltese early movements of the tribe when Shu'denafi 
said, "I think that we could trace the sites of the okl Omaha villages 
of the time the tribe went up the Mi'kato" ke". The question, How 
could the sites be identified? elicited the reply: "By the circles of 
stoneswhich were left when the people abandoned a village." It wjis 
the custom to place stones around the bottom of the tent cover to 
hold it firmly on the ground; when the tent was taken down the 


stones were left where they had been used. Some of the old men said 
that they had seen such traces of deserted village sites east of the 
Missouri in the region where the tribe is said once to have lived. 
Dakota tradition tells of their meeting the Omaha near the 
Blue Earth and ilinnesota rivers. That the Omaha dwelt 
for a considerable time in the forest region seems to be borne out 
by both legends and rites, which show the influence of the woods. 
The Sacred Pole was cut while the people were dwelling in the 
wooded country, as all the traditions of the cutting seem to indicate. 
When that occurred the Ponca were still with the Omaha, and their 
legends are similar to those of the latter touching the finding and 
cuttmg of the Pole. The tree from which it was cut is said to have 
stood near a lake, and the suggestion has been made that the place 
was Lake Andes, in Choteau county, South Dakota; but this iden- 
tification has not been accepted by the best tribal authorities and 
traditions do not favor placing the act in the vicinity of this lake. 

It was prior to the cutting of the Sacred Pole that the Omaha organ- 
ized themselves into their present order. The inauguration of the 
rites connected with the Sacred Pole seems to have been for the 
purpose of conserving that order; and it was after these rites had 
been instituted that the Omaha reached the vicinity of the Big Sioux, 
where on the banks of a small stream that flows in from the north- 
east they built a village. It was while they were hving here that a 
disastrous battle took place (tradition does not say with whom), and 
as a residt this village seems to have been abandoned, after the dead 
had been gathered and buried in a great mound, around which a stone 
wall was built. In the middle of the last century this wall was still to 
be seen. Tradition says, "In this battle the Sacred Pole came near 
being captured." • 

It was while the Omaha were in the vicinity of the upper Mississippi 
that they came into contact with the Cheyenne. The Legend says, 
"We made peace with the Cheyenne. At that time the Ponca were 
with us, and the Iowa and Oto joined in the peace." The old narrator 
added: "The Osage say they were with us, too; but it is not so told by 
our people." This oveiture of peace may have been made in conse- 
cjuence of the Omaha having invaded the Cheyenne territory in the 
northern movement. According to Dakota traditions the Cheyenne 
were in possession of the upper Mississippi countr\' when the Dakota 
arrived there. It may be difficult to determine whether or not at this 
time the Dakota as distinct tribes had come into contact with the 
Omaha and the Ponca. 

^Vliile in this region experiences disruptive in chai'acter must have 
visited the people — possibly the defection of the Ponca — which 
finally resulted in their complete separation. At any rate, something 

74 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. anx. L'T 

happened which caused the Omaha to take steps toward a closer 
organization of the people. The Legend says: 

At this place [where peace with the Cheyenne had been made] we formed a govern- 
ment. The people said, " Let us appoint men who shall preserve order." Accordingly 
they selected men, the wisest, the most thoughtful, generous, and kind, and they con- 
sulted together and agreed upon a council of seven who should govern the people. 

Then follows the account of the organization of the tribe in its pres- 
ent order and the story of finding and cutting the Sacred Pole. Both 
of these narratives will be given later on. 

After the great battle on the Big Sioux the Omaha seem to have 
turned slightly southward, but to have remained in the main on the 
east side of the Missouri, although war parties apparenth' reached 
the river and even crossed to the farther side, where they met and 
fought the Ankara, who were dwelling where the Omaha live to-day. 
Traditions are definite in stating that "the Arikara were first encoun- 
tered on the west side of the Missouri." 

About the time of these events the Omaha seem to have returned to 
the Big Sioux and to have built a village where the river makes a loop, 
at a point where a small stream enters from a canyon which, the 
Omaha story says, has "two chfTs, like pinnacles, standing at its 
entrance, through wliicli the wind rushes with such violence as to 
disturb the water." When they built this village, according to the 
Legend, the Omaha were living in bark houses (pi. 18). They had 
met and fought the Arikara, but had not yet adopted the earth 
lodge. The continued forays of the Omaha made the Arikara seek 
peace and it was in this village at the mouth of the canyon that 
peace was made among the Arikara, the Cheyenne, the Omaha, the 
Ponca, the Iowa, and the Oto, and sought to be confirmed through 
the ceremony now known among the Omaha as the Wa'wa" (see 
p. 376) — the same ceremony as the Pawnee Hako." 

In view of the part this ceremony has played in the life of the 
Omaha and its cognate tribes, it is fitting to call attention to the 
extent of territory throughout which it was observed before and dur- 
ing the seventeenth century. The early French travelers found it 
among the Caddo group in the country now known as Texas, Loui- 
siana, and Arkansas, while Marquette met with it among the tribes 
living on the Mississippi when he entered that stream from the Wis- 
consin river. The Omaha Legend shows that it was known to the 
Arikara on the Missouri river and was probably introduced bv them 
to the Omaha, Ponca, Iowa, Oto, and Cheyenne at the village on the 
Big Sioux river. The Cheyenne seem to have lost the rite in the 
course of their western movement, but it has ever since been prac- 
tised by the other tribes wlio took part in this peacemaking. A rite 
which was both recognized and revered throughout so extensive a 

"See Hako, in Ihe Twenty-second Annual Report of the Bureau of Ameriran Ethnology, pt. ii. 











territory, occupied by so many tribes, must have been instrumental 
in modifying the customs of the peoples practising it, in extending 
the use of certain symbols, and in bringing about some measure of 
unity in the forms of religious beliefs. 


Traditions are more explicit concerning contact with the Arikara 
than with any other tribe. Both Omaha and Ponca legends give evi- 
dence of the influence exerted on the people by this tribe. When the 
Missouri river was reached by the Omaha, they found the Arikara 
there, cultivating the maize and livmg in villages composed of 
earth lodges — evidently a peaceful, sedentary folk. Omaha war 
parties from the east side of the river harassed the Arikara, who 
were living on the west side. The Arikara sought to obtain peace 
through the influence of the Wa'wa° ceremony, as already, related, 
but Omaha war parties seem finally to have driven them from their 
homes and to have forced them northward up the Mssouri river. 
The tradition that the Arikara were driven away from the land the 
Omaha now own is confirmed by a Ponca story that refers to the 
sale of the Omaha lands to the United States Government in the 
middle of the last century; at that time an Arikara said to a Ponca: 
"Had my people knowTi that these lands were valuable, they would 
have contested the right of the Omaha to make the sale, for the 
Arikara were the first to occupy the land, a proof of which is to be 
seen in the remains of our earth lodges and village sites on the bluffs 
of the Missouri." These earth circles have often been seen by the 
writers on the Omaha reservation, and the traditions of the Omaha 
declare them to be the remains of the earth lodges occupied by the 
Arikara when they dwelt in this region. Both Omaha and Ponca 
traditions say that the tribes were together when they met and drove 
the Arikara northward. It was from the Arikara that the Omaha 
and Ponca learned to make and use earth lodges. According to the 
Omaha Legend: "It was the women who saved the life of the people. 
They built the sod houses; they made them by their labor. The 
work was divided, ifen cut the poles and fixed the frame and tied 
the opening for the smoke hole; the women brought the willows and 
sod and finished the building." 

In this connection it is interesting to note that while the Omaha 
adopted the earth lodge (pi. 19) they did so from a purely practical 
point of view, as affording them a better permanent dwellmg than 
tents, and were probably ignorant of the sj'inbolic character of the 
structure. With the tribe from which it was taken this lodge repre- 
sented certain .religious ideas. Rituals attended the cutting of the 
trees for its structure and the planting of the four posts that inclosed 
the space about the central fire. The Omaha did not observe any of 

76 THE OMAHA TRIBE tBTH. ann. 27 

these ceremonies nor did they use the prescribed number of posts. 
They set up about the fireplace six, seven, or eight posts as suited 
their convenience, for the sole purpose of supporting the roof, these 
posts possessing no ceremonial importance or other significance. The 
Omaha built the earth lodge only for village use; the tipi, or tent, 
was still the habitation when on the buffalo hunt. There is a tra- 
dition that the tribe received the maize from the Ai-ikara but it is 
questionable if this was the first knowledge the Omaha had of the 
plant. It may be that in their northward migrations the people 
passed out of the corn belt into environments not favorable to its 
cultivation, so that its general use was partially discontinued; but 
nothing definite is known, although there are indications favorable to 
this conjecture. If there was any hiatus in the cultivation of the 
maize among the Omaha, as the following story might suggest, there 
is nothing to indicate that the tribe has not constantly cultivated it 
since the time the Missouri was reached. This story, preserved among 
the Omaha but credited to the Arikara, tells how the latter found the 
maize and how the former received it from them : 

The Arikara were the first to find the maize. A young man went out hunting. He 
came to a high hill, and, looking down upon a valley, he saw a buffalo bull standing 
in the middle of a bottom land lying between two rivers where they conjoined. As 
the young man surveyed the country to find a safe way of approaching the buffalo 
he was impressed with the beauty of the landscape. The banks of the two rivers 
were low and well timbered. He observed that the buffalo stood facing the north; 
he saw that he could not approach the animal from any side within bow shot. He 
thought that the only way to get a chance to shoot the buffalo would be to wait until 
the animal moved close to the banks of one of the rivers, or to the hills where there 
were ravines and shrubs. So the young man waited. The sun went down before 
the buffalo moved; the young man went home disappointed. Nearly all night the 
hunter lay awake brooding over his disappointment, for food had become scarce and 
the buffalo would have given a good supply. Before dawn the young man arose 
and hurried to the scene of the buffalo to see if he could find the animal somewhere 
near the place, if it had moved. Just as he reached the summit of the hill, where 
he was the day before, the sun arose, and he saw that the buffalo was still in the same 
spot. But he noticed that it was now facing the east. Again the young man waited 
for the animal to move, but again the sun went down and the buffalo remained stand- 
ing in the same spot. The hunter went home and passed another night of unrest. 
He started out again before dawn and came to the top of the hill ju.'st as the sun arose, 
and saw the buffalo still standing in the same place, but it had turned around to face 
the south. The young man waited until dark for the buffalo to move, and had to go 
again to his home disappointed, where he passed another sleepless night. The hun- 
ter's desire to secure the game was not unmixed with some curiosity to know why 
the buffalo should so persistently remain in that one spot without eating or drinking 
or lying down to rest. With this curiosity working in his mind, he arose for the fourth 
time before dawn, and hastened to the hill to see if the buffalo was still standing in 
the same place. It was again daylight when he came to the hill, and there stood the 
buffalo exactly in the same plate, but it had turned around to face the west. Being 
now determined to know what the animal would do, the young man settled down to 
watch as he had done the three days before. He thought that the animal was a<ting 
in this manner under the influence of an unseen power for some mysterious purpose, 


and that he, as well as the buffalo, was controlled by the same influence. Darkness 
came upon him again with the animal still standing in the same position. The hunter 
returned to his home and lay awake all night, wondering what would come of this 
strange experience. He arose before, dawn and again hurried to the mysterious 
scene. As he reached the summit of the hill the light of day spread over the land. 
The buffalo had gone. But in the spot where it had been standing there stood some- 
thing like a small bush. The young man approached the place with a feeling of 
curiosity and disappointment. He came to the object that from the distance appeared 
like a small bush and saw that it was a strange plant. He looked upon the ground 
and saw the tracks of the buffalo, and followed them as they had turned from the 
north to the east and to the south and to the west, and in the center there was but 
one buffalo track, and out of that had sprung this strange plant. He examined the 
ground near this plant to find where the buffalo had left the place, but there were 
no other footprints besides those near the plant. The hunter hurried home and told 
of his strange experience to the chiefs and the prominent men of his people. The 
men, led by the hunter, proceeded to the place of the buffalo and examined the 
ground, and found that what he had told them was true. They saw the tracks of 
the buffalo where he had turned and stood, but could find no tracks of his coming 
to the place or leaving it. While all of these men believed that this plant was 
given to the people in this mysterious manner by Wako^'da, they were not sure 
how it was to be used. The people knew of other plants that were used for food, and 
the season for their ripening, and, believing that the fruit of this strange plant 
would ripen at its own proper time, they arranged to guard and protect it carefully, 
awaiting the time of its ripening. 

The plant blossomed, but from their knowledge of other plants they knew that 
the blossom of the plant was but the flower and not the fruit. UTieu they were 
watching the blossom to develop into fruit, as they expected it would, a new growth 
appeared from the joints of the plant. Their attention was now diverted from the 
blossom to this growth. It grew larger and larger, until there appeared at the top 
something that looked like hair. This, in the course of time, turned from pale green 
to a dark brown, and after much discussion the people believed that this gro^vth 
was the fruit of the plant and that it had ripened. Up to this time no one had dared 
to approach within touch of the plant. Although the people were anxious to know 
the use to which the plant could be put or for which it was intended, no one dared 
to touch it. As the people were assembled around the plant undetermined as to 
the manner of examining it, a youth stepped forward and spoke: 

"Everyone knows how my life from my childhood has been worse than worth- 
less, that my life among you has been more for evil than for good. Since no one 
would regret, should any evil befall me, let me be the first to touch this plant and 
taste of its fruit so that you may know of its qualities whether they be good or 
bad." The people having given their assent, the youth stepped boldly forward and 
placed his right hand on the blossoms of the plant, and brought his hand with a down- 
ward motion to the root of the plant as though blessing it. He then grasped the 
fruit and, turning to the people, said: "It is solid, it is ripe." He then parted the 
husks at the top very gently and, again turning to the people, he said; "The fruit 
is red." He took a few of the grains, showed them to the people, then ate of them, 
and replaced the husks. The youth suffered no ill effects, and the people became 
convinced that this plant was given them for food. In the fall, when the prairie 
grass had turned brown, the stalk and the leaves of this plant turned brown also. 
The fruit was plucked and put carefully away. In the following spring the kernels 
were divided among the people, four to each family. The people removed to the 
spot where the strange apparition had taken place, and there they built their bark 
huts along the banks of the two rivers. As the hills began to take on a green tinge 

78 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

from the new prairie grass, the people planted the kernels of this strange plant, hav- 
ing first built little mounds like the one out of which the first stalk grew. To the 
great joy of the people the kernels sprouted and grew into strong and healthy plants. 
Through the summer they grew, and developed, and the fruit ripened as did that of 
the first stock. The fruit was gathered and eaten, and was found to be good. In 
gathering the fruit the people discovered that there were various colors — some ears 
were white and others were blue and some were yellow. 

The next season the people reaped a rich harvest of this new plant. In the fall 
of the year these people, the Arikara, sent invitations to a number of different tribes 
to come and spend the winter with them. Six tribes came, and among them were 
the Omaha. The Arikara were very generous in the distribution of the fruit of 
this new plant among their guests, and in this manner a knowledge of the plant 
spread to the Omaha. 

The compo.sition of this story presents points of interest. The 
importance and the mysterious power of the great game, the bufTalo, 
reflect the thought of the hunting tribe ; with it is blended the equally 
mysterious gift of the maize, so sacred to the tiller of the ground, 
for the buffalo and the maize represented the principal food supply 
of the people. The scene of the marvelous occurrence is placed in a 
hilh' country where flowed rivers and A'et the prairie seems to have 
been near at hand, for the story tells of the observation of the people 
that "in the fall, when the prairie turned brown, the stalk and leaves 
of this plant turned brown also," and that they timed the planting of 
the kernels the following spring b}' the upspringing of ' ' the new prairie 
grass." Then we are told that "when the peopJe removed to the spot, 
where the strange occurrence had taken place, they built their 
'bark huts' along the banks of the two rivers." 

The bark hut (see pi. 18) is a type of dwelling belonging to a forest 
people. The Omaha used to live in such houses, as is told in the 
ancient Legend here so often quoted, and in other Omaha traditions. 
The people seem well aware that they once lived in bark houses 
like those in use among the Winnebago at the present day. The 
Arikara were not a forest people, and did not use the bark hut. The 
presence of these details illustrates how a story takes on coloring 
and becomes modified in passing from a people of one culture 
to a people of another. That the cultivation of the maize was long 
known and practised by the Arikara is e\adent from their rites, tra- 
ditions, and customs when they were first known historically; but 
that the Omaha gained their first knowledge of the plant from them 
is very doubtful. 


The Ponca were the last of the cognates to form a tribe by them- 
selves. They were with the Omaha at the peace ceremony with the 
Arikara and other tribes, but their departure seems to have taken 
place not far from that time and on or near the Missouri river. 


According to Ponca traditions already given, the people followed 
this stream northward to a place where "thej- could step over the 
water," and thence they seem to have turned southward. As they 
were going "across the land," they hunted buffalo far toward the 
Rocky mountains, and on one of their hunts the}- encountered the 
Padouca (Comanche). Tlic following tradition tells of tliis meeting 
and its results: 

At that time the Ponca had no animals but dogs to help them to carry burdens. 
Where\'er they went they had to go on foot, but the people were strong and fleet; 
they could run a great distance and not be weary. While they were off hunting buffalo 
they first met the Padouca, and afterward had many battles with them. The Padouca 
were mounted on strange animals. At first the Ponca thought the men and animals 
were one creature, but they learned better after a while. The Padouca had bows 
made from elk horn. They were not very long, nor were they strong. To make 
these bows the horn was lioiled until it was soft . While in this condition it was scraped 
down, then spUced and bound together with sinew and glue. Their arrows were tipped 
with bone. But the weapon the Padouca depended on in fighting was a stone 
battle-ax. Its long handle was a sapling bound with rawhide to which a grooved stone 
ax head, pointed at both ends, was bound by bands of rawhide. This weapon made 
them terrible fighters at close quarters. The weakness of their bows and arrows 
reduced the value of their horses in battle save as a means to bring them rapidly up to 
their enemies, where they could bring their battle-axes into play. If their foes were 
armed with strong bows and arrows, the Padouca would suffer before they came to 
close range. To protect their horses from arrows they made a covering for the horses' 
breasts and sides, to prevent an arrow taking effect at ordinary range. This covering 
(armor) was made of thick rawhide cut in round pieces and made to overlap like the 
scales of a fish. Over the surface was sand held on by glue. This covering made the 
Ponca arrows glance off and do no damage. The Padouca protected their own bodies 
by long shields of rawhide. Some of them had breastplates made like those on their 
horses. When the Ponca found out that the terrible creature they fii'st encountered 
was a man on the back of an animal, they called the animal kawa, a name in use by 
the Osage to-day to designate the horse. The Ponca noticed the smell of the horse, 
and the odor would apprise them of the approach of the Padouca. AMien a man 
perceived the smell, he would run and tell the herald, who would at once go about 
the camp, and cry: "The wind tells us the kawa are coming!" So the Ponca would 
make ready to defend themselves. The Ponca had many battles with the Padouca. 
The Ponca did not know the use of the horses, so they killed them as well as the 
men. Nor could they find out where were the Padouca villages, for when the two 
tribes met, the Padouca always moved in an opposite direction from the location of 
their dwellings. So the Ponca could not discover where the Padouca lived. 

One day the two tribes had a great battle. The people fought all day long. Some- 
times the Ponca were driven, sometimes the Padouca, until at last a Ponca shot a 
Padouca in the eye, and he dropped from his horse. Then the battle ceased. After 
the death of this man one of the Padouca came toward the Ponca and motioned that 
one of the Ponca should come toward him. Then the Padouca said in plain Ponca: 
"WTio are you? 'WTiat do you call yourselves?" The Ponca replied: "We call our- 
selves Ponca; but you speak our language well; are you of our tribe?" The Padouca 
said: "No; we are Padouca. I speak your language as a gift from a Ponca spirit. As 
I lay one day on a Ponca grave after one of our battles with you a man rose from the 
grave and spoke to me, so I know your language." 

Then it was agreed to make peace. Visits were exchanged, the Ponca bartered 
their bows and arrows for horses, and found out the whereabouts of the Padouca village. 

80 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. axn. 27 

The Padoura taught the Ponca how to riiie and to put burdens on the horses. A\'hen 
the Ponca had learned how to use horses they renewed war with the Padoura and 
attacked them in their village. The Padouca met the Ponca outside their village 
but, licing driven, jumped into thestockade which surrounded the village and fought 
from behind the barricade. The Ponca made such continual war on the Padouca and 
stole so many of their horses that the Padouca abandoned their village and departed 
we know not where. After that the Ponca followed the Platte river east and returned 
to the Missouri, bringing the hor-ses back with them. 

That is how the Ponca first had horses, and we have had them ever since. 

There is no definite tradition among the Omaha as to the tribe 
from wliich they first obtained horses. The Legend already quoted 
says : 

It happened that a man in his wanderings discovered two animals. At first he 
thought they were elk, but they did not look like elk. Then he thought they were 
deer, but they were larger than deer. He did not know what they were, although he 
saw many. \\'hen the man showed himself the animals did not run away, but circled 
around him. He was troubled, and, fearing them, he tried to get away, but the 
animals kept about him; he edged off and finally reached the vdllage. The people 
were curious; they saw that the animals were gentle and could be led. Some of 
the men tried to mount them, but fell off, for they did not know how to ride. 
The people found the animals could bear burdens and be led by a string. There 
were two, male and female; they multiplied; and thus horses came among the Omaha. 
The people loved the horses, and when they died the people wailed. So dogs wete 
no longer the sole bearers of the people's burdens. 

There are traditions wliieh sa}^ that "horses came from the 

Traditions concerning the movements of the Omaha when in the 
vicinity of the Missouri river are somewhat more definite but they 
are still vague. 

In 1695 Le Sueur places the Omaha near the Missouri river, where 
the Iowa had joined them." As he was about to establish his 
trading post on the Blue Earth, Le Sueur sent runners to recall the 
Iowa that they might build a village near the fort, as these Indians 
were "industrious and accustomed to cultivate the earth." The 
trader hoped thus to procure provisions for liis post as well as workers 
for the mines.* De I'lsle's map (1703) places the Omaha near the 
mouth of the Big Sioux. About 1737 a trading post was established 
near the southern end of Lake Winnipeg, where the Omaha are said 
to have traded;'^ they have a tradition that "long ago they visited 
a great lake to the far north and traded there with wliite men." This 
post may have been Fort La Reine. It appears on Jeft'ery's map of 
1762.'^ Carver, who traveled in 1766, says that "to tliis place the 
Mahahs, who inhabit a country 250 miles southwest, come also to 
trade with them; and bring great quantities of Indian corn, to ex- 

» Minnesota Historical Collections, i, 328, 3.12. 

l> Nelll's The History of Minnesota, etc., 104, PhiladeljAia, lSo8. 

c Ibid., 186. 

d Ibid., 300. 


change for knives, tomahawks, and other articles."" The Omaha 
knowledge of tliis northern country would seem to have been tradi- 
tional, and may have been connected with their earlier sojourn in the 
wooded region of the north. 


From the Sacred Legend already quoted, in which epochal events 
of the tribe are mentioned, it appears that the first meeting with the 
white race was in the northern region near the lakes, where the 
Omaha used birch-bark canoes. The Legend says: 

One day the people discovered white objects on the water?, and they knew not 
what to make of them. The white objects floated toward the shores. The people 
were frightened. They abandoned their canoes, ran to the woods, climbed the trees, 
and watched. The white objects reached the shore, and men were seen getting out 
of them. The Indians watched the strange men, but did not speak or go near them. 
For several days they watched; then the strangers entered into the white objects 
and floated off. They left, however, a man — a leader, the Indians thought. He 
was in a starving condition. Seeing this, the Indians approached him, extending 
toward him a stalk of maize having ears on it, and bade him eat and live. He did 
eat, and expressed his gratitude by signs. The Indians kept this man, treating him 
kindly, until his companions returned. Thus the white people became acquainted 
with the Omaha by means of one whom the latter had befriended. In return the 
white people gave the Indians implements of iron. It was in this way that we gained 
iron among us. 

From the story of this encounter and the fact that the Omaha are 
known liistorically to have traded at a fort near Lake Winnipeg, it 
is probable that the incident cited in the legend refers to some 
reconnoitering party of white adventurers, possibly of the Hudson 
Bay Company, one of whose number remained behind, and was later 
picked up or joined by the rest of the party. 

The Omaha had come into contact with the French prior to 1724. 
At that time, in order to prevent the eastward spread of Spanish 
influence, a trading post was estabhshed on the Mssouri river. The 
French then counted on the friendship of the Omaha, Osage, Iowa, 
Oto, and Pawnee, and were instrumental in bringing about peace 
between these tribes and the Padouca at a council called by M. de 
Bourgmont, commandant of Fort Orleans, which was held on one of 
the western tributaries of the Kansas river. 

The following tradition may refer to an occurrence not long prior 
to this council: 

"The Omaha were camped in the timber, and one day a man 
heard pounding in the woods. He went to see what caused the 
strange noise and returned to the camp in great fright. He said he 

a Carver's Three Years' Travel Through the Interior Parts of North-America, etc. . 09. Philadelphia, 1796. 
6 The Appendix to this volume deals with the more recent history of the Omaha in their relations 
with the whites. 

83993°— 27 eth— 11 6 

82 THE OMAHA TKIBE [bth. ann. 27 

had seen some sort of a beast, his face covered with hair and his skin 
the color of the inner layer of the corn husk." This inner husk is 
called wa'xo'^ha, and the Omaha name for white man, wa'xe, is prob- 
ably a corruption of this term. 

The tradition continues as follows: " This was not the first meet- 
ing of the Omaha with the white race, but the earlier encounter had 
been forgotten by the people." Tliis statement probablj- refers to 
the meeting described in the Sacred Legend, as already quoted. The 
"wa'xe built houses out of logs, and traded with the people." The 
old men of the tribe used to declare that these early traders were 

Influence of Traders 

Contact with the traders had a disturbing influence on the politics 
of the tribe. The traders lent aid to those chiefs and leading men 
who favored schemes for barter, and these Indians used the favors 
shown them to enhance their own importance in the tribe. The fol- 
lowing narrative, compiled from stories told by old men of the tribe, 
illustrates this state of affairs: 

The great-grandfather of a chief who was living twenty-five years 
ago visited the trading post at St. Louis, and on his return assumed 
an air of importance, saynng that he had been made a great chief by 
the white men. He began to appoint "soldiers" and ambitious men 
sought liis favor. He made Blackbird a "soldier" and took him to 
St. Louis. [This was the Blackbird the apocryphal story of whose 
burial on horseback on the bluffs of the Missouri is told by Lewis 
and Clark.] Blackbird was a handsome man and the white people 
made much of him, showing him more attention than they did his 
companion. When Blackbird returned to the tribe he declared he 
had been made a chief by the white people. Blackbird was an 
ambitious man, who loved power and was unscrupulous as to how 
he obtained it. The traders foimd him a pliant tool. They fostered 
his ambitions, supplied him with goods and reaped a harvest in trade. 
From them he learnetl the use of poisons, particularly arsenic. If 
an Indian opposed him or stood in the way of liis designs, sickness 
and death overtook the man and Blackbird would claim that he had 
lost his life through supernatural agencies as a punishment for 
attempting to thwart his chief. Because of these occurrences Black- 
bird was feared. He exercised considerable power and adopted the 
airs of a despot. Before he died, however, the secret of his poison- 
ings became known and the fact led to the loss of much of his power. 
The romantic picture of his interment on horseback must be credited 
to grateful traders, as must also be the bestowal of his name on tlie 
hills and creek where later the Omaha built a \-illage when they 














moved to their present reservation. It is a fact that horses were 
frequently strangled at funerals and their bodies left near the burial 
movuid, which was always on a hill or at some elevation, but they 
were never buried alive or interred witli the body. It is one of the 
humors of Indian history that a relic hunter should have picked up 

Fig. 15. Big Elk. 

a horse's skull on one of the Blackbird hills and preserved it in a 
museum in memory of this fanciful entombment. 

The "Blackbu-d hills" (pi. 20) are not known to the Omaha by that 
name, but as O"'po"to"gaxaitho" (" where Big Elk is buried"). Big 
Elk (fig. 15) died in 1853. He was the third of his name, a member of 
the We'zhi"shte gens, and a leading chief of the tribe. According to 
tradition, all three, named Big Elk, were men of ability, brave and 

84 THE OMAHA TETBE tnTH. ann. 27 

prudent chiefs. The hist of the name was a man of considerable 
foresight and what may be termed an advanced thinker. lie took 
part in some of the early treaties of his tribe and visited Washuigton 
before his death. On his return from this visit he called the tribe 
together and made the following address, which is here given as it 
was told more than twenty-five j'ears ago: 

My chiefs, braves, and young men, I have just returned from a \isit to a far-off 
country toward the rising sun, and have seen many strange things. I bring to you 
news which it saddens my heart to think of. There is a coming flood which will soon 
reach us, and I advise you to prepare for it. Soon the animals which '\Vako"'da has 
given us for sustenance will disappear beneath this flood to return no more, and it 
will be very hard for you. Look at me; you see I am advanced in age; I am near 
the grave. I can no longer think for you and lead you as in my younger days. You 
must think for yourselves what will be best for your welfare. I tell you this that 
you may be prepared for the coming change. You may not know my meaning. 
Many of you are old, as I am, and by the time the change comes we may be lying 
peacefully in our graves; but these young men will remain to suffer. Speak kindly 
to one another; do what you can to help each other, even in the troubles with the 
coming tide. Now, my people, this is all I have to say. Bear these words in mind, 
and when the time comes think of what I have said. 

One day, in 1883, during the allotment of the land in severalty to 
the Omaha tribe, as a large group of the Indians were gathered about 
the allotting agent watching the surveyor and talking of the loca- 
tion of allotments, there stood on a hill near by an old Indian. In 
a loud voice he recited this speech of Big Elk. At its close he 
paused, then shouted: "Friends, the flood has come!" and disap- 

To the best of his understanding Big Elk tried to face his people 
toward civilization. At the same time he was politic and kept the 
tribe well in hand. Instances of his eloquent and courtly speech 
have been preserved in official proceedings with the Government 
and these betray a dignity and heartiness that accord with the fol- 
lowing incident: The son who Big Elk hoped would succeed him 
died in the prime of young manhood and the father grieved sadly 
for his child. The death occurred while the tribe was on the Elk- 
horn river. The body was wrapped in skins, and, accompanied by 
near relatives, was carried across the prairies more than a hundred 
miles, to be laid on the hills near the village of his ancestors. A 
year afterward, when the tribe was on its annual hunt. Big Elk was 
riding with the people when his eyes rested on a spirited horse — the 
best one he owned. Suddenly the memory of his son came to him; 
he seemed to see the youth, and murmured: "He would have had 
that horse and all of the best I had — but he needs no gift of mine!" 
Just then he saw an old man whose fortune had always been hard 
and who had never owned a horse. Big Elk beckoned him to come 
near, and said: "Friend, the horse my son wpuld have ridden shall 


be 3'ours; take him and mount." As the old man raised his arms 
in thanks the chief turned and rode off alone. 

The interference of the traders, and later of Government ofHcials, 
in tribal affairs, caused two classes of chiefs to be recognized — 
those whose office was due to white influence and those who were 
chiefs according to tribal right and custom. The first Avere desig- 
nated "paper chiefs," because they usually had some written docu- 
ment setting forth their claim to the office; the second class were 
known simply as "chiefs." This conflict in authority as to the 
making of chiefs was a potent factor in the disintegration of the 
ancient tribal life. 

The Omaha Country 

villages on the missouri 

Traditions are somewhat vague as to Omaha villages on the Mis- 
souri river. While in this region the people seem to have suffered 
from wars and also from lack of food. Near the mouth of the White 
river, South Dakota, the tribe once found a flock of snowbirds, 
which brought so much relief to the hungry people that the village 
they erected at that place was known as "Where the snowbirds 
came." They seem to have stayed in this village for a considerable 
time, but were finally driven away by wars. There is no mention 
of any village being built on their southward movements until after 
they had passed the Niobrara river. On Bow creek, Nebraska, 
near where the present to\\Ti of St. James stands, a village of earth 
lodges was erected, and here the people remained until a tragedy 
occurred which caused a separation in the tribe and an abandon- 
ment of this village by all the people. The site was known and 
pointed out in the last century as the place where stood the 
To°'wo°pezhi, "Bad Village." 

The following is the story of how this village came" to be aban- 
doned and received the name of "Bad Village." It is a story that 
used frequently to be told and is probably historical and suggests 
how separations may have come about in the more remote past. 

In the Tef i"'de gens lived a man and his wife with their three sons and one daughter. 
Although the man was not a chief, he was respected and honored by the people because 
of his bravery and hospitality. His daughter was sought in marriage by many 
men in the tribe. There was one whom she preferred, and to whom she gave her 
word to be his wife. This fact was not known to her parents, who promised her to a 
warrior long past his youth. Against her will she was taken to the warrior's dwelling 
with the usual ceremonies in such marriages. The girl determined in her own mind 
never to be his wife. She did not cry or struggle when they took her, but acted well 
her part at the wedding feast, and none knew her purpose. ^\Tien the feast was over 
and the sun had set, she slipped away in the dark and was gone. At once a search 
was started, which was kept up by the disajjpointed old warrior and his relatives for 
several days, but without success. The girl's mother grieved over the loss of her 

86 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

daii<,'hter, but the father was silent. It wu.s iiotifcd that a certain young man was 
also missing, and it was thought that the two were probably together. After the girl 
had boon gone some time, a boy rushed to the father's house one morning, as the 
family were eating their meal, and said: "Your daughter is found! The old man 
has stripped her of her clothing and is flogging her to death. Hurry, if you would see 
her alive!" The father turned to his sons and said: "Go, see if there is truth in 
this." The eldest refused, the second son bowed his head and sat still. The young- 
est arose, seized his bow, put on his quiver, and went out. The village had gathered 
to the scene. As the brother approached, he heard his sister's cries of anguish. 
Pushing his way through the crowd he shouted words of indignation to those who had 
not tried to rescue the girl, and, drawing his bow, shot the angry old man. The 
relatives of the dead man and those who sympathized with his exercise of marital 
rights ran for their bows and fought those who sided with the young rescuer. A 
battle ensued; fathers fought sons and brothers contended with brothers. All day the 
two sides contested and many were slain before night put an end to the conflict. 
The next day those who had fought with the brother left the village with him and 
traveled eastward, while their opponents picked up their belongings, turned their 
back on their homes and moved toward the south. There was no wailing nor any 
outward sign of mourning. Silently the li\'ing separated, and the village was left 
with the unburied dead. * * * 

"A new generation had grown up," this strange story continues, 
"when a war party traveling east beyond the Missouri river encoun- 
tered a village where the people spoke the Omaha language. Aban- 
doning their warlike intents, the Omaha warriors entered the village 
peaceably, persuaded their new-found relatives to return with them, 
and so the Omaha people were once more united." The vUIage 
where the reunion took place was near one then occupied by the 
Iowa, not far from the site of the present town of Ponca City. 

The attacks of the Dakota tribes forced the Iowa to leave that 
part of the country and they moved southward as far as the river 
Platte and never again built a towoi near the Omaha tribe. The 
Omaha were driven by the Dakota from their village at the same 
time as the Iowa and finally settled on a stream that flows in a north- 
erly direction into the Missouri, which they named Tcj^'wo^ni, or 
Village creek, from the village thej" built on its wooded banks. This 
village was erected near a rock containing a hole or depression in 
which the fork-tailed kites used to nest, and the site was known as 
I"'be zhu^ka mo°sho°de te, " the fork-tailed kites' hole." The village 
itself, built in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, was called 
To°'wo°to''ga, "large village." The stream on which it was situated 
is now called Omaha creek. It was here that the smallpox and 
cholera reached the people and nearly destroyed them. 

The traditions concerning the effects of the scourge of smallpox 
vividly portray the terror and desperation of the people. It is said 
that when the enfeebled survivors saw the disfigured appearance of 
their cliildren and companions they resolved to put an end to their 
existence, since both comeliness and vigor were gone. They did not 


know that new-born children woiihl not inlierit their parents' dis- 
figuration, and that in time the tribe would again be as they were of 
old, strong and well-looking. Being determined to die, they proposed 
to die fighting their enemies, therefore the tribe — men, women, and 
children — moved out as a great tribal war party to fimd their foes 
and meet a vahant death. The Cheyenne had been harrying the 
people, so the strange war party started for the Che3'enne country. 
The story of this war party runs as follows : 

On their way they encountered the Ponca tribe returning from a successful buffalo 
hunt, well supplied with meat and pelts. The Omaha chiefs sent messengers to the 
Ponca, explaining that their people were going against the Cheyenne, but they were 
in need and asked for food. The Ponca drove the Omaha messengers away and shot 
at them. This angered the Omaha and they prepared to fight the Ponca. In the 
battle that followed it was observed that one of the fiercest warriors on the Ponca 
side was an Omaha, who was known to have married a Ponca woman. This warrior 
was the nephew of a prominent man of the Omaha tribe, and therefore his capture, 
rather than his death, was sought. At last he was taken and word was sent to his 
uncle, who was fighting in another part of the field, that his nephew was captured, 
and he was asked, " \Miat shall be done?" ■' Hold him until I come," was the reply. 
When the uncle arrived at the place of capture hs saw his nephew standing with an 
Omaha warrior on each side holding his arms. The uncle raised his spear and plunged 
it through the body of the man who had fought against his kindred. 

The Ponca were driven from their camp and lost possession of their meat and 
camp equipage. Then the Ponca sought to make peace, and dispatched a man to the 
Omaha with the tribal pipe. As he approached, the Omaha chief called out, " Who 
is he?" ^^'hen he was told, he replied: "The man is a man of blood." So the 
pipe was refused and the man driven back, but not killed. A second man was sent. 
He came toward the Omaha with the pipe extended in his left hand and his right 
hand raised in supplication. Again the chief asked; " Who is he?" ^\^len told, he 
replied: "He is a man of peace." The pipe was received and the fighting ceased. 
The food of the Ponca was divided between the two tribes, and the Omaha moved on. 

The story goes on to recount the desperate fighting with the 
Cheyenne, the Pawnee, and the Oto. At last those that remained 
of the Omaha returned to their village on Omaha creek. Here 
Lewis and Clark met the people at the beginning of the nineteenth 
century, and it was from the bluffs near tliis site in 1836 that the 
tribe saw the little steamboat Antelope puff its way up the Missouri. 
As the boat seemed to move of itself, they called it moMe'waxube, 
"mystery boat" — a term that has lost its early significance, and 
has become the common Omaha name for all steamboats. 

Forays of the Dakota grew to be more and more frequent, and later 
the Ponca joined them in these attacks. The Omaha lost many of 
their horses, and Hfe became so unsafe that the people abandoned this 
village and moved southwest in the first quarter of the last century. 
At tliis period the Omaha were harassed on the north by the Dakota 
and Ponca and on the south and west by the Oto and Pawnee. 
Peace was made from time to time, and as frequently broken; con- 
sequently the village on Omaha creek was never again steadily 

88 THE OMAHA TRIBE [bth. ann. 27 

occupied, although the people frequently brougnt their dead from 
their camps to the southward and westward to be buried where their 
fatliers had dwelt. 

The country through which the tribe was accustomed to hunt cov- 
ered a range of several huntlred miles north and south and east and 
west. Its topography was well known to the Omaha, not only the 
general direction of the livers and their numerous branches-, but the 
turns and twists of the streams and the valleys, also the number of 
days or camps required to go from one point to another; short cuts 
were known by which time could be saved, an important considera- 
tion in a journey for which food and shelter had to be transported. 
It was not unusual for directions as to a certain route to be supple- 
mented by a rude map of the country to be traversed, traced on the 
ground with a finger or a stick, on which were indicated the trails, 
streams, and fords, and perhaps other details, as the locations of 
trees, springs, or creeks, affording suitable places to make camps, and 
of stretches where water or wood would have to be carried. These 
maps were always oriented, so that one could follow the course laid 
down, by the sun during the day or at night by the north star. All 
the lai'ge rivers known to the Omaha flow in a southerly direction; 
their tributaries running northward were said to "flow backward." 

The accompanying map (pi. 21) shows the country known to the 
Omaha tribe; the Omaha and Ponca names of the streams wliich 
flow tlirough territory once claimed by the Omaha as their hunting 
grounds are given below. Much of this region was disputetl by other 
tribes, who coveted the "sand hills " to the westward, where game was 
plentiful. The Omaha villages lay near the Missouri, not farther west 
than the Elkhorn; but the hunting grounds claimed by the tribe 
extendetl on the east from the Missouri to the Kaccoon or Des Moines 
river, and on the west to the country of the Padouca, whose most 
easterly village, in the forks of the Dismal river, was known to the 
Omaha. The Pawnee in their northeastern migration encroached 
on the country watered by the Loup. They moved down the Platte 
to that river and built their \'illages there. In the battles wliich 
ensued the Pawnee villages were destroyed, but only to be rebuilt. 
Peace was made between the two tribes, and soon broken. Wars 
were followed by alliances against other enemies." ^leanwlule the 
Pawnee continued to encroach and finally obtained a foothold, but 
the ancient hunting right of the Omaha on the land was recognized 
by the Pawnee, for when the two tribes hunted together north of 
the Platte, as they frequently did in the first half of the last century, 
the Omaha led, and Omaha oflicers controlled all persons taking part 

a The map indicates the places where well-known battles took place during contentions for control oi' 
this Icrritory. Minor battle fields are not marked; only those are indicated in which the number siain on 
both sides left a deep impression on the memory of the people. 



A Omaha villages 

# Priocipal ladian battlefields 


Explanation.— The extensive shaded area represents the country known to the 
Omaha: the included urea of darker shading (cross hatched), the countryoecu- 
pied by the Omaha; and the small rectangle bounded on the east by tue Mis- 
souri River, the Omab& reservation 


in the hunt. When, however, the two tribes huntetl together south 
of the Phitte, the Pawnee led, and the Omaha hunters accepted the 
control of the Pawnee directors of the hunt. 

The territory lying west of Shell creek and northward to the mouth 
of the A'iobrara continued to be a tlisputed hunting ground among 
the Cheyenne, Dakota, Pawnee, Omaha, and Ponca until nearly 
1857, when the region was finally ceded to the United States. In 
the treaty of cession the Pawnee claim was recognized and payments 
for the land were made to that tribe. 

The country east of the Missouri was practically abandoned by 
the Omaha in the eighteenth century; their villages were then west 
of that river and the tribal hunts were conducted to the westward, 
but small parties sought elk and deer east of the Missouri up to the 
middle of the last century. The Omaha rights to the land east of 
that river were recognized in the treaties made in 1830, 1836, and 
1854, when that territory was ceded to the United States. 


The Elkhorn and Its tributaries 

Wate' Meaning unknown Elkhorn river. 

Umo"'ho" waa i te ^\1lero the Omaha planted . Bell creek. 

Logan hi te WTiere Logan came (to trade) . Hyde creek. 

Ti'ha xa i ke AVhere the tent skins were Maple creek. 

cached (at a time when the 

Omaha went to fight the 


To'^wo°zh°iga The little village Clark creek. 

Tacpo^'hi bate ke Thorn-apple creek Lower Logan, including 

Middle creek. 
LTki'pato" tenuga t'ethe te Where Uki'pato" killed a Pebble creek. 

buffalo bull, 
Pa'tithihu izhi"ge xa i te UTiere the son of Pa'tithihu 

is buried. 
Niu'thite te The ford (buffalo hunting Camings creek. 

trail crossed here). 

Zha'uzhi ke Weed creek Plum creek. 

Mo"ko'"'ninida ke Sweet-flag creek Rock creek. 

Mo"thi'"xudetibe te Prairie-dog creek Humbug creek. 

Mo"xu' de anatushi kitha Wliere there was an explo- No name on maps; prob- 
i te. sion of gunpowder. ably dry run. 

Ni'shkube te Deep water Taylor creek. 

Ilhe'^aa i te Noisy -ford creek (so called LTnion creek, branch of 

because the dangerous con- Taylor. 

dition of the ford caused 

excitement in crossing). 

<• To the Omaha ear euphony demands that in composite terms but one accent be used, that given in 
the first word. 

90 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth an>-. 27 

0"'po'' mo"thi°ka thata i le. Elk lick I)ry run, first branch of 


Mi'xa ufaa i te The lake that resounds with Lake west of Taylor creek, 

the cackling of geese. south of Elkhorn. 

E'zho" wi"ax'chi te- One elm tree Dry run near town of Stan- 
ton, north of Elkhorn. 

Umo^'efabe wae te Where Umo°'e(,'abe planted . Dry run near Bursting 

Powder creek. 

Utha'dawo" te Old name. Echo creek North fork of Elkhorn. 

Mo''ho'"ho° te Miry creek Willow creek, branch of 

north fork of Elkhorn. 

Hubthu'ga wafi i te WTierethey fished for trout. . Battle creek. 

Mo°ko'''ninida ke Sweet-flag lake Lake near town of Warren, 

above Battle creek. 

Hide'thi°ge te No-outlet creek Creek east of town of Oak- 
dale, north of Elkhorn. 

Ni'shkube te Deep water Creek near Oakdale, south 

of Elkhorn. 

Te'thishka i te Where the pack of the Sa- Upper Logan creek, 

cred Buffalo Hide was un- branch of Logan, 
tied or opened. 

The Platte and its tributaries 

Ni btha'fka ke Flat river Platte river. 

Tashno^'ge uzhi ke Ash creek Shell creek. 

Keto'^ke Turtle creek Silver creek. 

Po°'xe to"" ke Artichoke creek Wood river. 

Nifki'the k^ Salt creek Salt creek. 

Mo'^'shewakude uzho° ke. Where Mo^'shewakude lies Wa boo creek. 

(was buried). 
Mo°'feguhe uzho" ke WTiere Mo°'feguhe lies (was Rock creek. 

Pa'thi"' tiuthixthigetho".. The Old Pawnee village 

(Pitahawirat). This was 

the village attacked by 

Wa'bafka. (See story, 

p. 406.) 

The Loup and its tributaries 

Nuto"^ ke Plenty potato river Loup river. 

Uki'tha9o''de ke Hugging closely (to the Looking-glass creek. 


Zha'beto" ke Plenty beaver creek Beaver creek. 

Mo°ga'shude te Dust creek Council creek. 

Nibtha'tkazhi^ga ke Little Nibtha'vka Cedar creek. 

Mo°ga'nade ke Miry creek Timber creek. 

Pa'thi°to°wo°zhi°ga Little Pawnee village Horse creek. 

Pa'thi''mo''ho''to''wo"' Skidi village Cottonwood creek. 

Ni'shkube te Deep water Spring creek. 

Ma'vi uthuthaha te Cedar river North Loup. 

Ni^ni'te Cold water Calamus river. 

Pehi°'xewathe wathigtho" Where P e h i "' x e w a t he Oak creek. 
te. prophesied. 


Zha'betilie te The beaver village No name on maps. 

Shko'^shko"tithe uzho"ke. . In which Shko^'shkoi'tithi- Middle Loup. 

lies (is buried). 

No°'ebubatigtha i te Where a hand was hung up.. Mud creek. 

Te ni u'baafai ke Where a herd of buffalo Clear creek. 

were driven into the wa- 

Pa'do°kano°fa gaxa i ke. . Where the Padouca built Dismal river. 


Ka^'fezhi^ga ano"zhi'' te.. Where Kan'fezhi"ga stood North Loup, west of Cala- 

on a hill. mus river. 

Omaha Creek and its tributaries 

To"^wo''ni ke Village creek (a village was Omaha creek. 

built on this creek by the 

Wa?e'?o° te \Miite-clay creek First branch of Omaha 

creek, near town of Ho- 
mer (no name on maps) . 

Ki'bano" githa i te Where they raced Second branch of Omaha 

creek (no name on 

Nithato"' ite Where they drink water Third branch of Omaha 

(there is a spring at the creek (no name on 
head where the people maps), 
stop to drink). 

Blackbird Creeks 

Xa'tha the the te Running backward South Blackbird (flows 

into the Missouri). 

Wako"'dagi pezhi te The bad Wako'''dagi North Blackbird (flows into 

the Missouri). 

The Missouri and its tributaries 

Nishu'de ke Turbid water Missouri. 

Umo^'ho" waa i ke ^^^lere the Omaha farmed . . . Big Papilion. 

Shao'''petho°ba waxthi i te. Where they (Omaha and Branch of the Papilion. 

Oto) killed 7 Sioux. 

Uhe'ato" te The bridge creek Creek between Homer and 

Jackson, Nebraska (no 
name on maps). 

Ta'gehite The walnut creek Elk creek. 

WaCe'fo" te Wtite-clay creek Branch of Elk (no name on 


Ma'xude waa i te Where the Iowa farmed Ayoway creek. 

Sho'''to"ga wabaafa i te . - . \\'here the people were Branchof Ayoway creek. 

frightened by gray wolves. 

Thi'xeshpo" ugthe te Soft-willow creek Nameless creek having no 

outlet south of Floyds 
river, flows into small 
lake, Iowa. 

Wako'''daxuti te Meaning uncertain Floyds river. 

Xe Buried Big Sioux, Iowa. 

92 THE OMAHA TBIBE [bth. ann. 27 

To"'wo''nike Village creek Bow creek, Nebraska. 

Ni'ugashude te Turbid river ^Miite river. 

Wate' Meaning unknown Little Sioux, Iowa. 

Ni'xebe te Shallow water Bayer creek, Iowa. 

Di'xe ut'a 1 te Where many died of the Creek running by Council 

smallpox. . Bluffs, Iowa (no name on 


Wafe'fo" thifa i te \Miere they take white clay. Vermilion creek. South 


The Ponca and its tributaries 

Ni'uthit'e te Death river [called so be- Ponca river. 

cause many Ponca died 


Ho^'ga waxthi i ke Where the Ho"'ga people First creek to the north 

were massacred. (no name on maps). 

Pija'bahehe ugthe te (Creek) running through Second creek to the north 

the sand hills. (no name on maps)-. 

Pahe'zho" we^'a thaxta i te. Where Pahe'zho" was bitten First creek to the south (no 

by a snake. name on maps). 

Mo^thi^'ka shno" te Bare earth (so called because Second creek to the south 

of the bare hill near the (no name on maps). 


Po°'ka sheno"watha i thu- Creek running straight on, North fork of Ponca (no 

to" thethe te. where Ponca were massa- name on maps). 


E'zho" to^ga niuthutha- Large elm trees with stream South fork of Ponca (no 

C'l^te. running among them. name on maps). 

Keyabaha and its tributaries 

Xe'i" azhi ke Cedar Ridge creek (so called Keyabaha. 

from a ridge covered with 

Mo°'gauti te Skunk creek Spring creek. 

Ko'''de uzhiha te The plum-bag creek Burton creek. 

I°'e uzhi wachishka te Rock creek Creek next to Burton, west 

(no name on maps). 

Tax'ti wachishka te Deer creek Creek next to Rock creek, 

west (no name on maps). 
The }'irdigris and its trihiiturie? 

Wacje'tupezhi te Th^ bad green-clay creek. . . Verdigris. 

Wage'tupezhi hide uzhi"- The little Wage tupezhi. First branch of Verdigris 
ga te. branch of Big Verdigris from the mouth on east 

near its mouth. (no name on maps). 

Ma'fi uzhi to Cedar creek Creek down which railroad 

runs (no name on maps) ; 
second branch of ^'erdi- 
gris on the east. 
Mo"chu'to"ga t'etha i te. . . \Vhere Big Grizzly Bear was First branch of Verdigris 

killed. (A man by this on west side (no name on 
name tried to take a horse maps), 
from some men and was 
killed by them on this 


Pa'thi" nadathi" te Where a Pawnee was crazed Third branch of Verdigris 

by heat. (A Ponca in- on east (no name on 

vited a Pawnee to a sweat maps). 

lodge when the Ponca 

were camped on this creek. 

The Pawnee, not being 

able to endure the heat, 

fled without his clothes and 

was not heard of again.) 

Hethi'shizhe gahi uho^te. WTiere Hethi'shizhe made a Second branch of Verdi- 
feast to the chiefs. gris on west side (no 

name on maps). 

Zha'be uti i te Where there is a beaver \il- Third branch of Verdigris 

lage, or dam. on west side (no name on 


Wani'tawaxa hi te AMiere Wani'tawaxa came. Fourth branch of Verdigris 

(An Omaha by this name on east side (no name on 

visited the Ponca at this maps). 


The Niobrara and branches Jrom the Verdigris on south side 

Ni'ubthatha ke Wide river Niobrara river. 

Wa'bakihe t'e te \\'here Wa'bakihe died. First creek from Vcrdigria 

(no name on maps). 
Tenu'gagabe wae te Where Black Buffalo Bull Second creek from Verdi- 
planted, gris (no name on maps). 
Mi'zhi''ga shi°nuda ikinai \\'hcre a girl was bitten to Third creek from Verdigris 

te. death by a dog. (no name on maps). 

Ubi'fka izhu°ge t'e te ^\'here Ubi'fka's daughter Fourth creek from Verdi- 
died, gris (no name on maps). 

She'hi to° te Thorn-apple creek Fifth creek from Verdigris 

(no name on maps). 

Wau'waxthi i te ^^'here some women were Sixth creek from Verdigris 

killed by a war party. (no name on maps). 

Shao^'pa awachi i te Where a dance was held Seventh creek from Verdi- 
over the head of a Sioux, gris (no name on maps). 

Ma'ah wi''tho°tho'' te Creek of the scattering cot- Eighth creek from Verdi- 

tonwood trees. gris (no name on maps). 

U"^zhi''ga hi te Hazelnut creek Ninth creek from Verdigris 

(no name on map,s) . 

Mo"^' ithiti " tho° The crooked-cliff creek Tenth creek from Verdigris 

(no name on maps). 
Pir'a' 5ka te WTiite-sand creek Eleventh creek from Ver- 
digris (no name on maps) . 
Gube'hi te Hackberry creek Twelfth creek from Verdi- 
gris, first w. of Keyabaha. 

Uhe'ato" te The bridge creek. (At this Ash creek. (?) 

creek a bridge would be 
built of tent poles and 
skins, the creek not being 

Tenu'ga t'e tha i te \\'here Buffalo Bull was Long Pine. (?) 



Wathi'shka (;nede tc. 


Ietu. iNN. 27 

Mu°ohu' uti te. 

(,'i°'de kino"fni''da i to. 

Ni'xue te 

Ni' biye te 

Ci(;i'ka wabahi i te. 

I^'e ikiti" i te. 

Pahe'nude te 

WatC'lhata i ke 
Niwa'xube ke. . . 

Paheshu'de ke .. 
Uha'i ke 


The long creek. (So called Plum Creek. (?) 

because of its length. At 

the head is a small lake 

and an old Padouca (Co- 
manche) village site. 

Here also was found a 

meteorite (?) which gave 

the name In'e thiho 

i tho°, "place where 

they lifted a stone." 

The young men lifted 

the stone to test their 

Bear creek. (There used to Fairfield creek. (?) 

be many grizzlies at this 

place. There were cedar 

trees along this creek.) 
Horse-tail creek. (The ap- Small creek (no name on 

preaches to the ford were maps) . 

so steep that in going 

down the horses trod on 

one another's tails.) 

The roaring waters Schlegels creek. (?) 

(There was a fort here.) 
The dry creek. (The peo- Gordons creek. 

pie had to dig wells when 

they camped here.) 
WTiere they gathered tur- Snake river. 

keys. (Many turkeys 

were found here, starved 

to death, and men gath- 
ered them to pluck the 

feathers to feather their 

WTiere they fought with peb- Small creek on north side 

bles. (WTien camped at of Niobrara, a short dis- 

this creek the boys fought tance above Fairfield. 

one another, using pebbles 

as missiles.) 
\\'here there is a ridge with a t'reek on north side of Xio- 

hole through it . brara, nearly opposite 

Horse-tail creek. 
The Republican river 

\Miere they ate squash Republican river. 

Holy river Solomon river, Kansas. 

Smoky hill Smoky Hill river. 

The river down which they Ohio river. 

Plenty of raccoons Des Moines river. 




The site for a village was always chosen near a running stream 
convenient to timber and generally not far from hills, from which an 
outlook over the country could be obtained. A watch was commonly 
stationed on these hills to detect the stealthy approach of enemies 
and to keep an eve on the horses pastured near by, although these 
were usually herded by boys during the day and brought into the 
village at night, where each family had a corral built near its lodge 
for safety. The bottom lands were the planting places; each 
family selected its plot, and as long as the land was cultivated its 
occupancy was respected. Corn, beans, squash, and melons were 
raised in considerable quantities, and wliile these products were 
sometimes traded, they were usually stored for winter use. 

Occasionally a man would take a fancy to some locality and deter- 
mine to live there. He would be joined by his kindred, who would 
erect their lodges near his and cultivate gardens. Such outlj-ing 
little settlements were a temptation to marauding war parties, and 
if an attack was made by a large party of enemies, capture and death 
were sure to follow; any degree of safety was secured only through 
untiring vigilance. 


The earth lodge and the tipi (tent) were the only types of dwelhng 
used by the Omaha during the last few centuries. 

The tipi (pi. 17 and fig. 16) was a conical tent. Formerly the cover 
was made of 9 to 12 buffalo sldns tanned on both sides. To cut and 
sew tliis cover so that it woukl fit well and be shapely when stretched 
over the circular framework of poles required skilful workmanship, 
the result of training and of accurate measurements. The cover was 
cut semicircular. To the straight edges, which were to form the front 
of the tent, were added at the top triangular flaps. These were to be 
adjusted by poles according to the direction from wliich the wind blew, 
so as to guide the smoke from the central fire out of the tent. These 
smoke-flaps were called ti'liugahthlHha (from ti, "tent or house;" 
hugabthiHha, "to twist")- At intervals from about .3 feet above the 
bottom up to the smoke-flaps holes were made and worked in the 
straight edges. Through these holes pins (sticks) about S inches long, 
well shaped and often ornamented, were thrust to fasten the tent 
together, when the two edges lapped in front or were laced together 
with a thong. Tliis front lap of the tent was called ti' ntoHhuhe 
(from ti, "tent"; moHhuhe, "breast"). The term refers to the 
part of the liide forming the lap. The tent poles were 14 to 16 feet 
long. Straight young cedar poles were preferred. The bark was 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

removed and the poles were rubbed smooth. The setting up of a 
tent was always a woman's task. She first took four poles, laid them 
together on the ground, and then tied them firmly with a tiiong 
about 3 feet from one end. She then raised the poles and spread 
their free ends apart and thrust them firmly into the ground. These 
four tied poles formed the true framework of the tent. Other poles — 
10 to 20 in number, according to tlie size of the tent — were arranged 
in a circle, one end pressed well into the ground, the other end laid in 
the forks made l)y the tied ends of the four poles. There was a defi- 
nite order in setting up the poles so that they would lock one another, 
and when they were all in place they constituted an elastic but firm 

Fig, 10. Tipi. 

frame, wliicli could resist a fairly heavy winil. There was no name 
for the fundamental four poles, nor for any other pole except the 
one at the back, to which the tent cover was tied. This pole was called 
te(i^''d('ugasM-fi, "the one to which the bufl'alo tail was tied." The 
name tells that the back part of the tent cover was a whole hide, 
the tail indicating the center line. When tlie poles were all set. 
this back pole was laid on the ground and the tent cover brought. 
This had been folded so as to be ready to be tied and opened. The 
front edges had been rolled or folded over and over back to the line 
indicating the middle of the cover; on this line thongs had been sewed 
at the top and bottom of the cover; the cover was laid on the ground 







■^ T 

Lir-i — ..■ 

r-f*i I 


1 1 


P ■ -^ 



■TT " - 



■ .-:.J«H 


^>'- _.' 

'A- ■■-^^j:*mSB^^ 



in such manner that this back hne was parallel to the pole, wliich 
was then securely tied to the cover by the thongs. When tliis was 
done, the pole and the folded tent cover were grasped firmly together, 
lifted, and set in place. Then, if there were two women doing the 
work, one took one fold of the cover and the other the other fold, 
and each walked with her side around tlie framework of poles. The 
two straight edges were then lapped over each other and the wooden 
pins were put in or the thong was threaded. Each of the lower ends 
of the straight edges had a loop sewed to it, and tlu-ough both loops a 
stake was thrust into the ground. The oval opening formed the door, 
wliich was called tizhe'he. Over tliis opening a skin was hung. A 
stick fastened across from one foreleg to the other, and another stick 
ruiming from one hindleg to the other, held this covering taut, so 
that it could be easily tipped to one side when a person stooped to 
enter the oval door opening. It was always an interesting sig'ht 
to watch the rapid and precise movements of the women and their 
deftness in setting up a tent. On a journey, no matter how dark the 
evening might be when the tent was pitched the opening was gener- 
ally so arranged as to face the east. In the village, or in a camping 
place likely to Ije used for some time, a band of willow withes was 
bound around the frame of poles about midway their height to give 
additional stabihty. 

The earth lodge (pis. 10, 22) was a circular dwelling, having walls 
about 8 feet high and a dome-shaped roof, with a central opening for 
the escape of smoke and the admission of light. The task of building 
an earth lodge was shared by men and women. The marking out of 
the site and the cutting of the h«avy logs were done by the men. 
When the location was chosen, a stick was thrust in the spot where the 
fireplace was to be, one end of a rawhide rope was fastened to the 
stick and a circle 20 to 60 feet in diameter was drawn on tlie earth 
to mark where the wall was to be erected. The sod within the circle 
was removed, the ground excavated about a foot in depth, and the 
earth thrown around the circle like an embankment. Small crotched 
posts about 10 feet high were set 8 or 10 feet apart and li feet withm 
the circle, and on these were laid beams. Outside this frame spht 
posts were set close togetlier, having one end braced against the bot- 
tom of the bank and the other end leaning against the beams, thus 
forming a wall of timber. The ojiening generally, though not always, 
faced the east. Midway between the central fireplace and the wall 
were planted 4 to 8 large crotched posts about 10 feet in height, on 
wliich heavy beams rested, these serving to support the roof. This 
was made of long, slender, tapering trees stripped of their bark. These 
were tied at their large ends with cords (made from the inner bark 
of the linden) to the beams at the top of the stockade and at the mid- 
dle to those resting in, the crotches of the large posts forming the 
83993°— 27 eth— 11 7 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

inner circle about the fireplace. The slender ends were cut so as 
to form the circular opening for the smoke, the edges being woven 
together with elm twine, so as to be firm. Outside the woodwork of 
the walls and roof, branches of willow were laid crosswise and bound 
tight to each slab and pole. Over the willows a heavy thatch of 
coarse grass was arranged so as to shed water. On the grass was 
placed a thick coating of sod. The sods were cut to lap and be laid 
like shingles. Finally they were tamped with earth and made 
impervious to rain. The entrance way, 6 to 10 feet long, projected 
from the door and was built in the same manner as the lodge and 
formed a part of it. A curtain of skin hung at the inner and one at 
the outer door of this entrance way. Much labor was expended on 
the floor of the lodge. The loose earth was carefully removed and the 
ground then tamped. It was next flooded with water, after which 
dried grass was spread over it and set on fire. Then the ground was 
tamped once again. This wetting and heating was repeated two or 
three times, iintil the floor became hard and level and could be easily 
swept and kept clean. Brooms were made of brush or twigs tied 
together. Couches were arranged around the waU in the spaces 
between the posts of the framework. These were provided with 
skins and pillows and served as seats by day and as beds by night. 
In the building of an earth lodge the cutting and putting on of the 

sods was always done by women, and as this 
part of the task had to be accomplished 
rapidly to prevent the drymg out of the 
sods, which must hold well together, kindred 
helped one another. The erection of this 
class of dwelling I'equired considerable labor, 
hence only the industrious and tlnift}' pos- 
sessed these lodges. 

Near each dwelling, generally to the left 
of the entrance, the cache (fig. 17) was built. 
This consisted of a hole in the ground about 
8 feet deep, rounded at the bottom and 
sides, provided with a neck just large enough to admit the bod}- of a 
person. The whole was lined with split posts, to which was tied 
an inner lining of bunches of dried grass. The opening was pro- 
tected by grass, over which sod was placed. In these caches the 
winter supply of food was stored; the shelled corn was put into skin 
bags, long strings of corn on the cob were made by braiding the 
outer husks, while the jerked meat was packed in parfleche cases. 
Pelts, regalia, and extra clothing were generally kept in the cache; 
but these were laid in ornamented parfleche cases, never used but 
for this purpose. 

Fig. 17. Common form of cache. 








AVlien the j)eoi)le left the village for the summer bufl'alo hunt, all 
cumbersome household articles — as the mortars and pestles, extra 
hides, etc. — were placed in the caches and the openings carefulh^ 
concealed. The cases containing gala clothing and regalia were taken 
along, as these garments were needed at the great tribal ceremonies 
which took place during that period. 

In a village in which the entire tribe lived the lodges and tents were 
not arranged about a central open space nor were they set so the 
people could live in the order of their gentes, an order obsei-ved when 
they were on the hunt and during their tribal ceremonies. Yet each 
family knew to what gens it belonged, observed its rites, and obeyed 
strictly the rule of exogamy. To the outward appearance a village 
presented a motley group of tribesmen. The dwellings and their 
adjacent corrals were huddled together; the passageways between the 
lodges were narrow and tortuous. There was little of the picturescjue. 
The grass and weeds that grew over the earth lodges while the people 
were off on their summer buffalo hunt were all cut away when the 
tribe returned. So, except for the decorations on the skin tents, 
there was nothing to relieve the dun-colored aspect. (PI. 23.) 

The village was never wholly deserted, even when most of the tribe 
left for the annual buffalo hunt; for the sick, the infirm, and the 
very poor were forced to remain behiml. This class of stay-at-homes 
were called Tie'hegtlii^, ' ' those who sit half-way. ' ' Usually a sprinkling 
of able-bodied men remained with their old or sick relatives, and 
these served as a guard, to defend the village in case of an attack. 
Occasionally a young man or two woukl remain in the village in order 
to be near a sweetheart who had to stay at home antl help care for 
the sick in her famih*. 


To^'wo^pezJii, Bad Village. , This name, bestowed on an old village 
built by the Omaha in their migration do^vn the Missouri river, • 
owes its origin to a tragedy which for a number of years caused a 
division in the tribe. (See p. 85.) This village was located on East 
Bow creek, in the northeast part of township 32, range 2 east of 
the sixth principal meridian, Cedar county, Nebraska. 

To^'iDoHo^'gatho"-, Large Village. This town was on Omaha creek 
in Dakota county, Nebraska, about half a mile north of the present 
town of Homer; it was built in the eighteenth century, and the 
people were found here by Lewis and Clark in 1805. 

Tenu'gano^pewatTie slikoHliaitho^, "The place where the camp of 
Tenu'gano^pewathe (father of Kaxe'no°ba) was attacked " in 1840 
by an unknown tribe and a number were killed on both sides. The 
fight took place on Cedar creek, Albion county, Nebraska, in town- 
ship 19, range 8 west of the sixth principal meridian. 

100 THE OMAHA TRIBE [etii ann. 27 

Ezhno'^' zhuwa0he slikoHliaitho^' , "The place where Ezhiio"'zhiiwa- 
gthe was attacked." This battle between a part of the Omaha and 
one of the Sioux tribes was fought in the same year (1840) on Beaver 
creek, in the southeastern part of township 21, range 7 west of the 
sixth principal meridian, Boone county, Nebraska. 

To'^'wo"zld"(ja, The Little Village. This was the name of the 
village built by the Omaha on Elkhom river, near Clark creek, in 
Dodge county, Nebraska, in the spring of 1841, the tribe having 
moved there from the Missouri river on account of attacks by the 
Sioux. There were few earth lodges, as the village was occuj^ied for 
only two years, after which the people went back to their old village 
on Omaha creek, Dakota county, Nebraska. 

Pahu'ihoMaiho^, "The hill rising in the center of a plain." This 
village on Papilion creek, about 8 miles west of the present town 
of Bellevue, was built in 1847. The tribe lived there until they 
sold their lands to the United States Government in 1854; two 
years later they moved to their present reservation some SO miles 

To'^'wo^gaxe shl-oHhaitho", "The place where To°'wo°gaxe was 
attacked." The assault on the Omaha camp here referred to was 
made by the Yankton and Santee on December 12, 1846. At the 
time of the attack the camp, composed mostly of old men, women, 
and children, was on the Missouri river near the northeast corner 
of township 21, range 11 east of the sixth principal meridian, Burt 
county, Nebraska. To^'wo^gaxe, or Village Maker, was the only 
chief present at the time of the attack. From this fact the place 
took its name. All the other chiefs were on a buffalo hunt, with 
most of the men of the tribe, who knew nothing of the attack 
until they returned. More than SO persons were slain. 

U'hoHo^ga t'ethaitho", "Where U'lio^to^ga was killed," in town- 
ship 24, range 17 west of the sixth principal meridian, Loup county, 
Nebraska. U'ho°to°ga, or Big Cook, a prominent Omaha. Mas one 
of the warriors killed in a battle fought at this place with the Oglala 
and other Sioux tribes in 1852. 

Thugina gaxthiitho^, "The place where Thugina (Logan Fonte- 
nelle) was slain." Logan Fontenelle (fig. IS), a promment half 
breed of the Omaha tribe, while hunting alone was killed by the Oglala 
Sioux in the summer of 1855. Tlio Sioux made a charge on the 
Omaha camp when the Omaha were moving. Some of the Sioux war- 
riors came on Logan in a ravine where he had dismounted to pick 
gooseberries. \Mien he discovered the vSioux he sprang on his horse 
and made for the ford to rejoin his tribe, who were on the opposite side 
of the stream, but he was overtaken and killed before he reached the 
ford. This account of his death was given by Kaxe'no"ba, or Two 
Crows, who went in search of Logan immediately after the fight, and 



traced the course of his flight from the gooseberry bush to the spot 
where the body was found. This fight took place on Beaver creek, 
in the northern part of township 21. range 7 west of the sixth prin- 
cipal meridian, Boone county, 

Wano^'lcuge shlcoHha i thn'^ (for 
portrait of Wano°'kuge, see fig. 
44), " Where Wano°'kuge was at- 
tacked." This battle, between a 
part of the Omaha and the Oglala 
Sioux, took place in August, 1859. 
A number of lives were lost m 
the battle, the attacking party of 
Sioux suffering greater loss than 
the Omaha. Two Omaha, a 
woman and a child, were taken 
captive. The child was returned, 
and the woman, after many ad- 

„ . c 11 1, " 1 i Fig. is. Logan Fontenelle. 

ventures, tounil lier way back to 

her people. This fight was on Beaver creek, in township 20, range 6 

west of the sixth principal meridian, Boone county, Nebraska. 

The following names were given by the Omaha to the cities and 
towns named below: 
Pahi' zhide toHoo'^, St. Louis. 

Hair red town (Referring to the color 
of Governor Clark's hair.) 

We'f'a (obe thitha i tho", Leavenworth. 

Snake black they take the (place) 

Umo"'hon to"'wo'^, Omaha City. 

Omaha town 

STiao'"' to'^ioo'', Sioux City. 

Sioux town 

Zho^ mupa'i tho", Fremont. 

Pole they planted the place 

Vzha'ta tho^, Columbus. 

Forks the (of the Platte and the Loup) 

Ni flcithe, Lincoln (Salt town, because situated near the stream 
to which the people went to gather salt). 

Tribes Known to the Omaha 

The following are the Omaha names for the tribes that are known 
to them. 

Of their own linguistic stock they know the following: 

Ponca, Po°''ca. 

Quapaw, Uga'xpa. The name means "downstream." 

Osage, Wazha'zhe. 

Kaw or Kansa, Ko'''5e. 

102 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

Iowa, Ma'xude. Ma'xude is a cDiruption of Ta'xude, meaning "gray head," the 
name by which the Iowa call themselves. 

Oto, Wathu'tada. This is not the name by which the Oto speak of themselves. 
Missouri, Niu'tachi. The name means "those who came floating down dead.'' 
Winnebago, Hu'tu"ga. 
Mandan, Mawa'dani. 

Crows, Ka'xe niashiga (from ka'xe, "crow;" ni'ashiga, "people"). 
Yankton, Iho°'to"wi"." An Omaha version of the Yanktons' own name. 
Santee, I"9o"'ati.'! The name means "those who dwell on the white rocks." 
Oglala, Ubtha'tha." 

Of tribes belonging to other linguistic stocks the Omaha have 
names for the following: 

Pawnee, Pa'thi". 

Arikara, Pa'thi^pi^a. The name means "sand Pawnee." 

Caddo, Pa'thi^wa^abe. This name means "black Pawnee." 

Wichita are known as Wichita. 

Cheyenne, Shahi'etha. 

Blackfeet, (jJi'gabe. The Omaha name means " blackfeet." 

Sauk, Ca'ge. 

'. iMaxpi'ato ("blue clouds"). 

Kiowa I 

Comanche, Pa'du"ka (Padouca). 

Kickapoo, Hi'gabu. 

Potawatomie, Wahi'uthaxa. This name is a corruption of the Oto name for this 
tribe, Woraxa. 

Bannock, Ba'niki. The Omaha name is probably a modification of Bannock. 

Nez Perces, Pega9U"de. This tribe was known through the Ponca. The name 
given them means "braids on the forehead." 

That the Omaha have a name for the Arikara and one which indi- 
cates a knowledge of their relationship to the Pa\\-nee, and yet have 
none for the northern Sioux tribes who belong to their own linguistic 
stock, is an interesting pomt, particularly when taken in connection 
with the influence exercised on the tribe by the Aiikara, mentioned 
on p. 75. There is no name for the Chippewa group, yet it is not 
improbable that the tribes long ago came more or less into contact. 
The similarity between the "Shell society" of the Omaha and the 
"Grand Medicine" of the Chippewa suggests some communication, 
direct or mdirect, though all knowledge of how the Shell society was 
introduced has been lost. Nor do the Omaha seem to know anything of 
the tribes of the Muskhogean or Iroquoian stock to the south and east ; 
nor of those belonging to the Shoshonean and Athapa.scan stocks to 
the west and southwest. They knew of the Rocky Mountams, which 
they called Pahe'mo°shi, meaning " high hills" or " mountains." Yet 
they seem never to have come into contact with the tribes living so far 
to the west. The Black Hills of South Dakota were familiar to them, 
and were known as Pahc'cj'abe, the word meaning literally "black 

aThis is one of the three disUhClive names by which the bands of the Dakota are known. There is a 
general name for all persons speaking that language, Shau"' -possibly a eorruption of Sioux. 


The Ponca names for the above tribes were similar to the Omaha 
names, with few exceptions. The Crows were called by two names, 
Hu'patitha and Ko°xe' wichasha". The names given by Ponca to 
the Yankton and the Santee were identical with those used by the 
Omaha, but they had distinct names for the following bands of Sioux: 

Lower Brule, Ku'dawichasha. Lower people. 
Rosebud Brule, Sha'u"ixti. Real or Pure Sioux. 
Oglala, Pine Ridge Sioux, Sicho"'xu. Burnt leg. 

The Ponca have names for the following tribes for which the 
Omaha have none: 

Cherokee, Che'thuki. Probably a corruption of Cherokee. 
Ni'kathate, Tonkawa. 

It is probable that the Ponca gained knowledge of these two tribes 
while in the Indian Territory, and that their posession of distinctive 
names for the bands of the Sioux is to be accounted for by their 
living near the people and fighting both for and against them during 
the last century. 

Fauna and Flora Known to the Omaha 


Animals (general term), Wani'ta 
[The asterisk (*) indicates those used for food] 

* Antelope, Tachu'ge. 

* Badger, Xu'ga. 
Bat, Dido'shi, 
*Bear, black, Wai^a'be. 

* Bear, grizzly, Mo"chu'. 

* Beaver, Zha'be. 

* Buffalo, Te. 

Cat, domestic, I^gthu^'ga. 
*Cat, wild, I^gthu^'ga. 

* Cattle, domestic, Te'fka. 

* Chipmunk, Tashni'ga. 

Cougar, I "gthu"? i^'fnede (long-tailed cat). 

Coyote, Mi'kafi. 

*Deer, Ta'xti. 

*Dog, Shii'nuda. 

Donkey (see Mule), Nita'to''ga nushiaha (big ears low). 

Elephant, Tiba'xia tha (push over a house — refers to its strength). 

*Elk, 0"'po"'. 

Ermine, I°chu"'ga9ka (white mouse). 

Fox, a small variety, Mo^thi'^'kasheha. 

Fox, gray, Ma'zho"ha. 

Fox, red, Ti'ko^xude. 

Frog, Te'bia. 

Goat, He'<;akiba. 

Gopher, Mo^thi^'ga. 

*Hog, Ku'kufi. 

104 THE OMAHA TRIBE [kth. ann. 27 

Horse, Sho^'ge. 

Lion, Wani'ta waxa (greater animal). 

Lizard, Wagthishka heduba (four-legged bug). 

Lynx, I^gthu^'ga hi" shkube (furry wild cat). 

Mice, I"chu'''ga. 

Mice that live in dry bones, Tepauti {tepa, buffalo skull; utc, to live in). 

Mice that store food, I^chu^'ga waxema (mice that cache). 

Mink, Tushi^'ge. 

Mole, No^be'xawi" (hands turned backward). 

Monkey, Ishti'''thi"ke (a mythical, mischievous, capricious being, representing the 
wind. Because of its acts in the myths its name was transferred to the monkey when 
the Omaha first saw that animal.) 

Mule (see Donkey), Nita to"'ga (big ears). 

*Musk rat, (^i^'nedewagithe. 

* Opossum, I^shti^'pa. 
Otter, Nuzhno°'. 
Porcupine, Ba'hi". 
Prairie dog, Monthi°'xude. 

* Rabbit, Mo^shti^'ge. 

* Rabbit, jack, Mo''shti'"fka (white rabbit). 

* Raccoon, Mika', 

* Rat, I"cho'''to''ga (bigmouse). 

* Sheep, domestic, Tax'tiyka. 

* Sheep, Rocky Mountain, Pashto°'ga. 

* Skunk, Mo^'ga. 
Snail, Niha'. 
Snake, We'g'a. 

Snake, black, We'f'a fabe (black snake). 
Snake, bull, Nitha'xupa (water sucker). 
Snake, garter, We'f 'anideka. 
Snake, moccasin, She'ki. 
Snake, rattle, fathu'. 

* Squirrel, ground, He'xthi". 

* Squirrel, tree, Ci'^ga. 

Toad, Iko°'git'e (his grandmother is dead). 

Tortoise, Ke'gthe^e (striped turtle). 

*Turtle, Ke. 

♦Turtle, diamond-back (terrapin), Keha'mo°zhide (red-breast turtle.) 

* Turtle, snapping, Ke' to"ga (big turtle). 

* Turtle, soft -shell, Ke ha'be bedo° (flexible-shell turtle). 
Weasel, I'"chu°gafi (yellow mouse). 

Wolf, gray, Sho°'to°ga. 


, Bird (general term), Wazhi'"ga 

[The asterisk (*) indicates tiiose used for food] 

American bittern, Mo°'xata wado°be (looks up at the sky). 

* Bee martin, or king bird, Wati'duka. 
Belted kingfisher, No°xi'de shkuni". 

* Blackbird, Mo°gthi'xta. 
Blue-bird, Wazhio'tu (blue bird). 

Blue jay, I^cho^g^agiudu" (,fond of mice). 

* Crane, Pe'to". 


Crow, Ka'xe. 

* Curlew, Ki'ko°fi. 

* Curlew, long-billed (Numenius longirostris), Ki'kato°ga (big curlew). 

* Dove, Thi'ta. 

*Dove, Carolina or common, Thitato"ga (big dove). 

*Duck, Mi'xazhi"ga (little goose). 

Duck, blue- winged teal (Querquediila discors), A'hi" hide tu, (,blue wing); also 
Mi'xa wagtho"xe, ' ' betrayer duck, " so called because it betrayed the water monster in 
the myth of Ha'xegi. 

*Duck, mallard, green head (Anas boschas), Pa'hitu (green neck). 

* Duck, wood, summer duck, bridal duck (Aix spousa), Mi'xa zhi^ga xage egu" ("the 
crjdng duck). 

Eagle, Xitha'. 

Eagle, bald, Pafu"' (whitish head). 

Eagle, golden (-45!/i;7ac/irvsac;jis), Xitha' fka (white eagle). 

Eagle, gray sea, Xitha' gthezhe (spotted eagle). 

Flicker, Tho^'figa. 

* Goose, Mi'xa. 

* Goose, American white-footed, Canadian goose, Mi'.xa to"ga (big goose). 

* Goose, lesser snow (Chen hyperborea), Kicynu"'. 
Gull, Ne'tha. 

Hawk, American sparrow, Gthedo"'. 

Hawk, night, Te'ubixo" (the buffalo inflator). 

Hawk, red shoulder, Gtho"shka'. 

Hawk, red tail, I"'be(;iga (yellow tail). 

Hawk, swallow-tailed or fork-tailed kite, I "'be zho^ka (forked tail). 

Hawk, white tail, Gtho°shka' xithaego° (hawk like an eagle). 

Humming bird, Wati'ninika wazhi"ga (butterfly bird). 

* Lark, pallid horned, Ma'yi fka. 

Magpie, American, Wazhi"'be ^nede (long-tail bird). 

* Meadow lark, Ta'tithi^ge. 
Owl, Pa'nuhu. 

Owl, barred, Wapu'gahahada. 

Owl, horned, Pa'nuhu heto" ego° (owl having horns). 

Owl, screech, Ne' thazhibe. 

Owl, snowy, I'^chu^fu" (now white). 

Pelican, American white, Bthe'xe. 

* Prairie hen or chicken lesser, Shu. 

* Quail (bobwhite), U'shiwathe (one who fools (people)). 

* Robin, Pa'thi" wazhi'^ga (Pawnee bird). 

* Snipe, To°'i". 
Swallow, Nishku'shku. 

*Swan, American white, Mi'xaco" (white goose). 
Thrush, Tavka'fka. 

* Turkey, fifi'ka. 
Turkey vulture, He'ga. 
Whippoorwill, Ha'kugthi. 

* Woodcock, American (Philohela minor), Pa'xthega (freckled head). 
Woodpecker, hairy, Zho"'panini. 

Woodpecker, pileated, ivory bill, Wazhi°'gapa (.bird head)." 
Woodpecker, red-headed, Tu'cka or Mu'xpa. 
Wren, Kixaxaja (laughing bird). 

o The head of this bird Is used on the tribal and the Wa'wan pipes. 

106 THE OMAHA TKIBE [bth. ann. 27 


Insects, bugs, etc. (general term), Wagthi'shka 

Anta, Zho"'gthishka (wooc! liugs — no varieties distinguished). 
Bee, Kigtho^'xe. 

Beetle, Wagthi'shka (the general name for bugs). 
Butterfly, Wati'nini ka. 

Caterpillar, Wagthi'shka (general term for bugs). 
Fly, nc't'ega. 

Grasshopper, Xtho"xtho"'shka. 
Lightning-bug, Wana'xo"xo". 
Locust, Watha'fae (noisy bug). 
Mosquito, Naho"ga. 

Spider, Uki'gthifke (weaving itself — no name for varieties). 

Worm, angle, Mo^thi^'ka shibe (ground intestine). No general term for worms; all 
are called Wagthi'shka, the name applied also to beetles and bugs. 


Fish (general term\ Huhu 

[The asterisk (*) indicates those used for tood] 

* Buffalo fish, Hui'buta (round mouth). 
Catfish, Tu'(,-e. 

Crawfish and lobster, Mo"'shka. 

Eels, no name; they are not eaten. 

*Garflsh, Hupa'ficnede (long-nose fish). 

Leech, Kicna'. 

Mussels, clams, oysters, Ti'haba. 

* Pickerel, Hugthe'zhe (spotted fish I . 

* Trout, Hubthu'ga (round fishi. 


Tree, or bush (general term), Xtha'be; wood, felled trees (general term), Zho". The 
names below are given according to their customary use. The terminal syllable hi 
means "stalk," as the stalk of the corn, the trunk of the tree, tile vine of the potato. 

Apple tree, She' hi. 

Ash, Tazhiio"'ge. 

Box elder, Zha'beta zho" (beaver wood). 

Buffalo berry tree, Wazhi'de hi. 

Cedar, red, Ma'fi. 

Cherry tree, No"'pa hi. 

Coffee-bean tree, No"'lila hi. 

Cottonwood, Mah'ah. 

Elm, E'zho". 

Ilackberry tree, Gube' hi. 

Hazel, O^'zhi^ga hi. 

Hickory, No"'9i. 

Iron wood, He'tazho''ta. 

Linden, Hi"'de hi. 

Maple, We'nashaliethe hi (black dye tree). 

Mulberry, Zho"9i, (yellow wood). * 

Oak, red, Bu'de hi, and No" bo" naxthi", "flame" (favorite firewood). 


Oak, white, Tosh'kahi, 

Osage orange, Zho"vi (yellow wood). 

Plum tree, Ko"'de hi. 

Red haw, thorn apple tree, Ta?po"' hi. 

Spruce, Ma'fi. 

Walnut, black, Ta'ge hi. 

Willow, Thi'xe. 

Willow, diamond, Thi'xe kibtho"btho''xe (gnarled willow). 

Willow, hard, Thi'xe fagi (hard willow). 

Willow, soft, Thi'xe uehpo" (soft willow). 

The Human Body as Known to thj: Omaha 

Head (not including face), No°shki'. 

Head (including face). Pa. 

Brain, We'thisthi. 

Side of head from ear up, No^tha'de. 

Ear, Nita'. 

Helix, Nitabaxu'ke (baxu'ke, ridge). 

Lobe, Nitaushto°'ga (us}ito''>^(/a, soft). 

Ear (inner part or organ of hearing), No°xi'de. 

Top of head, Taxpi'. 

Back of head, Tai'. 

Face, I"de'. 

Forehead, Pe. 

Temples, No"tha'deho''ho° {honhon, to throb). 

Center of forehead, Peuta'no" {utano^, between). 

Eyebrow, I°shta'no°xixe. 

Depression lietween eyebrows, Pau'(,'ki(la. 

Eye, I"shta. 

White of the eye, Inshta'u^ka the". 

Pupil, Pshta' usha betho". 

Socket, I''shta'ugtho'> (agtho^, to put into a hollow place). 

Eyelid, Pshta'ha {ha, skin). 

Upper lid, I°shta'ha igabizhe {Igabizhe, to wink with). 

Eyelashes, I'-shta'thehi". 

Hair of head (human), No^zhi'ha or Palii'. 

Hair on forehead, Pehi"'. 

Hair on body (human or animal), Hi°. 

Nose, Pa. 

Bridge of nose, Paxi'xe. 

Tip of nose, Pashi'zhe. 

Nostril-J, Pa'xthuge (xtliuge, hole). 

Wing of nose, Pauga'dazhe (urja'dazhe, base). 

Septum, Paushto^'ga {shto'n^ga, soft). 

Cheek, The'xoMe. 

Cheekbone, I^de'no^hi". 

Mouth, I. 

Lips, I'ha. 

Corners of mouth, I'thede. 

Jaw, The'ba. 

Joint of jaw, The'baugthe. 

108 THE OMAHA TBIBE [bth. ann. 27 

Teeth, Hi. 

Molars, Hiu'to^ga. 

Gums, Hizhu'. 

Tongue, The'(;e. 

Tip of tongue, Thege'pavi (pacj', tip). 

Base of tongue, There'hide (}iide, base). 

Ridge above teeth and roof of mouth, Ko"btha'de. 

Chin, I'lii. 

Double chin, The'bazhu. 

Neck, Pa'hi. 

Chords at side of neck, Nu'deko". 

Hollow at base of neck in front, The'shkaxthuah. 

Two clionls at the back of neck, Tai'ko". 

Hollow at nape of neck, Taiu'gthe. 

Throat, Nu'de. 

Adam's apple, Nu'de tashe {tashe, lump). 

Windpipe, Nu'dexixibe. 

Pharynx, VVe'no°bthe. 

Body, Zhu'ga. 

Breast, Mo^'ge. 

Mamma, Mo^ge'. 

Nipples, Mo°5e'pa. 

Collar bone, Mtf^ge wahi {manage, breast; icahl, bone). , 

Sternum, Temo^hin. 

Ribs, Thi'ti. 

Short ribs, Thi'tiusha'gthe. 

Epigastric region, Mo^hi°'be. 

Lumbar region, Thie. 

Hypogastric region, Tapu' or Washna'. 

Umbilical region, Ni'xa. 

Navel, The'tasho". 

Waist, Te'ge. 

Spine, No'^xahi. 

Coccyx, ^i'^de ita (ri'^'de, tail; ita, end). 

Back, Noo'ka. 

Muscles on side of spine, lower end, Taki^^de. 

Sinew beneath these muscles, Teno'^kako". 

Fleshy bunch on back below neck, A'baku. 

Shoulder, Pke'de. 

Shoulder blade, Waba'fo". 

Arm, A. 

Upper arm, Auto^ga {uto^'ga, large part). 

Lower arm, Au'gni. 

Muscles on front of upper arm, A'ko"ta. 

Muscles on back upper arm, A'zhuhi. 

Armpit, Nugi'. 

Elbow, A(;tu'hi. 

Wri.Mt, No''be'usho''sho'' (unlio^sho'^, pliable). 

Hand, No"be'. 

Palm of hand, No^be'ttthoMa (iithoi^da, center). 

Fingers, No''be'hi or U(;a'be. ■ 

Thumb, No^be'hi uto°ga {uto^ga, big). 

Index finger, No°be'hi weabagu (weabai;u, to point with). 


Middle finger, No''be'hiuthii,'0" {nllieron, middle). 

Finger next to little one, No^be'lii uzhi°ga iithuato" {utlaiatoT^, next to one). 

Little finger, No"be'hi uzhi''ga (uzhi^ga, little). 

Tip of finger, No^be'hi itaxe. 

Nails, Sha'ge. The same word is applied to claws and hoofs. 

Knuckles, Xo''be'usho°sho"'. 

Contents of body, the internal organs, U'gaxectha. 

Heart, No^de. 

Lungs, Tha'xi. 

Liver, Pi. 

Gall, Pizi'. 

Kidney, Tea'(,'o°ta9i. 

Bladder, Ise'xe. 

Intestines, Shi'be. 

Small intestine, Shi'be uzhi"ga. 

Large intestine, Shi'be uto^ga. 

Layer of fat covering stomach and internal organs, Hu'xthabe. 

Groin, Iti'washko". 

Hips, (,'iMe'hi. 

Hij) joint, Zhega'ugthe; also U'gaho", where the cut is made in Imtchering. 

Body between hip joint and ril^s, "ticklish place," Shtashta'de. 

Legs, Zhi'be or Hi. 

tipper leg, thigh, Zhega'uto"ga. 

Inner, flat part of thigh, Ke'go". 

Upper part of thigh, (,'ii;u'- 

Flat part of thigh near buttock, Zhega' ubthacka. 

Buttock, Ni'de. 

Knee, whole of knee, Shino""de. 

Kneejoint, Hiu'kite. 

Kneecap, Shino^'dewashko". 

End of fibula, Hia'xte. 

Shin, No^'xpehi. 

Calf of leg, Hiuga'gi. 

Ankles, (.'iko"'. 

Ankle bones, (^'ita'xe. 

Feet, gi. 

Soles, Qiha'to". 

Instep, top, Qiu'no^xixe. 

Instep, hollow below, (^'iu'no^fkida. 

Tendon achilles, Hi'ko". 

Heel, githe'de. 

Toes, Qipa'hi. 

Great toe, (^'ipa'hi uto^ga. 

Next (second) toe, (^'ipa'hi uto^ga uthuato" (wiAito/o", next to). 

Middle toe, fipa'hi uthifo" (iilhiro'", middle). 

Next toe, gipa'hi uazhi°ga uthuato". 

Little toe, (Jipa'hi uzhi'^a (uzhi''ga, little). 

Bones, Wahi'. 

Skin, Ha or Xi°ha'. 

Marrow, Wazhi'be. 

Veins, Ko". 

Skull devoid of flesh, Ni'kapa. 

110 THE OMAHA TRIBE Ikth. axx. 27 

Miscellaneous Terms Used hy the Omaha 


Sky, Mo^'xe. 

Sun, Mi. 

Moon, Nio^'ba. 

Stars, Mika'e. 

North Star, Mika'emo''thi°azhi (inikae, star; moHhiT>, walk or move; a:li!, not). 

Pleiades. This constellation bore the ancient name of Tapa' (deer's head), but 
this term, which had a religious significance, was not commonly used, the popular 
name being Mixa9i'zhi''ga (little duck's foot). 

Oreat Bear, Wa'baha, the litter. 

The Morning or Evening Star, Mika'eto°ga (big star). • 

Meteor, Mika'e uxpathe (stars fall) . 

Clouds, Mo"xpi'. 

Rain, No-zhi"". 

Mist, Shu'de mo"ho" (smoke on the earth). 

Hail, Ma'yi. 

Snow, Ma. 

Thunder, I''gthu°'huto" {hntut, to cry; >'''gthun implies the idea of a c-reatnre simi- 
lar to a bird). 

Lightning, Thio^'ba. 

Rainbow, Tushni'ge. 

Light, Ugo'-'ba. 

Darkness, LTga'ho''no"pa(;e. 

Night, Ho". 

Day, O'^'ba. 

Dawn, O^'ba go^tihe (day lies pale). 

Morning, Ho''e'go''che. 

Noon, Mi'thumo'^shi (sun high). 

Dusk, I°de'ho°no''pa(;e (face hidden in darkness). 

Evening, Pa'(;e. 

Water, Ni. 

Ice, Nu'xe. 

AVind, Tade'. 

Fire, Pe'de. 

Smoke, Shu'de. 

Charcoal, No°xthe'. 

A.shes, Mo"xu'de (gray earth). 

Heat, Na'kade. 

Cold, U'cni. 

Earth, To-^'de. 

Land, Mo^zho". 

Lake, Ne'uthesho". 

River, Ni. 

Creek, W'achi'shka. 


Sweet, (.'ki'the. 

Salt, 1 

Sour, } (;'a'the. 


Stringent, T'u'xe. 


Bitter, Pa. 

Taste of nuts, I 

Taste of fat, | ' ° ''®- 

Salt, the article, Ni(,-ki'the (sweet water). 


White, gka. 

Pale, go". 

Black, ga'be. 

Green, Tu. 

Blue, Tu ^a'be. 

Yellow, (,'i- 

Red, Zhi'de. 

Gray or Browc, Xu'de. 


North, Ugni'atathisho" (ugni, cold; (da, there; thisho't, toward) — toward the cold. 

East, Miuia'tathisho" {mi, sun; ui, it comes; ata, there; thkhon, toward) — toward 
the comino; of the sun. 

South, JIo"shtea'tathisho° {mo'^shtf, heat; ala, there; Ihishon, toward) — toward 
the heat. 

West, Mi'itheatathisho" (mi, sun; ithe, gone; atu, there; ihisho^, toward) — toward 
where the sun has gone. 

Up (as when the pipes are pointed upward), Mo'^xata (mo'^xa, sky; ta, ata, there). 

Down (as when the pipes are pointed downward), To^'deata {la^de, earth; ata, 


January, Ho^'ga unuibthi ike: When the .snow drifts into the tents of the Ho^'ga. 

February, Mi'xa agthi ike: The moon when geese come home (come back). 

March, Pe'ni.shka mieta ike: The little frog moon. 

April, Miu'o"thi°ge ke: The moon in which nothing hai)pens. 

May, Mi waa' ike: The moon in which they (the tribe) plant. 

June, Tenu'gamigauna ike: The buffalo bulls hunt the cows. 

July, Tehu'ta" ibe: When the buffalo bellow. 

August, U°'po"huta"' ike: When the elk bellow. 

September, Ta'xte n)a''no''xa ike: When the deer paw the earth. 

October, Ta'xti kitliixa ike: When the deer rut. 

November, Ta'xte hebaxo"' ike: When the deer shed the antlers. 

December, Wara'be zhi"ga i'da ike: When the little black bears are born. 

The Oto and Iowa tribes use the same names for the months except for January, 
which is called "the raccoon month." 

The general name for month was " a moon." 

The night, or sleeping time, marked the division of days, so a journey might be 
spoken of as having taken so many " sleeps." In like manner the year was spoken 
of as "a winter." The sun indicated the time of day: Sunrise, mi'etho"be {mi, sun; 
etho^he, to come out); sunset, mi'ethe (mi, sun; ithe, gone). A motion toward the 
zenith meant noon (mi'tho" mo°shi — /"), sun; tlion, round; monshi, on high); mid- 
way between the zenith and the west, afternoon; and midway toward the east, 
forenoon. There were no smaller divisions of time among the Omaha. 

112 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 


The storm which usually precedes the coming of the new moon was called 
Mia'no°xthe, "the hiding of the moon " (the act of the storm)- 

Early in the month of February there is usually a severe storm, often a blizzard. 
This storm was called Mi'xa ikino"xthe agthi ike, "the geese come home hidden 
by the storm."- It is said that soon after this storm a few geese are seen, which are 
shortly followed by the flocks. 

A ring around the moon is a sign of rain. 

When the horns of the moon are turned upward, it i.s a sign that cold weather is 

When tlie fireflies swarm it will rain during the night. 

When birds sing in the early morning the day will be clear. 

A mist in the morning portends a hot day. 

After a long rain, when the horses prick up their ears and play, it is known that 
the rain is over. 

White spots on the nails betoken the approach of spring. If they come in sum- 
mer it is because summer is here; if in winter, they indicate that spring will surely 
come, no matter how long or cold the season. 

To break a moccasin string is a sign that summer is coming. 

Summary ' 

From the evidence afforded by the native names of animals and 
trees it would seem that the physical environment of the Omaha has 
not greatlj' varied in the course of the last few centuries; during 
that period the tribe does not appear to have experienced conditions 
that prevail in the extreme north or far to the southward, or that 
are peculiar to the region west of the Rock}' Mountams. Tliis seem- 
ingly persistent character of the Omaha surroundings made possible 
the development of the tribe along lines that led to substantial rather 
than to striking results. 

During this period both the peaceful and the warlike relations of 
the Omaha were for the most part with tribes to which they were 
more or less closely related linguistically, tribes which presumably 
had many ideas and customs in common. There was, therefore, little 
in this contact likely to deflect the Omaha from their natural course 
of development. To this, however, their relations with the Ai'ikara 
constituted an exception. This tribe belongs to the Caddoan, a 
southwestern stock, different from the Omaha in mental character- 
istics and in culture. From the Aiikara the Omaha adopted the 
use of the earth lodge ; it may be that contact with this tribe stimu- 
lated a general revival of the cultivation of the maize; and the 
knowledge of the Wawa° ceremony was probably derived from the 
same source. While the Arikara exercised on the Omaha a somewhat 
stimulating influence, the contact does not seem to have had any 
vital effect on the development of tlie latter's tribal organization and 


The character of the environmental conditions noted above seems 
reflected in the Sacred Legend, which preserves m fragmentary form 
the stor}' of the people. The value of this Legend is psychic rather 
than historic, for little is told in it that is definite as to movements or 
localities; it is singularly free from the mythic element; it contains 
no marvels, but reveals the mental atmosphere through which the 
people beheld their past achievements, and constitutes a narrative 
remarkably true to what seems to be the Omaha character, religious, 
thoughtful, and practical rather than imaginative and emotional. 

The Omaha depended on their powers of observation and thought 
as the means by which they could better the conditions of their daily 
life and, as will be seen later, they utilized their observation of nature 
in forming their ethical code. The character of the people is indi- 
cated m their names for living forms and for natural phenomena ; 
these show how the Omaha looked on their environment and differ- 
entiated what they saw ami experienced. The influence of hunting is 
detected in the familiarity displayed with the anatomy of the larger 
animals, a knowledge which, as has been seen, the Omaha applied to 
the human form. Some of the terms, as those designating parts of 
the human face, the corners of the mouth, the depression on the fore- 
head, indicate close observation. In color perception the Omaha 
seem to be of somewhat limited capacit}', as is true also of the sensa- 
tion of taste, but there is a noteworthy appreciation of the gradation 
of light ill the coming and the going of the day- The names of the 
months and of the pomts of the compass are not fanciful or sym- 
bolic but express the results of practical observations or experiences. 
All the names bear out the sober-minded, self-contained character 
indicated in the Sacred Legend and add to its value in helping 
toward an understanding of the tribe. 

The map of the Omaha country fpl. 21) presents the region with 
which the people have been familiar from the sixteenth century to 
the present, and such historic data have been given as may throw 
light on the movements of the tribe during that period. The steady 
westward advance of the white settlements from their begumings on 
the Atlantic coast, together with the consequent contentions with 
the tribes native to that region, pressed the eastern tribes back on 
their western neighbors, creating disturbances whose effects traveled 
westward and were felt by all the people dwelling on and beyond the 
Lakes and the Mississippi, forcing many tribes through influences 
they did not understand or recognize to move westward. The 
Omaha could not escape the effect of this general disturbance, 
although they did not become embroiled in wars between the Indians 
and the white people dwelling to the eastward of them. 

83993°— 27 eth— 11 8 

114 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

The Omalia did not come into contact with the white people as 
early as did some of their cognates. They do not seem to have felt 
the influence of the Spanish from the southwest, altliough late indi- 
rect effects were transmitted through the Comanche and the Pawnee. 
French influence did not reach the Omaha from the south, but came 
from the north through Canadian traders. The French were the 
first white men to l>ecome personally known to the Omaha, but they 
did not reach the tribe until well into the eighteenth century. The 
Enghsh followed the French and exerted a more powerful and dis- 
turbing influence on the social life of the people. Fmally the Ameri- 
can came and remained. 

A general view of the Omaha environment during recent centuries 
makes apparent certain limitations, and it can hardly be questioned 
that these limitations must have exercised an influence not only on 
the direction but also on the manner in which the people evolved 
their social and religious life. Indeed the Omaha seem to have been 
exempt to a remarkable degree from strong foreign control and to 
have developed their tribal organization in comparative isolation. 
Consecpiently they were able to preserve their type, a circumstance 
which adds to the value and interest of the tribe as a study. 


Introduction of the Omaha Child to the Cosmos 

When a child was born it was not regardetl as a member of its gens 
or of the tribe but simply as a living being coming forth into the 
universe, whose advent must be ceremonially announced in order to 
assure it an accepted place among the already existing forms. This 
ceremonial announcement took the form of an expression of the 
Omaha belief in the oneness of the universe through the bond of a 
common life-power that pervaded all things in nature animate and 

Although in the Te(;'i°'de and l"shta'9u°da gentes the custom sur- 
vived of placing on the child, the fourth day after birth, certain sym- 
bols pertaining to the peculiar rites of those gentes, these acts did not 
serve the purpose of introducing the child into the teeming life of the 
universe. This ceremony of introduction took place on the eighth day 
after birth. Unfortunately the full details of the ceremony have been 
lost through the death of the priests who had charge of it. The 
hereditary right to perform the ceremony belonged in the Washe'to" 
subgens of the I^shta'^u^da gens. (See meaning of the term Washe'- 
to'^, p. 186.) 

On the appointed day the priest was sent for. When he arrived 
he took his place at the door of the tent in which the child lay and 
raising his right hand to the sky, palm outward, he intoned the 
following in a loud, ringing voice: 

Ho! Ye Sun, Moon, Stars, all ye that move in the heavens, 

I bid you hear me! 
Into your midst has come a new life. 

Consent ye, I implore! 
Make its path smooth, that it may reach the brow of the first hill! 

Ho! Ye Winds, ("louds. Rain, Mist, all ye that move in the air, 

I bid you hear me! 
Into your midst has come a new life. 

Consent ye, I inii)lore! 
Make its path smooth, that it may reach the brow of the second hill! 

Ho! Ye Hills, Valleys, Rivers, Lakes, Trees, Grasses, all ye of the earth, 
I bid you hear me! 


116 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

lulu your midst has conii' u new lift-. 

Consent ye, I implore! 
Make its path smooth, that it may reach the brow of the third hill! 
Ho! Ye Birds, great and small, that fly in the air, 
Ho! Ye Animals, great and small, that dwell in the forest. 
Ho! Ye insects that creej) among the grasses and burrow in Ihe ground — 

I bid )'ou hear me! 
Into your midst has come a new life. 

Consent ye, I implore! 
Make its path smooth, that it may reach the brow of the fourth hill! 

Ho! All ye of the heavens, all ye of the air, all ye of the earth: 

I bid you all to hear me! 
Into your midst has come a new life. ' 

Consent ye, consent ye all, I implore! 
Make its path smooth— then shall it travel beyond the four hills! 

This ritual was a supplication to the powers of the lieavens, the 
air, and the earth for the safety of the child from birth to old age. 
In it the life of the infant is pictured as about to travel a rugged 
road stretching over four hills, marking the stages of infancy, youth, 
manhood, and oUl age. 

The ceremony wliich finds oral expression in this ritual voices in 
no uncertain manner the Omaha belief in man's relation to the 
visible powers of the heavens and in the interdependence of all 
forms of life. The appeal bears evidence of its anticjuity, breathing 
of a time antedating established rites and ceremonies. It expresses 
the emotions of the human soul, touched with the love of offspring, 
alone with the might of nature, and companioned only by the living 
creatures whose friendliness must be sought if life is to be secure on 
its journey. 

The cognate tribes" had ceremonies similar in purport although 
differing in details. Among the Omaha no further ceremony took 
place in reference to the child in its relation to the cosmos, to its 
gens, or to the tribe, imtil it was able to walk. When the period 
arrived at which the child could walk steadily by itself, the time 
was at hand when it must be introtluced into the tribe. This was 
done ceremonially. 

oAmong the Osage, on the birth of a child "a man who had talked with the gnds" was sent for. On 
his arrival he recited to the infant the story of the Creation and of the animals that move on Ihe earth. 
Then, after placing the tip of his finger on the mother's nipple, he pressed that finger on the lips of the 
child, after which he passed his hands over the boily of the child. ■*l'hen the infant was allowed to take 
nourishment. Later, when the child desired to drink water the same or a like man was sent for. .\gain 
the ritual of the Creation was recited, and the beginning of water was told. The man then dipped Ihe 
tip of his finger into water and laid it on the lips of the child and passed his hands over its body from 
head to foot, .\fter this ceremony the child could be given water to drink. \\'hen the child reached 
the age when it needed or desired solid food . the same man or one of his class was again sent for. Once 
more the Creation story was recited and the gift of corn and other food was recounted. .\t the close the 
man placed the tip of his finger upon the food prepared for the child and then laid this finger on the lips 
of the child, after which he passed his hands over its botiy. This ceremony prepared Ihe child to receive 
solid food. Fees were given to the man who perfornied these rites. 

fletcher-la fleschel rites pertaining to the individual 117 

Introduction of the Child into the Tribe 
ceremony of turning the child 

The name of this ceremony was Thiku'wi^xe {fM, a prefix inch- 
eating action by the hand; Icu'ioi^xe, "to turn"). Akhough the child 
is not mentioned, it is understoed as being referred to. The trans- 
lation of the term, therefore, would be "turning the child." 

All children, both boys and girls, passed through this ceremony, 
which is a survival of that class of ceremonies belonging to the 
lowest, or oldest, stratum of tribal rites; it is directly related to the 
cosmic forces — the wind, the eartli, and the fire. Through this cere- 
mony all the children who had reached the period when they could 
move about unaided, could direct their own steps, were symbolically 
"sent into the midst of the winds" — that element essential to life 
and health; their feet were set upon the stone — emblem of long life 
upon the earth and of the wisdom derived from age; while the 
"flames," typical of the life-giving power, were invoked to give their 
aid toward insuring the capacity for a long, fruitful, and successful 
life within the tribe. Througli this ceremony the child passed out of 
that stage in its life wherein it was hardly distinguished from all 
other living forms into its place as distinctively a human being, 
a member of its birth gens, and through this to a recognized place in 
the tribe. As it went forth its baby name was thrown away, its feet 
were clad in new moccasins made after the manner of the tribe, and 
its ni'l-ie name (see p. 136) was proclaimed to all nature and to the 
assembled people. 

The significance of the new moccasins put on the child will appear 
more clearly by the light of the following custom, still observed in 
families in wliich all the old traditions of the tribe are conserved: 
When moccasins are made for a little baby, a small hole is cut in 
the sole of one. This is done in order that "if a messenger from the 
spirit world should come and say to the child, 'I have come for you,' 
the child could answer, 'I can not go on a journey — my moccasins 
are worn out!'" A similar custom obtains in the Oto tribe. A 
little hole is cut in the first pair of moccasins matie for a child. When 
the relatives come to see the little one they examine the moccasins, 
and, seeing the hole, they say: "Why, he (or she) has worn out his 
moccasins; he has traveled over the earth!" This is an indirect 
prayer that the child may live long. The new (whole) moccasins put 
on the child at the close of the ceremony of introducing it into the 
tribe constitute an assurance that it is prepared for the journey of 
life and that the journey will be a long one. 

The ceremony of Turning the Child took place in the spring- 
time, after the first thunders had been heard. When the grass was 

118 THE OMAHA TKIBE [eth. ann. 1:7 

well up ami the birds were singui";, "'particularly the meadow lark," 
the tribal herald proclaimed that the time for these ceremonies had 
come. A tent was set up for the purpose, made xuhe, or sacred, 
and the keeper of these rites, who belonged to the Washe'to" subgens 
of the I°shta'vu°da gens, made himself ready and entered the tent. 
Meanwhile the jjarents whose children had arrived at the proper 
age, that is, could walk steadily una.ssisted, took their little ones 
and proceeded to the Sacred Tent. The only requisite for the child 
was a pair of new moccasins, but large fees were given to the priest 
for his services. 

Onh' ])arts of the ritual belonging to this ceremony have been 
obtained. Those whose prerogative it was to conduct the rites are all 
dead, and with them knowledge of much of the ceremony passed 
away. The j^reservation of the fragments here given came about thus : 
An old and trusted friend of Joseph La Flesche, a former principal 
chief of the tribe, was greatly interested when a boy, in the tribal 
rites. One of his near kixismen was a priest of this rite. When the 
Sacred Tent was set up this boy more than once succeeded in secreting 
himself behind packs within and from his hiding jilace was able 
to observe what took place. Having a retentive memory and a 
quick ear for song, he was able to learn and remember the six songs 
here given. Subsecjuent inquiries have added somewhat to the 
knowledge secured from this informant, although, so far as the 
WTiters have been able to ascertain, no "one seems ever to have 
obtained cjuite so close an inside view of the entire ceremony as this 
inquisitive bo\-. Of course no one who had passed through the cere- 
mony could accurateh' remember it, as the child was generally only 
3 or 4 years of age at the time it had a part in the rite. 

The tent was always a large one, set facing the east, and open at the 
entrance, so that the bj-standers, who kept at a respectful distance, 
could see something of what was going on within. As the ceremony 
was one of tribal interest , man}' flocked to the Sacred Tent to watch the 
proceedings. In the center was a fke. On the east of the fire was 
placed a stone. There was also a ball of grass, placed at the west of 
the fire-place near its edge. It was the mother who led the child to the 
tent. At the door she paused, and addressed the priest within, saying: 
"Venerable man! I desire my child to wear moccasins." Then she 
dropped the hand of the child, and the little one, carrying his new moc- 
casins, entered the tent alone. Hewasmet by the priest, who advanced 
to the door to receive the gifts brought by the mother as fees. Here 
she again addressed him, saying: " I desire my child to walk long upon 
the earth; I desire him to be content with the light of many days. 
We seek your protection; we hold to 3'ou for strength." The priest 
replied, addressing the child: "You shall reach the fourth hill sighmg; 
you shall be bowed over; you shall have wrinkles: your staft" siuvU 



bend under your weight. I speak to j'ou that you may be strong." 
La^ying his hand on the shoulder of the child, he added: "What you 
have brought me shall not be lost to you; you shall live long and en- 
joy many possessions; your eyes shall be satisfied with many good 
things." Then, moving with the child toward the fireplace in the 
center of the lodge, and speaking in the capacity of the Thunder, 
whose priest he was, he uttered these words: " I am a powerful being; 
I breathe from my lips over you." Then he began to sing the 
Invocation addressed to the Winds: 


* * »^= 

--j= 1-; f 

■#• ••■■•• ■•• 



Du - ba ha 

no° - zbi° ga 

She - uo" - zhi° 


She no"- zhi° ga. 

Duba ha ti no"zhi" ga she iio^zhi" go 
Duba ha ti no^zhi" ga 
She no^zhi" ga! She no"zhi"' ga 
I- I" 

Literal translation: Duba, iour; /m signifies that the number four 
refers to groups; ti, from ati, come ye; no'^zhi^, stand; a, from iga, 
word of command given to a number; she, from shetlvu, a definite 
place near b}-; ga, a command, and end of the sentence; /", the rollmg 
thunder. The "four" refers to the four winds, to which the invoca- 
tion is addressed by the Thunder priest. 

Fri'e translation 

Ye four, come hither and stand, near shall ye stand 

In four groups shall ye stand 

Here shall ye stand, in this place stand 

(The Thunder rolls) 

The music of this invocation is in the five-toned scale. The voice 
dwells on the words <i, "come," and she, "nearin this place." The roll 
of the Thunder is given in the relative minor. 

At the close of this ritual song the priest faces the child to the 
east, lifting it by the shoulders; its feet are allowed to' rest upon 
the stone. lie then turns the child completely aroimd, from left to 
right. If by any chance the child shoiild struggle or move so as to 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

turn from right to left the onlookers set up a ciy of alann. It was 
considered very disastrous to turn ever so little in the wrong way, so 
the priest was most careful to prevent any accident. When the child 
had been turned, its feet rested on the stone as it faced the south. 
The priest then lifted it by the arms, turned it, and set its feet on the 
stone as it faced the west; then he again lifted the child, turned it, 
and set its feet on the stone as it faced the north. Lastly the child 
was lifted to its feet and placed on the stone as it again faced the east. 
During this action the following ritual song was sung: 

She ga ku - wi° 

ki-the tha 

She ga-ku - wi" 


— • — 0~ — • — •— ' — • — 0-^ 

1 » »• ' K 1 

— 1 1 b — 1 

— w— ^ b_J 1 

xe a - ki - the tha 

Ea- xu du 

bu ha 


ta-de du. 

-t 0-^ — t •- 


ba ha te 

Ta-de ba - 50° the a - ki-the tha 


Ta - de 


ba ha 


• She gakuwi"xe akithe tha 
She gakuwi"xe akithe tha 
Baxu duba ha te tade duba ha te 
Tade bai/o" the akithe tha 
Tade duba ha te 

Literal translation : She, from shethi", going yonder, implies a person 
speaking ; ga, to strike by the wind ; huwi^xe, to whirl ; tJia, oratorical 
end of the sentence; haxit, ridge or hill; <?«&«, four; ha, groups; 
te, descriptive suffix indicating standing; hafo'^, in the miilst; the, 
goes (third person); akithe, I cause him; tha, end of sentence; tade, 
winds; duha, four; ha, groups; te, standing; /", rolling of the 


Free translation 

Turned by the winds goes the one I send yonder; 
Yonder he goes who is whirled by the winds; 
Goes, where the four hills of life and the four winds are standing; 
There, in the midst of the winds do I send him, 
Into the midst of the winds, standing there. 
(The Thunder rolls) 

The winds invoked by the priest stand in four groups, and receive 
the child, which is whirled by them, and by them enabled "to 


face in every direction." This action symbolizes that the winds 
will come and strengthen him as hereafter he shall traverse the earth 
and meet the vicissitudes he must encounter as he passes over the 
four hills and completes the circuit of a long life. It was believed 
that this ceremony exercised a marked influence on the child, and 
enabled it to grow in strength and in the ability to practise self- 

The priest now put the new moccasins on the feet of the child, as 
the following ritual song was sung. Toward its close the child was 
lifted, set on its feet, and made to take four steps typical of its entrance 
into a long life. 

M If (Slin g in octa ves) ^^ ^^ ^^ ^^ 

She thu te tlio° i e wi°- tha ke She-thii te tho° i - e wi"- tha ke 


He de wi°-tha ke no°-zlii°-ga I ■ e te wi°-tha-ke 

'^— » — P P • - 

-^— /•— #- 


She- thu te tho" j - e wi°-tha-ke He- de wi°-tha ke no°-zhi°-ga 1° 1° 

Shethu te tho° ie wi"thake 
Shethu te tho" ie wi"thake 
Hede wi^thake no°zhi° ga 
Ie te wi°thake 
Shethu te tho" ie wi°thake 
Hede wi"thake no°zhi''ga 
1° I" 

Literal translation : Shethu, a place near, also a time; te refers to 
action or occurrence, in this instance to the ceremony; tho^, round 
place, refers both to the lodge and to the hu'thuga; ie, words, declara- 
tion; wiHhake, truth (to you) (wi^ke, truth; th.a, to you); hede, in 
consequence of, therefore, because (old term); no^zhi", arise, stand; 
ga, the sign of command; i", the rolling of thunder. 

Free translation 

Here unto you has been spoken the truth ; 
Because of this truth you shall stand. 
Here, declared is the truth. 

Here in this place has been shown you the truth. 
Therefore, arise! go forth in its strength! 
(The thunder roILs) 

The ni'l'ie name of the child was now announced, after which the 
priest cried aloud: "Ye hills, ye grass, ye trees, ye creeping things 
both great and small, I bid you hear! This child has thrown away 
its baby name. Ho ! " ( a call to take notice) . 

122 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ANN. 27 

The priest next instructed the child as to the tabu it must observe, 
and what woidd be the penalty for disobedience. If the child was a 
girl, .she now passed out of the tent and rejoined her mother. 

Up to this point the ceremony of introducing the child into the 
tribe was the same for male and female; but in the case of boys there 
was a supplemental rite which pertained to them as future warriors. 


This ceremony was called We'baslma, meaning "to cut the hair." 
According to traditions, this specialized ceremony belonged to the 
period in the growth of the political development of the tribe when 
efforts were being made to hold the tribe more firmly together by 
checking the independence of the warriors and placing them under 
control — efforts that finally resulted in the placing of the rites of 
war in charge of the We'zhi°shte gens. 

In the ceremony of cutting the hair the priest in charge gathered 
a tuft from the crown of the boy's head, tied it, then cut it off and 
laid it away in a parfleche case, which was kept as a sacred reposi- 
tory, singing as he cut the lock a ritual song explanatory of the 
action. The severing of the lock was an act that implied the conse- 
cration of the life of the boy to Thunder, the s^nnbol of the power 
that controlled the life and death of the warrior — for every man 
had to be a warrior in order to defend the home and the tribe. The 
ritual song which followed the cutting of the lock indicated the 
acceptance of the offering made; that is, the life of the warrior hence- 
forth was under the control of the Thunder to prolong or to cut short 
at will. 

The Washe'to" subgens, which had charge of this rite of the conse- 
cration of the boy to the Thunder as the god of war, camped at 
the end of the I°shta'fu°da division, and formed the northern side 
of the entrance into the hu'thuga when the opening faced the east; 
while the We'zhi°shte gens, which had charge of the rites pertaining 
to war, including the bestowal of honors, formed the southern side 
of the entrance. Thus the "door," through which all must pass 
who would enter the Jni'tJaiga (see p. 13S), was guarded on each side 
by gentes having charge of rites pertaining to Thunder, as the god 
of war, the power that could not only hold in check enemies from 
without, but which met each man child at his entrance into the tribe 
and controlled him even to the hour of his death. 

In a commimity beginning to crystallize into organized social 
relations the sphere of the warrior would naturally rise above that of 
the mere fighter; and when the belief of the people concerning nature 
is taken into consideration it is not surprising that the movement 
toward social organization should tend to place the warriors — the 



men of power — in close relation to those natural manifestations of 
power seen in the fury of the storm and heard in the rolling of the 
thunder. Moreover, in the efforts toward political unification such 
rites as those which were connected with the Thunder would conduce 
to the welding of the people by the inculcation of a common depend- 
ence upon a powerful god and the sign of consecration to him would 
be put upon the head of every male member of the tribe. 

The priest took the boy to the space west of the fire : there, facing 
the east, he cut a lock of hair from the crown of the boy's head, as 
he sang the following ritual song: 



Ti - go" - lia iiio'* - shi 

#— = — t • '- 

ta ha ! 

Slia- l)e 

-* » ^- 

no° - zhi - a 


Slia - be ti - the no" - zhi 

* # 

She - thu 

ti - ine 


Ti-go" - ha mo" - shi - a ta ha ! 

-0-^-i — — ,_j — ^ 1-3: — — 0-r — -, n 

a - ha. 


-# 0t- 

Ti-go" - ha 


ta lia ! Sha-be ti- the 

no° - zhi - a 



Ti - go" - lia nio° - shi - a ta lia ! 


ti - the 

-^ — 0- 


no"- zhi - a lia 

she- thu 


Ti- go" - ha mo" 



ha! Sha - be 

ti - the 

no" - zhi 


Tigo"ha 1110 ".-ihia ta ha 

Shabe tithe no"zhia ha 

Tigo"ha mo"shia ta ha 

Shabe tithe no"zhia shethu aha 

Tigo^ha mo"shia ta ha 

Shabe tithe no"zhia 

Tigo"ha nui"shia ta ha 

Shabe tithe no"zhia ha s^hethu aha 

Tigo"ha mo"shia ta ha 

Shabe tithe no"zhia ha 

124 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

Literal translation : Tigo^ha, grandfather — a f oi-m of respect used 
when addressing the person of power; mo'^shia, far above, on high; 
ta, from shiata, there, used to express an indefinite place; Jia, end of 
sentence; shabe, dark, like a shadow; tithe, passing before one; 
no^zhia, human hair; shethu, there in your direction, as toward the 
one addressed; aha, in the midst of. 

Free translation 

Grandfather! far above on high, 

The hair like a shadow passes before you. 

Grandfather! far above on high, 

Dark like a shadow the hair sweeps before you into the midst of your realm. 

Grandfather! there above, on high, 

Dark like a shadow the hair parses before you. 

Grandfather! dwelling afar on high, 

Like a dark shadow the hair sweeps before you into the midst of your realm. 

Grandfather! far above on high, 

The hair like a shadow passes before you. 

From this ritual song we learn that the lock laid away m the 
sacred case in care of the Thunder priest symbolically was sent to 
the Thunder god dwelling "far above on high," who was ceremonially 
addressed as "Grandfather" — the term of highest respect in the lan- 
guage. The hair of a person was popularly believed to have a vital 
connection with the life of the body, so that anyone becoming pos- 
sessed of a lock of hair might work his will on the individual from 
whom it came. In ceremonial expressions of grief the throwing of 
locks of hair upon the dead was indicative of the vital loss sustained. 
In the light of customs that obtained among the people the hair, 
under certain conditions, might be said to typify life. Because of 
the belief in the continuity of life a part could stand for the whole, 
so in this rite by the cutting off of a lock of the boy's hair and giving 
it to the Thunder the life of the child was given into the keeping of 
the god. It is to be noted that later, when the hair was suffered to 
grow on the boy's head, a lock on the crown of the head was parted 
in a circle from the rest of the hair and kept constantly distinct and 
neatly braided. Upon this lock the war honors of the warrior were 
worn, and it was this lock that was cut from the head of a slain 
enemy and formed the central object in the triumph ceremonies, for 
the reason that it preeminently represented the life of the man who 
had been slain in battle. 



In the next ritual song the Thunder god speaks and proclaims his 
acceptance of the consecration of the life through the lock of hair 
and also declares his control over the life of the warrior. 

(Sung in octaves) 

r-9--ti^-^r=i — -c^ r^— 

-*— ^- 


She-thu pi-tho° - ili lie 

Ni- ka wi" go° - ke a 


-• •-=• 

She- thu pi- tho° - di 

ke a-the 


-L — \- 

P — •-= 0- 

Slie-thu pi-tho" - di he 


0— 0— • '- ' 

Ni-ka-n'i° sha-be ke a- the he 

—~ \— 'A l-Jt — -I — J ^ 


She tliu pi- tho" di 


ke a - till 


She-thu pi-tlio° - di he 

Ni- ka- wi" zhi-de ke a-the he 

— ^— I r—^ i L4._z^^TL_q — s* 

She- thu pi - tho" - di Ni - ka - wi" go° 


ke a- the 

Shethu pi tho"di he 

Nika wi" go"ke athe 

Shethu pi tho"di / 

Nika wi" go^ke athe 

Shethu pi tho"di he 

Nika wi" shaVje ke athe he 

Shethu pi tho"di 

Nika wi" go"ke athe 

Shethu pi tho"di he 

Nika wi" zhide ke athe he 

Shethu pi tho"di 

Nika wi" go"ke athe 

Literal translation : 5^e^Aw, there; j)t, I have been; <Ao"<Zi, when ; he, 
end of the sentence and vowel prolongation; nil-a, man; wi", a or 
one; goalee, a peculiar exclamatory expression indicating the action 
of coming suddenly on a fearful or startling object: athe, I cause, 
used only in reference to inanimate things and intended here to con- 
vey the idea that man has no power to act independently of the 

126 THE OMAHA TRIBE Teth. axn. 27 

gods; shahe, dai'k, like a shadow; he indicates that the object is long 
and is lying down; zMde, red. 


Free translation 

What time I will, then only then, 
A man lies dead, a gruesome thing. 
What time I will, then suddenly 
A man lies dead, a gruesome thing. 
What time I will, then, only then, 
Like a shadow dark the man shall lie. 
What time I will, then suddenly 
A man lies dead, a gruesome thing. 
What time I will, then, only then. 
Reddened and stark a man lies dead. 
What time I will, then suddenly 
A man lies dead, a gruesome thing. 

The word shahe, dark like a shadow, is used in the preceding song 
to describe the lock of hair that was cut from the child's head as a 
symbol that his life was offered to the god; in this song the same 
word, sJiale, is applied to the man who, "like a shadow dark," 
"shall lie" when his life has been taken by the god. The use of this 
word bears out the meaning of the rite that accompanied the pre- 
ceding song, that by the giving of the lock of hair the life of the per- 
son was given to the god. This song shows that the god intends 
to do as he wills with that life. There are other songs used in the 
tribe which iterate this belief that a man dies only when the gods 

The music is in the five-tone scale, and the phrase which carries 
the assertion of the god rises and dwells on the tonic, a movement 
rare in Omaha songs, the general trend being from higher to lower 

The imperfect account of this ritual makes it impossible to state 
whether or not the six songs here given were all that belonged to 
this ceremony. It is also imcertain whether or not the invocation 
to the wmds was simg before the turning of every child; it may 
have been simg only once, at the opening of the general ceremony, 
there being indications that such was the case. It is probable that 
the song given below was also simg but once, at the close of the general 
ceremony, but it has been impossible to obtain accurate information 
on this point. Only one point is certain — that the following was 
the fimd song of the ceremony: 



(Sung in octaves) 



Ku-the go° di i°-gi-be he nax thi° ba nax thi° ba ha 

-•— jt3— tzizztzt 


Pe- de zhi-de na-ka 

- de.... 

— • — 1 


thl° ba 

nax thi" ba 


m- ^- 






f f • 

— 1= 7 


-0 — 


Ku - the go" - di i° 

gi be 


nax thi" ba 




Pe - de 




-K ^. 1 1 1 


nax thi" ha nax thi° ba ha! Ku-the go°-di i° - gibe he 

Kuthe go" di i"gi be he 
Naxthi" ba naxthi" ba ha 
Pede zhide nakade 
Naxthi" ba nax thi" ba ha 
Kuthe go" di i"gi be he 
Naxthi" ba-naxthi" ba ha 
Pede zhide nakade 
Naxthi" ba naxthi" ba ha 
Kuthe go" di i"gi be he 

Literal translation: Kuthe, hasten; go^, suddenly; di, here, hither; 
i^gfi, to ask help, assistance; Je, sign of the plural; ?iax/^i", flame; ba, 
sign of the plural; ha, the end of the sentence; pede, fire; zhide, red; 

nakade, hot. 

Free translation 

Come hither, haste to help me, 

Ye flames, ye flames, O come! 

O red-hot fire, hasten! 

O haste, ye flames, to come. 

Come speedily to help me. 

Ye flames, ye flames, O come! 

O red-hot fire, hasten! 

O haste, ye flames, to come! 

Come hither, haste, to help me! 

As this song was sung the ball of grass to wliich reference has 
abeady been made was held aloft and then hurled to the ground, 
where it mysteriously burst into flames, which were regarded as sym- 
bolizing the lightning. 

128 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. Ann. 27 

In tliis closiiig sonj; there is a retuni to the t'(«mic forces which 
were appealed to and represented in the ceremony of Turning the 
Child. In early times before this ceremony had been arranged so 
as to include the rite of consecrating the boy to the Thimder god, 
the song which appears on the preceding page was sung probably 
soon after, if not immediately at the conclusion of, the third song 
given in this account. 

At the conclusion of this tribal ceremony, when the child reached 
its home the father cut the hair of his son after the symbolic manner 
of his gens;" the hair was thus worn until the second dentition. 
Then the hair was allowed to grow, and the scalp lock, the sign of the 
warrior to which reference has already been made was parted off and 
kept carefully braided, no matter how frowzy and tangled the rest 
of the hair might be. 



The next stage in the life of the Omaha youth was marked by the 
rite known by the name of No"'zhi"zho°. The hteral meaning of the 
word is "to stand sleeping;" it here imphes that during the rite the 
person stands as if oblivious of the outward world and conscious 
only of what transpires within himself, his own mind. This rite 
took place at puberty, when the mmd of the child had "become 
white." This characterization was drawn from the passing of night 
into day. It should be remembered that in native symbolism night 
is the mother of da}'; so the mmd of the new-born child is dark, 
like the night of its birth; gradually it begins to discern and remem- 
ber things as objects seen in the early da\\"n; finally it is able to 
remember and observe discriminatingly; then its mind is stvid to be 
"white," as with the clear light of day. At the period when the 
youth is at the verge of his conscious individual life, is " old 
enough to know sorrow," it was considered time that through the 
rite No^'zhi^zho" he should enter into personal relations with the 
mysterious power that permeates and controls all nature as well as 
his own existence. 

In the Sacred Legend, which recounts briefly the history of the 
people and from which quotations have been made, the origin of this 
rite is thus given: 

The people felt themselves weak and poor. Then the old men gathered together 
and said: "Let us make our children cry to Wako^'da that he may give us strength." 
So all the parents took their children who were old enough to pray in earnest, put 
soft clay on their faces, and sent them forth to lonely places. The old men said to 
the youths: "You shall go forth to cry to Wako^'da. When on the hills you shall 
not ask for any particular thing. The answer may not come to you as you expect; 

a The various styles of cutting the child's hair to symbolize the tabu of his gens are shown with the 
account given of the gentes (pp. U4-18«). 


whatever is good, that may Wako"'da give." Four days upon the hills shall the 
youths pray, crying. When they stop, they shall wipe their tears with the palms of 
their hands and lift their wet hands to the sky, then lay them to the earth. This was 
the people's first appeal to Wako'^da. 

The closing statement as to "the first appeal'' should not be taken 
literally, for the rite thus said to have been introduced is too com- 
plex, and embodies beliefs that must have required a long time for 
formulation into the dramatic forms observed in tliis rite. 

The old men, when explaining the rite, said " It must be observed 
by all youths. After the first time, the j^outh could repeat the rite 
xmtil he was old enough to marry and had children; by that time 
his life was fixed, and he prayed no more unless he was a priest, then 
he would continue to fast and pray." "In the No°'zhi°zho"," it was 
further explained, "the appeal was to Wako" da, the great power. 
There were other powers — the sim, the stars, the moon, the earth — 
but these were lesser; the praj^er was not to them." The old men 
added: "The appeal was for help throughout life. As the 3'outh 
goes forth to fast he thinks of a happy life, good health, success in 
hunting; in war he desires to secure spoils and escape the enemy; 
if he should l)e attacked that the weapons of his adversaries might 
fail to injure him. Such were the thoughts and hopes of the youth 
when he entered upon this fast, although he was forbidden to ask for 
any special favor." The rite Xo"'zhi"zlio° was observed in the 
spring ; never in the summer or winter. The meaning of putting clay 
on the head has been explained in different ways. Some haA^e said 
it sj'mbolized humilit}'; others that it referred to the soft clay or 
mud brought ujd by the diving animals, out of which the earth was 
created. In the opinion of the writers the latter seems the more 
probable explanation. 

In preparation the youth was taught the following prayer, which 
was to be sung during the ordeal of the fast. It was known to every 
youth in the tribe, no matter what his gens." This prayer must be 
accepted, therefore, as voicing a fundamental belief of the entire 
Omaha tribe. The music is in keeping with the words, being un- 
mistakably an earnest invocation. 

o Every male was obliged to pass through the rite of No" 'zhi'zho" when he reached the proper age; 
whether he should continue to practise the rite was Ictt to his personal choice. The No^'zhinzhon 
was not obligatory on girls or women but they sometimes went through the fast, for the rite was open 
to them 

83993°— 27 eth— 11 9 



[ETH. ANN. 27 



Harmonized by John C. Fillmore for interpretation on the piano 





Wa - ko° - da 




wah - pa - thi" 











Wa - ko" - da 



thu wah - pa - thi" 










r r 

Wako"da thethu wahpathi" ato"he 
Wako"da thethu wahpathi" ato°ho 

Literal translation : Wa]co"da, the permeating life of nature and of 
man, the great mysterious power; thethu, here; wahpathi*', poor, needy; 
ato'^he, he stands, and I am he — a form of expression used to indicate 
humility. iralo"t7«.' here, needy, he stands, and I am he. 

This prayer was called WaTco^'da giJco^ {gigiko", "to weep from 
loss," as that of kindred, the prefix gi indicating possession; gilco^, 
therefore, is to weep from the want of something not possessed, from 
conscious insufficiency and the desire for something that coidd bring 
happiness or prosperity) . This jirayer and the aspect of the suppliant, 
standing alone in the solitary place, with clay on his head, tears fall- 
ing from his eyes, and his hands lifted in supplication, were based on 
anthropomorphic ideas concerning "VVako"'da. The Omaha con- 
ceived that the appeal from one so young and untried, who showed 
poverty and the need of hel}), could not fail to move the power thus 
appealetl to, even as a man so importuned woidd render the aid that 
was asked. The words of the ])rayer set forth the belijef that Wa- 
ko"'(hi was able to imderstand and to respond to the one who thus 
voiced his consciousness of dc-pendenco and his craving for help from 
a power higher than himself. 

o The upper line gives the aria as sung; the two Um)s below translate the aria; so that when played 
on an instrument like the piano the meaning and feeling of the song become intelligible to us. This trans- 
lation has the approval of the Indians. 


Four days and nights the youth was to fast and pray provided he 
was physically able to bear so long a strain. No matter how hungry 
he became, he was forbidden to use the bow and arrows put into his 
hands by his father when he left his home for this solitary test of 
endurance. When he fell into a sleep or a trance, if he saw or heard 
anything, that thing was to become a special medium through which 
the youth could receive supernatural aid. Generally with the sight 
of the thing came an accompanying cadence. This cadence was 
the song or call by which the man might summon aid in his time of 
need. The form, animate or inanimate, which appeared to the man 
was drawn toward him, it was believed, by the feeling of pity. The 
term used to express this impelling of the form to the man was 
i' thaethe, jnean'mg "to have compassion on." If the youth at this 
time saw a buffalo, it would be said: Te i' thaethe, " the buffalo had 
compassion on him;" if he heard the thunder: I^gthu^' ifhaethe, "the 
thimder had compassion." The vision, with its sacred call or song, 
was the one thbig that the Omaha held as his own, incapable of loss 
so long as life and memory lasted. It was his personal connection 
with the vast imiverse, by which he could strengthen his spirit and 
his physical powers. He never gave the details of his vision to any- 
one, nor was it even casually spoken of; it was too sacred for ordinary 

When gomg forth to fast, the youth went silently and unobserved. 
No one accosted him or gave him coimsel or direction. He passed 
through his experience alone, and alone he returned to his father's 
lodge. No one asked him of his absence, or even mentioned the fact 
that he had been away. For four days he must rest, eat little, and 
speak little. After that period he might go to an old and worthy 
man who was known to have had a similar vision. After eating and 
smoking with the old man, when they were quite alone it was per- 
mitted the youth to mention that he had had a vision like that of his 
host, of beast, or bird, or whatever it might have been. Should he 
speak of his vision before the expiration of the four days, it would 
be the same as lost to him. After the youth had spoken to the old 
man it became his duty to travel until he should meet the animal or 
bird seen in his vision, when he had to slay it, and preserve either the 
whole or a part of its body. This trophy became the visible sign of 
his vision and the most sacred of his possessions. He might wear it 
on his scalp lock or elsewhere on his person during sacred festivals, 
when going to war, or on some other important occasions. This 
article has been spoken of by some writers as the man's "personal 
totem." When the vision came in the form of a cloud or the sound 
of the thunder, these were symbolized by certain objects or were 
t3"pified in designs painted on the man or on his belongings. 

Some visions were regarded as "lucky," as giving special and help- 
ful advantages to the man. Hawks were "lucky" — they helped to 
success and prowess in war. Bears, being slow and clumsy, were 

132 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ANN. 27 

"not SO good/' although possessing great recuperative power. The 
elk was fleet. Snakes were "not good," etc. To dream of the moon 
might bring a great calamity. It is said that the moon would appear 
to a man having in one hand a burden strap, in the other a bow and 
arrows, and the man would be bidden to make a choice. When he 
reached for the bow, the moon would cross its hands and try to force 
the strap on the man. If he awaked before he took the strap, or 
if he succeeded in capturing the bow, he escaped the penalty of the 
dream. If, on the other hand, he failed and the strap came into 
his hand, he was doomed to forfeit his manliood and become like a 
woman. He must speak as a woman, pursue her avocations, adopt' 
her dress, and sometimes become subject to gross actions. It is said 
that there have been those who, having dreamed of the moon and 
having had the burden straji forced on them, have tried to conceal 
their ill luck for a time, but that few have succeeded. Instances are 
known in which the unfortunate dreamer, even with the help of his 
parents, could not ward off the evil influence of the dream, and 
resorted to suicide as the only means of escape. 

The following stories of Osage men who through dreams became 
as women were given bj^ Black Dog in 1898: 

Men who become as women are called Miru'ga {mi, "moon"; xu'ga, "to in- 
struct" — "instructed by the moon"). The young men who go to fast sometimes 
remain out many days. This is done to secure dreams or visions which will support 
them in manly enterprises, in war or in hunting — that is, give them strength. But 
sometimes it hajipens that a young man has dreams or sees visions which make him 
imagine that he is a woman. From that time he takes upon himself the dress and 
occupations of a woman. He lets his hair gi'ow, parts it in the middle, and wears 
braids. From days beyond the memory of man the Osage men sha\ed the head, 
leaving a roach on the top. Only the women wore the hair long and parted it in the 
middle. Now many of the Osage men wear the hair long and parted in the middle, 
in imitation of the Ponca, who, I think, took the fashion from the Siou.x. 

Once a young man went to fast, and was gone many days. He started home, not 
ha\'ing had any dreams or visions, and on his way home he met a matronly woman 
who addressed him as " daughter. " She said to the young man: " You are my daugh- 
ter, and you shall be as I am. I give to you this hoe. With it you shall cultivate the 
ground, raise corn, beans, and squash, and you shall be skillful in braiding buffalo 
hair and in embroidering moccasins, leggings, and robes. " In speaking to the woman 
the young man discovered that he had lieen unconsciously using the feminine ter- 
minals of speech. He tried to recover himself and use the speech of man, but he 
failed. On his return to his people he dressed himself as a woman, and took upon 
himself the avocations of a woman. 

A young man went to fast, and was gone many days. On his way home he came 
to an earth lodge and entered. There were four men in the lodge, who greeted him 
very cordially and assigned to him the usual place of a guest. The young man looked 
about the lodge and saw hung upon the posts bows and arrows, shields and spears. 
Food was prepared for him, and he ate with the strangers. ^\"hen he had finished 
his visit he thanked these people and started to go out. As he was about to pass 
the doorway he was halted and his attention was directed to two objects which hung 
one on each side of the door. One was a spear and the other a battle-ax. The young 
man was told to take his choice. He was long in choosing. The battle-ax is consid- 
ered the manliest of weapons. This the young man remembered, and he finally 


chose that weapon, took it down, and dei)arted. On his way to hi.s village he planned 
in his mind war excursions, and thought how he would conduct himself in battles. 
When he was nearing the village he desired to look once more at his battle-ax. He 
did so, and, behold, it had turned into a hoe! A\'hen he arrived home he became as 
a woman. 

There was a young man who had been out to fast many times. He had dreams 
which he thought were the kind that would make of him a man of valor. He went 
on the warpath and took with him a number of followers. They found the enemy, 
defeated them, and returned with many trophies. On the way home he got up a 
dance one night in honor of his victory. As he was dancing, brandishing his weapons 
and praising himself, an owl hooted near-by in the woods, and after each hooting the 
owl would say: ''The leader is a mixu'gaJ" The people listened in amazement, and 
at last the leader cried: " I have done that which a mixu'ga could never do! " How- 
ever, on reaching his home the young leader dressed as a woman and spoke as a woman. 
He married and had children. He was successful as a warrior, but when about to 
go to war he discarded his woman's clothing and dressed himself as a man. 

Among the Omaha, as well as their cognates, there were societies 
whose membersliip was made up of men who had had visions of the 
same object. It has already been mentioned that the object seen in 
the vision was said to have had compassion on the man when it 
appeared to lum. It was also thought that because the same form 
could come to certain men and be seen by them there was something 
in common in the nature of these men — that a sort of brotherhood 
existed among them. Out of this belief societies grew up based on 
the members having had similar visions, and the ceremonies of these 
societies, quasi religious in character, dealt with the special gifts 
vouchsafed by Wako°'da through the particular form or the animal. 
The article which was the sj^mbol of a man's dream, as a feather 
from a bird, a tuft of hair from an animal, or a black stone or trans- 
lucent pebble representing the thunder or the water, was never an 
object of worsliip. It was a memento of the vision, a sort of cre- 
dential that served to connect its possessor with the potentiality of 
the species or class represented by the form seen in the vision, through 
which the man's strength or faculties could be reenforced by virtue of 
the continuity of hfe throughout the universe because of the ever- 
present power of Wako"'da. 

In the sequence of rites just detailed, wliich began at birth with 
the announcement to all created tilings that a new life had come 
into their midst, and later, when the cliild had acc[uired ability to 
move about of its own voUtion, its feet were set in the path of life, 
and it entered into membersliip in the tribe, are represented pro- 
gressive steps in the life of the individual from a mere living form to 
a being vkith a recognized place. The entrance into manhood re- 
quired a voluntary effort by which, through the rite of fasting and 
prayer, the man came into direct and personal relations with the 
supernatural and reaUzed witliin himself the forceful power of the 
union of the seen with the unseen. 



Basic Principles 

The tribal organization of the Omaha was based on certain funda- 
mental religious ideas, cosmic in significance; these had reference to 
conceptions as to how the visible universe came into being and how 
it is maintained. 

An invisible and continuous life was believed to permeate all things, 
seen and unseen. Tliis life manifests itself in two ways: First, by 
causing to move — all motion, all actions of mind or body are because 
of this in^^sible life; second, by causing permanency of structure and 
foma, as in the rock, the physical features of the landscape, moimtains, 
plains, streams, rivers, lakes, the animals and man. This invisible 
Hfe was also conceived of as being similar to the will power of which 
man is conscious witMn liimself — a power by which things are brought 
to pass. Through this mysterious life and power all tilings are 
related to one another and to man, the seen to the imseen, the 
dead to the living, a fragment of anytliing to its entirety. This 
invisible life and power was called Wako°'ila (see p. 597). Wliile it 
was a vague entity, yet there was an anthropomorphic coloring to the 
conception, as is shown in the prayers offered and the manner in 
which appeals for compassion and help were made, also in the ethical 
quality attributed to certain natural phenomena — the regidarity of 
night following day, of summer winter (these were recognized as 
emphasizing truthfulness as a dependable qviality and set forth for 
man's guidance) — and in the approval by Wako"'da of certain etliical 
actions on the part of manldnd. 

Human conditions were projected upon nature, and male and female 
forces recognized. The Above was regarded as masculine, the Below 
feminine; so the sky was father, the earth, mother. The heavenly 
bodies were conceived of as having sex; the sun was masculine, the 
moon feminine, consequently day was male and night female. The 
union of these two forces was regarded as necessary to the perpetuation 
of all living forms, and to man's life by maintaining his food supply. 
This order or method for the contmuation of life was believed to have 
been arranged by Wako"'da and had to be obeyed if the race was to 
continue to exist. In order to keep this belief alive in the minds of 
the people, it was symbolized in religious rites and in social usages and 


organization. Consonant with this manner of enforcing these cosmic 
and rehgious ideas, the tribe was composed of two grand divisions, 
one representing the Sky people, or the I°shta'pu°da; the other, the 
Earth people, or the Ho°'gashenu. Within each of these divisions 
there were five gentes. While each gens had its designation, its rites, 
its place, its tabu and its personal names, all these distinctive marks 
were subordinate to the two grand divisions and membership in the 
gens became merged in membership in one of these divisions, the 
I°shta'fu°da or the Ho°'gashenu. 

These divisions were not phratries, as they were not based on ties 
of blood but on mythic ideas as to how creation came about and how 
life must be continued on the earth. Mytlis relate that human 
beings were born of a union between the Sky people and the Earth 
people ; and, in accordance with this belief, the imion of the Sky peo- 
ple and the Earth people was conceived to be necessary to the existence 
of the tribe. There was a teacliing preserved among the old men that 
the division of the tribe into I^shta'pu^da and Ho^'gashenu was for 
marital purposes — a teacliing which bears out the mythic symbolism 
of these two divisions. It is possible that this symbolic arrangement 
throws light on the force which made possible the artificial practice of 
exogamy. In this connection it is interesting to note that of the mar- 
riages in existence among the Omaha twenty-five years ago, a good 
majority represented the union between members of gentes belonging 
to the two rather than to one of these grand divisions. And it is also 
important that, amid the wreckage of the ancient tribal organization 
at the present time, the practice of exogamy is still observed. In 
short, all the conditions seem to show that the custom is based on 
fmidamental religious ideas. 

The duality in the tribal organization was further represented by 
two principal chiefs, one standing for the I°slita'5U°da and the other 
for the Ho°'gashenu. There were also two tribal pipes, which were 
always kept together and were never separated in any ceremonial 
use. Both hatl flat stems; one was ornamented with porcupine-quill 
work, and had fastened on it the head of a pileated woodpecker, with 
the upper mandible turned back over the crest of the bird. The 
stem of the other pipe was plain, but had bound in a row along its 
length seven woodpeckers' heads, the mandibles turned back as just 
described. It is not improbable that these pipes pertained to the 
fundamental ideas on which the two grand divisions of the tribe 
were based; but which pipe belonged to the Sky people and was 
masculine, and which to the Earth people and was feminine, the 
writers have been unable to learn. 

The gens ° was called in the Omaha tongue, to"'wo^gtJio^, "village." 
The same term was applied to the village in which all the tribe dwelt. 

a term is used to indicate that the kinship group traced descent in the paternal rather than the 
maternal line. 

136 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

When the Omaha visited the towus and cities of the white people, 
they apphcd to these settlements the same designation. St. Louis 
and Wasliington wore spoken of as fo'"'wo'"gtho^. To distinguish the 
village signifying the gens, from the village in which the tribe dwelt 
the name of the stream on which the latter was situated was men- 
tioned. When the gens was spoken of, to the term to^'wo^gtho^'- was 
added uba'no^, which means a group of a kind in a given place. 
While the idea of relationship is not directly stated, the word uha'no^ 
added to the term for "village" is understood to indicate a village of 
people who are Idndred, of one kind, between whom marriage is 

The question "To what gens do you belong?" put into Omaha and 
literally translated, would be, "In which of the various (many) 
villag' 5 (of the tribe) are you there (have you a place)?" If the 
questioner belonged to the Omaha or the Ponca tribe, he would know 
the names of the gentes, so the reply would be: "Tapa', there I am; " 
that is, "I belong to the Tapa' gens." But if the question were asked 
by a stranger, a member of a different tribe, to whom the names 
of the Omaha gentes were unknown, then the reply would indicate 
the symbol of the religious rite (the tabu) of the gens of the person 
questioned, and he might say: "I am a buffalo person" or an "elk 
person." The reply would not be understood to mean that the 
man thought of himself as a bufl'alo or an elk, or as descended from 
one, but as belonging to a group which had charge of rites in which 
that animal was used as a symbol. The rites thus spoken of were 
designated as Ni'kie," and in them all the people had a claim, although 
those who officiated at a rite were confined to the particular gens 
which had charge of the rite. 

It was the duty of a gens having charge of a Ni'kie rite to take 
care of the synibols and paraphernaha of the rite, and act as its priests, 
so to speak; but the claim to take part in the ceremony was not 
confined to the gens having charge of the rite, for the people of the 
tribe had a voice in it and a share in its benefits. 

Each gens had its distinctive name. Some of the names, as has 
been ah'eady pointed out, occur in more than one of the tribes that 
are close cognates of the Omaha. These duphcated names may have 
been names of gentes in the parent organization, and Avhen the 
Omaha and their cognates organizetl as tlistinct tribes the remnants 
of the former gens may have clung together and kept their old rites 
and name. An Omaha gens, however, was not a simple but a com- 

rtJVi7;i'c is compounded from ni'k (troni ni'kasliiga, "people"; ie. "words or speech"). From ni'ka- 
Shiga is also derived ni'kagalii, "chief" {ga'he, "thrown upon")— literally, "those upon whom the 
people are thrown" or "who carry the people." Xi'kie signifies a declaration by the people or their 
chiefs of consent to a certain proposition. 


posite group, made up of subgentes or subdivisions which were some- 
times called to'^'wo^gtho^ zhi"ga, "little villages," or to"'wo'''gth.o^ uga'(m£, 
ttgra'cne meaning "that which issplit," and implying that thesubdivision 
had been split off, although it still kept with the main body. Each of 
the subgentes had its name, its rite, wliich was of the Ni'kie class, 
its set of personal names, its tabu, and its place when the gens camped 
with the tribe in ceremonial order. A subdivision differed from a sub- 
gens in not having a distinctive rite, although it had a particular office 
in the rite belonging to the gens. A subdivision might have its tabu, 
wliich would refer to its duties in the rite, and its set of personal 
names, but it was bound to the gens by a common rite and observed 
the tabu of the gens. The number of subgentes or subdivisions in a 
gens does not seem to have been uniform. The common bond be- 
tween the subgentes of a gens was that of kinship, traced solely 
through the father. Marriage between the members of the subgentes 
or subdivisions of a gens was forbidden. When a person was asked 
where he belonged, he did not give the name of the subgens into 
which he was born, but the name of the gens of wliich his birth group 
was a part. If more definite information was desired, then he would 
give the name of his subgens or subdivision. The gens was regarded 
as paramount to the subgentes or to the subdivisions, as it contained 
them all, even as the tribe embraced all the gentes and stood as one 

There were ten gentes in the tribe. The meaning of the Omaha 
word for tribe, vJci'tc, has already been discussed (p. 35). Tlris word 
is distinct in meaning from hu'thuga, the term used to designate the 
form or order in which the tribal organization ceremonially camped, 
in which each one of the villages, or gens, had its definite place. 
Hu'thuga is an old term and carries the idea of a dwelling. The 
order of camping expi'essed by hu'thuga was used when the tribe 
was away from its village on the annual bufl'alo hunt. Tliis hunt 
was a serious occasion, when all the people united in a common effort 
to secure a supply of meat and pelts, food and clothing, for them- 
selves and for their children; therefore it was initiated and conducted 
with religious ceremonies. The people were placed under the con- 
trol of men who through elaborate and sacred rites were appointed 
for the direction of tlie hunt, and to these appointed men all persons, 
inckuhng the chiefs, had to render obedience. It was while on this 
hunt that the great tribal ceremonies took place, at which time the 
people camped according to their gentes in the form known as 

This form was circular, with an opening to the east, which 
represented the door of a dwelling. "Through it," the old men 
said, "the people we'nt forth in quest of the game, and through it 

138 THE OMAHA TRIBE (eth. ann. 27 

they returned with their supply of food, as one enters the door of 
one's home. The warriors passed hence to defend the tribe from its 
foes, and here they were welcomed when they came back." The 
entrance was therefore the door through wliich one entered into 
the dwelling place of the tribe, in which each gens had its place as had 
each member of the family within the lodge. There are indications 
that the hu'tliuga embodies the idea of the union of the forces rep- 
resented in the fundamental concept upon which the two grand divi- 
sions of the tribe were based. The opening or door of the hu'thuga 
was always symbolically to the east, and the five gentes wliich 
composed the I°shta'9u°da division (Sky people) alwaj's, theoret- 
ically, formed the northern half, while the five gentes that formed 
the Ilo^'gashenu division (Earth people) in theory made the south- 
ern half. The literal fact is that the opening was actually toward 
the east only when the tribal ceremonies took place; at all other 
times it faced the direction toward which the tribe happened 
to be traveling, but the order of the gentes was always as it would 
have been had opening faced the east. This was effected by turn- 
ing the tribal circle as on a hinge placed opposite the eastern opening, 
so that no matter in which direction the opening actually was, the 
I°shta'vu°da and IIo°'gashenu divisions were always as they would 
have been had opening faced the east. This interesting fact, of the 
carrying out of a symbolism in the manner of pitching the tents 
of the tribe on the wide imbroken prairie, indicates how deeply 
rooted in the minds of the people was the importance of the fimda- 
mental ideas represented in the hu'thuga — the two grand divisions 
and the orientation of the dwelling. In view of these and kindred 
ideas connected with the hu'thuga, it seems probable that m this 
form we are dealing with a symbol rather than with an arrange- 
ment for convenience and safety, as has been stated by some writers. 
That the idea of safety was involved in the form of the hu'thuga is 
probably true, but the dependence for safetj' was placed in the help 
to be derived through the recognition of cosmic forces and religious 
observances rather than in an advantageous arrangement of tents 
made in order to protect ponies and camp equipage. 

When an orator addressed the people of the tribe he did not say: 
Ho! Omaha! but IIo! Pshta'(uMa, Ho'^'gashenu t'l agtho^'lyalw"! Ti 
agtho'''kaho" means " both sides of the house." This was the only 
form of speech by which the people of the tribe could be addressed 
collectively. It bears out the meaning of the hu'thuga as given by 
the old men. 

The hu'thuga regarded as the dwelling of the entire tribe presented 
the type that was to be reproduced in the dwelling of each member 
of the tribe, wherein were to bo united the niasculine and feminine 
forces drawn from two distinct groups or regions, a union symbolized 




in the Tiu'ihuga by the union of the Earth people and the Sky people. 
The rending of the natural family by exogamy seems to have been 
demanded in order to typify what was believed to be a cosmic regula- 
tion. In this way it became possible to interweave the split parts so 

Fig. 19. Family group. The parents represent both siJe.s of the liu Ihuga. 

as to bind together by the natural tie of kuiship the different gentes 
composing the tribe. This tie came through the mothers in. the tribe. 
Descent in the gens was traced solely through the father. The 
fathers held the gens together and distinct from eveiy other gens. 

140 THE OMAHA TRIBE Ieth. ann. 2T 

Through the father tlie child inherited his name, his place, and his 
share m the rites of his gens; but it was through his mother that 
his kinship relations were extended beyond his birth gens and that he 
thus became conscious of being a part of a great kinship community. 
(Fig. 19.) 

The Ponca tribe docs not present a clear picture of those ideas 
which seem to have been fundamental to the tribal organization of 
their kindred, the Omaha; and yet these ideas appear to have been 
present in the mind of the ])eople when they organized as a distinct 
tribe. This imperfect form may have given rise to the custom of 
the Omaha of designating the Ponca as "orphans." 

The Ponca camped in a circle with the opening to the east when 
the gentes were in ceremonial order, and gave to this form the same 
name as that used by the Omaha, hu'thuga (see p. 42). Each gens 
of the Ponca had its ni'liie rites and its wi'tie names; the latter were 
bestowed during ceremonies similar to those observed among the 

In the Ponca tribal circle the gentes seem to be grouped according to 
their duties: Those to thesouth, or left, of the eastern opening, were 
charged with the care of rites connected with the Thunder and with 
warfare. The next group to the left administered the rites and 
ceremonies which pertained to the government of the people and to 
the securing of fooil and clothing Ity means of the annual hunt. The 
group to the north, or right of the entrance, controlled the rites 
relating to ice or hail (both of which are symbolically connected 
with the upper world) and to the serpent, generally sjmibolic of the 
lightning. In this order, as in a shattered mirror, one can discern 
the outlines of. the symbolic picture which the Omaha organization 
also so distinctly presents. From the Ponca tribe taken by itself 
it would be difhcidt to discern the presence of those ideas which we 
have seen definitely exprcsseil in the Omaha tribe; but turning from 
the contemplation of the Omaha to that of the Ponca, one is able to 
recognize these ideas in the fragmentary order which obtained among 
the latter. 

The Ponca as well as the Omaha regarded all life and the preser- 
vation of all forms as the result of the union of the skj- and the earth 
forces, and believed the combining of these twt) opposite andtlKl'eren- 
tiated cosmic powers symbolically set forth to man a law he nuist 
obey, a course he must follow, if he would secure the continiuition of 
Tiis own life and the perpetiuition of his tribe — a law which made 
exogamy a practical expression of this belief. 

In the Osage tribe, which seems to be an agglomeration, we fuul 
the same ideas fundamental to the tribal organization, but certain 
conditions have tended to modify their expression. 

The Osage were divided into two great divisions. One of these 
was composed of three kinship groups which shifted their relative 
positions in accordance with the rite or duties to be performed. The 


other division was made up of two kinship groups which never 
changed their positions with respect to each other or to the other 
division of the tribal circle (see p. 5S). These two unchangeable 
groups camped on the north, or to the right of the eastern entrance. 
They represented the ideas which were symbolized in the Omaha 
I°shta'('u°da half, the Sky people; while the other three, which 
camped to the left of the eastern entrance, in both position and 
duties resembled the Ho°'gashenu division of the Omaha tribe, and 
were the Earth people, on whom devolved the care of the material 
welfare of the tribe. Here, again, we find the tribal order standing 
for the union of sky and earth, the masculine and feminine forces 
from whose union all living things arise. 

The Kansa and Quapaw tribes also were divided into two parts 
each, and from the fragmentary information obtainable they seem 
to have emboilied the same ideas as those found among their kin- 
dred ti'ibes; so that it would appear to be fairly well established 
that the ideas and beliefs which a study of the Omaha tribe shows 
were fundamental to the organization of that tribe were basic also 
in their close cognates, the Ponca, Osage, Kansa, and Quapaw; and 
further research may show that these ideas were a common and 
formative power in other tribes of the Siouan linguistic stock. 

The Hu'thuga — the Omaha tribal form 






b Crf 





V/V/ _-. 






a, , 


13 12 








Fig. 2(1. Diagram of Omaha hu'thuga (tribal circle). 

A. I*'shta'5u''da Division. B. Ho'^'gashenu Division. 1. We'zhiNshte. Subgens: None. 
2. I%E'5ABE. Subgentes: (a) Nini-bato"; (6) Wathi'gizhe. 3. Ho'^'ga. Subgentes: (o) Wax- 
the'xeto"; (6) Washaljeto"". 4. Tha'tada. Subdivisions: (o') Xuta; (o) Waga'be itazhi; (,h) Wa- 
zlii»'ga itazhi; (c) Ke'i«; (d) Te'pa itazhi. 5. Ko^'^e. Stibgentes: (o) Tade'tada; (6) NiniTjatO". 

6. Mo'^'Tm^'KAGAXE. Subdivisions: (a) Xu'be; (6) lliliaci; (o) Mi'xa^O"; (d) NiniTjato". 

7. Te^iN'de. Subdivisions: (a) Tegi-'de; (6) NiniTjaton. S. Tapa'. Subdivisions: (a) Tapa'xte; 
(6) Thunder rites: (c) Star rites; (d) Nini'bato". 9. INgthe'ziilde. No subdivisions. 10. I^shta'- 
<;ij%A. Subgens: (a) Lost gens; (6) Nini'batc; (c) Washe'to". 11. Sacred Tent of War. 12. Tent 
of Sacred Pole. 13. Tent of Sacred W^ite Buffalo Hide. 

142 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ANN. 27 

Gentes of the Omaha Tribe 

We'zhi^shte Gens (1)" 

The We'zhi°shte gens camped on the left of the entrance into the 
hu'tlmga. The name is descriptive, being composed of we, "by 
whom," and zhi^shfe, an abbreviation of wazhi^'sJite, "to become 
angr3^" Tlie meaning of the term We'zlii"shte may be defined as 
those through whom the tribe made known its displeasure or anger, 
because of some injurious act by another tribe. The Sacred Tent of 
War (1 1) was set in front of the line of tents belonging to the We'zhi°shte 
gens and was in the keeping of this gens, together with the parapher- 
nalia of the rites pertaining to war and to Thunder. When any ques- 
tion arose as to the policy to be pursued in dealing with another tribe 
the members of which had committed acts of hostility, such as killing 
Omaha or stealing their horses or carrying away by force women of 
the tribe, it was the duty of the keeper of the Tent of War to call the 
Seven Chiefs and the leading men of the gens to a council. At this 
council the We'zlu°shte presided. The Sacred Pipe of the Tent of War 
was fdled by the keeper of the Tent and when, after due deliberation 
on the action to be taken, a decision was reached, the Seven Chiefs 
smoked this Pipe. This was a religious act and through it the 
decision became sanctified. Then the herald of the We'zhi"shte pro- 
claimed to the tribe the decision of the chiefs. If war was deter- 
mined upon, the organization of volunteer war parties generally 
followed this authorization. 

The keeper of the Tent of War and the leaders of this gens officiated 
at the ceremony of Wate'giftu, when certain prescribed honors were 
pubhcly bestowed on successful warriors for acts performed in 
authorized offensive warfare or in battles fought in defense of the 
camp or permanent village. It was also the duty of this gens when 
the tribe was on its annual buffalo hunt, to organize in response to an 
order from the Seven Chiefs a corps of scouts to spy the country on 
the discovery of signs of danger. 

Rites pertaining to Thunder were also in charge of this gens. 
These were obsei-ved when the first thuniler was heard in the spring. 
This thunder-peal was regarded as a signal of the awakening of 
certain life-giving forces after the sleep of the winter. In former da3^s 
a ceremony took place at this time with song and ritual in which the 
Wa^a'be itazhi (black bear) subgens of the Tha'tada gens joined 
with the We'zhi"shte gens. It has been impossible to obtain a trust- 
worthy account of this ancient ceremony, owing to the death of the 

a This and similar rcfcrcncps throughout this section are to be read in connection with figure 20. 


men who knew the rites. During severe thunder storms, when life 
and property were in tUinger from Hghtning, sometimes a song said 
to have been connected with this lost ceremony was sung by one 
who had a right to tlo so. 

The following, act of the keeper of the Tent of War (see fig. 22) may 
have been a part of this lost ceremonj": ^Vhen the first thunder 
sounded, he at once took a small pipe and ascended a hill near by, 
where he offered smoke to Wako°'da. He then planted a small wand 
(fig. 21) on the hill so as to point toward the east.' To this wand 
w'ere bound with human hair four small bunches of tobacco inclosed 
in bits of bladder. The combination of tobacco, bladder, and human 

Fig. 21. Wand used in ceromony when first thunder was h^urd in ttie spring. (Native drawing.) 

hair on the wand seems to indicate that this act and lost ceremony 
probablj^ related to Thunder as the arbiter of life and death, as is 
shown in the ceremony of cutting the lock of hair from the head of the 
boy. (Seep. 122.) 

The tabu of the We'zhi"shte was the male elk, and the gens was 
sometimes spoken of as the Elk gens ; this form of speech with refer- 
ence to the tabu of a gens has already been explained (see p. 136). 
Concerning the connection of the male elk with the rites of the gens 
the following story is handed down: 

^\^len the pipes and the other articles belonging to the rites pertaining to war were 
made, the people sought for some skin to be used as a covering in which to keep and 
protect these things which were regarded as wamibe, or sacred; but none could be 
found save that of the male elk. The fact that at that particular time only the skin 
of the male elk was obtainable was regarded as an indication that the male elk came 
to their aid by direction of Wako^'da. Therefore, in memory of this act of the male 
elk, this animal became tabu to the gens. 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

No member of the We'zhi°shte gens would eat the flesh of the 
mah^ elk or wear moccasins made of its skin, such acts being con- 
sidered sacrilegious on account of the service believed to have 
been rendered the people by that animal. At death moccasins made 
of the skin of the male elk were put on the feet -of the departed 
We'zhi°.shte, that he might be recognized b}' his gentile relatives in 
the other world. The boy name Nuga'xti, ''the real male," refers 
directly to the tabu of the gens. 















^^^^^EC' ' '' ^Bl 





- ^" 







' ---^ _- 


Fig. 22. Mo"lu"thi''ge, last keeper of the Tent of War. utui liis liaughter. 

Any violation of the tabu of a gens was regarded by the people as 
a sacrilegious act, the punishment of which took' the form of the 
appearance of sores or white spots on the body of the offender or of 
the hair turning white. 

There were no subdivisions in this gens. 

The following are the names belonging to the We'zhi"shte gens. 
They are classifled as ni'l-ie, "dream," ''fanciful," and "borrowed" 
names, and nicknames. The word ni'lcie has been already translated 
and explained (see p. 136); as stated, a ni'l-ie name alwa3's referred 
to the rites and tabu of the gens. These names were bestowed on 
the child at the time the rite of initiation into the tribe was per- 
formed. (See p. 121.) The najue then given generally clung more or 
less closely to a man, although later in his career he might take 
another name, either a ni'lcie name or one commemorative of a 
dream, a deed, or an event, or he might have a nickname bestowed 





on him. All female names were of the ni'Jcie class and were never 
dropped or changed, nor did a woman ever have more than one name. 
After the performance of the initiatory rite and 
bestowal of theni'lcie name, the father cut his child's 
hair in. the maimer which symbolized the tabu of 
his gens. This cutting of the hair was repeated 
every year until the child was about 7 years old, 
when it was abandoned, never to be resumed. 

In the We'zhi''shte gens, the symbolic cut of the 

child's hair was as follows : All the hair on the boy's 

Fig. 23. Cut of hair, We'- head was cut close or shaved except a bunch or 

.hi..htegens. ^^^^ ^^ ^j^^ forehead and a long, thick lock left at 

the nape of the neck (fig. 23). The tuft represented the head of the 

elk; the lock, its tail. 

personal names in the we'zhi''shte gens (1) 

Xi'kic names 

A''e'go°tha A"e'. success; gon'iha, desire. 

Bi "^e'tigthe Bi^ge', sound of the elk's voice; tigthe, heard at a distance. 

Btho°ti' Blhon, smell, scent; ti, comes. Scent borne by wind, dis- 
covering game. (In Nu'xe, Ponca.) 

fe'fo^fnede Te'co", from (;e'<;afa, trot; gnede, long. Refers to elk. 

C!i°'dedo''pa Qi^de, tail; do^pa, blunt, short. (In J/o"fon' subdivision, 

Po^'caxti, Ponca.) Refers to the elk. 

He'cithfke fle'fs, yellow horn or antler; tAjnfe, sitting. Refers to the 

yellowish color of the. velvety skin of the new growth of 
the antlers of the elk. (In Ni'kapashna, Ponca.) 

He''9o''to'' He, antler; fo", white; to^, standing. Refers to the tower- 
ing antlers of an elk. 

He'shabe He, antler; shabe, dark. 

He'shto^ga He, horn, or antlers; shtonga, soft. Two of this name. 

Refers to the new growth of the antlers of the elk. 

I'''gthu°ho"gasha I'l^'glhu'"-, thunder; Ao", night; agasha, to travel. Refers to 

Sacred Pipe of War. 

I'''gthu°tha In'gthu", thunder; tha, bom the, to go. Refers to Sacred Pipe 

of War. 

Ki'baxthagthitho" Ki'baxtha, to face; glhi, return; thon, suddenly; to turn and 

face suddenly (elk). The elk suddenly brought to bay 
by the hunter. 

Ku'kuwi''xe Turning round and round. Refers to a bewildered elk when 


Ku'wi^xaxa Turning round in bewilderment (elk). 

Mo^'geshabe Mo^'ge, breast; shabe, dark. Refers to the dark coloring of 

the breast of the animal. 

Mo'"hi°thi''ge (fig. 22 1. . Mo^'hi'^, stone knife; thinge, none. 

No°mo'"mo°tha No^, action with the feet; mo^alha, walking with the head 

thrown back. The repetition of mo" signifies that the 
action is repeated. Refers to the peculiar manner in 
which the elk holds its head in walking. 

Nuga'xti (pi. 24) Nuga', male; xti, real, virile. (In Po^'caxti, Ponca.) 

©■"po" Elk. 

83993°— 27 eth— 11 10 

146 THE OMAHA TRIBE fETn. ann. 27 

0"'po"rka Oipo", elk; (;^i/, white. The Ponca have O"' po^^abe . 

{Ili'qada gens.) 

O"'po"no"zhi" O't'po", elk; no'^zhi'", .'jtanding. The Ponra u.-ie the Dakota 

form . 

O"'po"to"ga O^'po^', elk; tofga, big. Appears in Omaha treaties of 1815, 

1826, 1830, 1836. (In Thi'xida, Ponca.) 

O"'po"zhi"ga Young elk. (In Po^'caxti, Ponca.) 

Shi'beko" Shi'he, intestines; Ico""-, a string. Refers (o the iute.stine of 

the wolf used as a string in the Honor Pack, Tent of War. 

Tahe'zho"ka Ta refers to deer; ^e, horn; zho'^ka, forked. 

Wako"'dagi A mythical being; a monster. 

Xaga^mo^thi" Xaga', rough; monthi^, walking. Refers to the jagged out- 
line of a herd of elk, their antlers rising like tree branches. 
Borro'ved names 

Hexa'gato''ga Big male elk. Archaic with Omaha; used by Dakota. 

Hi'daha Meaning unknown. 

Fanciful names 

I°shta'mo°fe Metal eye. 

Wa'badoMo" Meaning uncertain. 

We'btho"aji Not satisfied although he has many things. 

Valor name 
We'zhi "^htewashtishe . . Brave We'zh i "shte . 

Female names 

Age'xube Ace', paint; mibe, sacred. Three of this name. Refers to 

thepaintusedatsacred ceremonies. (InWazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

f i^'dewi" pi^de, tail; wi'", feminine term. Three of this name. 

Ma'zho''wi° Ma'zho^, fox; v-i^, feminine term. 

Mi'dasho"thi" The moon moving. 

Mi'gashoHhi" The moon moving. (In Washa'be, Ponca.) 

Ni'dawi" Ni'da, mysterious animal ; feminine term, i/i". Three of 

this name. 
No''5e'i"9e Meaning uncertain. (In Wazha'zhe, Tki'xidit, and n!'<;ada, 


O^'po^miga Female elk. 

Pahi'fi PahV, hair on the head (elk); ji', yellow. 

Ta^a'bewi" Ta, deer; fabe, black; ui", feminine term. Five of this 

name. (In Wa'zhazhe, Ponca.) 
Wihe'to^ga Jr/Af, younger sister; to^^o, big. (In Washa'be and Wazha'- 

zhc, Ponca.) 
Zho'''i"wathe ZAoni", carry wood; jcaM*, to cause. Two of this name. (In 

Ui'gada and Po^'^axti, Ponca.) 

I'^ke'cabe Gens (2) 

The I^ke'^abe camped next to the We'zhi"shte on the left. I^Tce'- 
pabe i.s an archaic word of doubtful meaninji. It may refer to the 
black shoulder of the buffalo (i"]ce, an abbreviation of i'^lce'de, 
"shoulder;" fahe, "black"). From the myths ami traditions it would 
seem that the leadership accorded to this gens during certain move- 
ments of the peo])le when engaged in the actual ]iursuit of the buffalo 
on the annual tribal lumt began at an early period wlien tlie people 
took up the custom of following the buffalo. The particular authority 





and leadership vested in this gens were regarded not only as sacred 
but as absolutely necessary, so much so that it was said: "If the last 
I^ke'fabe was an infant in its mother's arms it would be carried to 
lead the people in the wano'^'pe" (the surround of the herd). This 
ancient and hereditary office came to an end at the last buffalo hunt 
in the winter of 1875-76, with I^shta'thabi, "He who is eyes" (for 
the people). At that time he served as director or leader of the sur- 
round, and was the last watho^' of the wano^'pe. (PI. 2.5.) 

The following legend is said to have given rise to a series of names 
m this gens: 

The buffalo were underground. A young bull browsing about found his way to the 
surface of the earth. [This is a figurative expression referring to the birth of the 
species buffalo from mother earth.] The herd followed him. As they went they came 
to a river. The water looked shallow, but it was deep. As the buffalo jumped in, 
the water splashed and looked gray in the air. The herd swam on and over the stream, 
where on the other side they found good pasture and remained on the earth. 

The name Niga'xude refers to this experience of the new-born 
buffalo; the word is compounded of m, "water;" ga, "to strike;" xude, 
"gray." Niga'xude was the name given to the first born son. The 
second son could be called either Heba'zhu, "knob horns," referring 
to the protuberances on the head of the calf, or Gthadi"'gthitho°, 
" the hungry calf running crosswise in front of its mother and stop- 
ping her progress." The third son could be named fiko°'xega, 
"brown ankles," the color of the ankles of the buffalo calf. When 
these boys became adults, the eldest could take the name Pe'tho°ba, 
" seven;" the second could have Mo"'geto"ga, "big chest;" the third, 
No°zhi'hato''ga, "big hair." When these men became old, they 
could take the following names: The eldest, He'ubagtho°de, "worn 
horns of the old buffalo bull;" the next, Mo°e'gahi, "arrow chief;" 
and the youngest, Mo°zlio°'wakithe, "land of the buffalo." 

The I^ke'^abe had two subgentes, Nini'bato° and Wathi'gizhe. 

(a) Nini'bato" {nini'ha, "pipe;" to", "to possessor keep"). The 
followmg fragmentary legend is connected with this subgens anil its 
tabu, the red ear of corn : 

The I°ke'5abe were the first of the Omaha to exist. There were one man and one 
woman. They lived together and children were born to them. The woman went 
out one day and found little mounds on the ground. In a few days she went again, 
and saw that out of the mounds plants were growing not known to her. From time to 
time she went to look at these plants. They grew tall, and by and by ears grew on 
them. These she gathered and took to her husband and children. They roasted the 
ears by the fire and ate them. These were the people to whom the corn was sacred; 
so to this day they do not eat the red ear of corn. 

It was the duty of this subgens to provide the ears of red corn, 
which were considered the sacred corn, and to give them to the 
Ho^'gaxti division of the Washa'beto" subgens of the Ho°'ga. 
When the time for planting arrived, the ceremonial distribution of this 
sacred corn took place. The Ho°'gaxti sang the ritual of the maize 

148 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

and then p;ave the sacred kernels to this subgens, who acted as servers 
and distributed four of the kernels to each family in the tribe. 

To a family within this subgens was given the hereditary charge of 
the Sacred Tribal Pipes. In this connection it is noteworthy that the 
custodianship of these Sacred Pipes was bestowed on those to whom 
belonged rites in connection with the cultivation of the maize, whose 
tabu was the sacred corn. This indicates that the group who con- 
trolled the rites of the maize were regarded as the proper persons to 
have the care of the symbol of tribal authority because of their con- 
nection with ancient sacred rites which secured food for the people. 
The symbolic cut of the hair of the children of this subgens was 
peculiar. All hair was cut off the head except two small bunches, 
one on each side of the crown (fig. 24). This style was observed in all 
the Xini'bato" subdivisions of the other gentes of the tribe. These 
two little tufts of hair may refer to the little mounds, spoken of in 
the legend, from which the corn grew. 

There were two subdivisions of the Nini'bato" subgens, the No°xthe'- 
bitube and the I'ekithe. To the first was given the hereditary right 
to prepare the paint for the decoration of the pole 
used in the ITe'dewachi ceremony. The name No°- 
xthe'bitube was descriptive of their duty {no'^xthe, 
"charred box elder wood;" hitu'he, "to pulverize 
by rubbing"). This group not only observed the 
tabu of their subgens, the red ear of corn, but had 
an additional tabu, the charcoal, which referred to 
their office of painting the Pole and preparing the 
FiG.24. cutothair.Nini'- paint for the ceremony. As the painting on the 
Pole was symbolic, it was religious in character. 
I'ekithe signifies "he who speaks or proclaims." The hereditary 
office of tribal herald belonged to this subdivision. The herald had to 
have a strong, clear voice, as his duty was to proclaim the decisions 
of the chiefs and to give out orders to the people when the tribe was 
on its annual hunt. If by any chance the official herald was inca- 
pacitated, his substitute had to be chosen from the same subdivision. 
The I'ekithe observed the tabu of the subgens to which they belonged, 
the red ear of corn. 

(6) Wathi'gizhe. The name of this subgens was also the name of the 
hoop used in a ceremonial game which, it is said, was formerly played 
by the chiefs alone, and was connected with the following story, which 
belongs to the class designated Jii'go", a word meaning "the story 
is not literally true:" 

The people were without food, and no game could be found to keep the people from 
starving. Outside the village lived an orphan boy with his grandmother, and these 
two consulted together as to how they could help the people to procure food. At 
last they agreed upon a plan, and the boy set to work and made a hoop. After it was 
made he gave it to his grandmother, and according -to their plan she took it to the top 


of a hill near by while the boy stationed himself halfway up the hill. When all was 
ready, the grandmother started the hoop down the hill. As it began to roll she 
called out: "There goes a young bull \vith straight horns! " The hoop rolled on and 
when it reached the place where the boy stood it suddenly turned into a buffalo, 
which the boy shot and killed. He butchered the animal and gave the flesh to the 
people to eat. A second time the grandmother took the hoop to the top of the hill and 
rolled it down and called out to her grandson what kind of buffalo was coming. He 
was at his station halfway down the hill, and there the hoop turned into a buffalo, 
which he shot and gave to the people for food. A third and a fourth time the grand- 
mother and the orphan played this game, and after the fourth time great herds of 
buffalo came and the people had plenty of food. As a mark of their gratitude they 
made the orphan a Chief. 

The office of watho'^', director of the wano^'fe, the surround of the 
herd, was hereditary in a family of this subgens. The custody of 
the songs belonging to the Ile'dewaclii ceremony and the singers 
in this tribal ceremony were taken from this subgens. The bearers of 
the Sacred Tribal Pipes used on that occasion were of the Nini'bato" 

The tabu of the Watlii'gizhe was the tongue and head of the buffalo. 

The Wathi'gizhe cut off all the hair from the 
child's head except a tuft over the forehead, one 
on each side of the crown, and a short lock at the 
nape of the neck, to represent respectively the 
head, horns, and tail of the buffalo (fig. 25). 

In the hu'thuga, the Nini'bato" subgens camped 
next to the We'zhi°shte. The left part of the line 
of the Nini'bato" was occupied by the subdivi- 
sion of the No°xthe'bitube families. On their fig.25. cutofiuih, wli- 
left camped the Wathi'gizhe subgens, and left of thi'gizhe subgens. 
these and next the Ho°'ga the subdivision of I'ekithe pitched their 


Nini'bato^ subgens (a) 

Ni'kie names 

Athu^hagemo^thi" Athu'hage, last; moMhi^, walking. Refers to buffalo. 

Cho°'nimba Cho'"^, said to be toHhi^no^ba and to refer to the pipe- 
bearer at the He'dewachi ceremony; niniba, pipe. 

Qihi'duba ^'ihi', feet; duba, four. 

Edia'ino^zhi" £di, there; at an act; the name given the last ceremonial 

pause when approaching a herd; no'^zhi^, standing. 

Kdi'to" From that place; referring to the place of the pipes. 

Gahi'ge Chief. (In Wa^a'be, Ui'^ada subdivision, Ponca.) 

Gahi'ge9nede Tall chief. 

Gahi'gexti Real chief. 

Gahi'gezhi "ga Young chief. {In Wazha'zhe, Foncsu.) 

Gaxa'tano^zhi" Oaxa'ta, apart from (the herd) ; no"zhi^, stands. 

Gino'^xthe Gi, again; no^xlhc, black, like charcoal. Refers to the new 

hair of the buffalo after shedding. 

Gio^'cethi'^e Gio^'^e, to teach; thi^ge, none. None to teach him. 

150 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

Gthacli"'gthitho" Gthadi^', cross; glhi, returns; tho«, suddenly. The hungry 

calf runs in front of its mother and stops her progress. 

He'akathi"ge Meaning uncertain. 

Heba'zhu lie, horns; ba'zku, little knobs. 

He'benika Ife'be, a portion; ru'ia, a person. 

He'ubagthoMe The worn horns of an old buffalo. 

Pshta'pede I^'shla', eyes; pede, fire. (Also in I'ehithe subdivision.) 

I"uhe /, from i«, speech; 'uhe, obey. Refers to the performance 

by the people of the commands of the chiefs, or the sub- 
mission to their authority. 

Ki'ko"to°ga Curlew. [Numenius longiroslris. Hudsonian.j 

Mo°e'gahi Mo^e, arrow; gahi, from gahi'ge, chief. (In Wa^a'be, Hi'qada 

subdivision, Ponca.) 

Mo'"geto''ga Mo'n'ge, breast; to'^ga, big. 

Mo"zho'^'gabtho'' ilo'^zho'"-' , land ; gabtho", scent remains. 

Mo°zho'''wakithe Land of the buffalo. 

Na'gu Meaning uncertain. 

Ni'ashiga A person. Refers to those who were chiefs in the organiza- 
tion of the tribal government. 

Niga'xude Ni, water; ga, to strike; xude, gray. Refers to animals stirring 

up the water. 

Niu'bathide Ni, water; u'balhide, overrun, swarm. Refers to masses of 

buffalo swimming. 

No^ba't'ewathe No^ba', two; t'e, dead; u-athe, to cause. 

No^i'ga Swaying motion, as made by buffalo walking. 

No^'kaetho^be Non'ca, back; etho^be, appears. 

No°zhi'hato°ga No^zhi'ha, hair; to^ga, great. 

Paho"'gamo°thi'' Pahon'ga, first; vwnhi", walking. (In Waqa'be, Ponca.) 

Pe'tho"ba Seven. Refers to the seven original chiefs. 

Sha'geno''ba Sha'ge, hoofs; no^bu, two: cloven hoofs. 

She'thugthito" Shi'thu, theTe;gthi, returns; to", stands. 

Ta'hesha Meaning lost. 

Te(;o'"ho"ga Ttxon', white buffalo; honga, leader; used al.'^o in the Dakota. 

Te9o'"mo"thi'' Te(;o^', white buffalo; moHhi'", walking. 

Tenua'xano^zhi" Te, buffalo; nu, from nuga, bull; axa, from giua'ta, a.'j^axt 

from; no^zhi", stand. 

Ti'zhebegtho" Door flap. In Omaha treaty of 1825. 

To°'thi°no°ba The two who run. 

XJga'e Spread out. (The herd as it runs spreads out.) 

TJgthi'to" Refers to handling the pipes when making them ready for use. 

U'nizhabi Meaning uncertain. 

Utha'xado°gthe Meaning uncertain. 

Uthi'sho^mo^thi" Walking around. 

Wada'thi"ga Refers to the peaceful ollice of the chief. (In Tki'rida, 


AVaki'de Wet, action; ki'de, to shoot. One who shoots. 

\Vazhi°'texi Wazhit', will, disposition; tm, difficult. Refers to office of 

the chiefs. Anger is made difficult because of the Seven 
Chiefs, who must enforce peace in the tribe. 

Xitha'wahi Xi7Ao', eagle; imhi, bone. Refers to pipe. Not liked, as 

children of this name are apt to die. 

Borrowed namrs 

Tsh'kadabi Borrowed from the Kansa gens in the eighteenth century. 

Pude'tha Meaning unknown. (In A'u'ic, Ponca.) 


Fanciful names 

Taxie'wathezhi"ga Taxi, knocking sound; wathc, to cause; zhi^ga, little. 

U'ki(;a Empty lodge, or country. 

Uko"a'dig(hc)" UJcona'rli, separate, alone; gtho", from gthin, sits. 

Female namts 

Mi'to°i" New moon. 

Po^'cafo" Pale Ponca. 

Tewa'u Te, buffalo; iva'u, woman. 

To°'i°gi New moon coming. 



NoJtxlhe'bitubc subdivision 

Male names 

Ci9i'kazhi''ga Little turkey. 

Gashka'wo''gthe Meaning uncertain. 

Tahe'zlii°ga Little buffalo horns. 

Wathi'gizhe subgcns (6) 

Ni'kie uame.-i 

Bago^'no^ge Bagon', in the midst of bushes or people; no'^ge, to run. 

Qiko'"xega fiio", ankles; xega, yellowish brown. Refers to the buffalo 

calf. (In Ni'kapashna, Ponca). Two of this name. 
Du'taamonhi" (fig. 2fi). Du'ba, four; vioHhi^, walking. (In Nu'xe, Ponca) 
Gino°'zhi"wathe Oi, again; no^zhin, to rise, to stand; vathe, causes them. He 

causes them to rise or stand. 
Gthedo'"mo°thi'' Glhcdo^', hawk; moHhin, walking. 

152 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

Ili"gi'zhi"ga J/i", hair; <;i, yellow; zki^ga, little (child's name). 

IIi'"xega Hin, hair; xega, yellowish brown. Refers to the buffalo. 

Pde'ubthi" Inde', face; uhthi"; twisted. 

I''8hta'thabi /"s/ita', eye; Z/w, cause; 6i, he is. Appointed eyes. Refers 

to the appointed leader of the chase. This name belonged 

to one who was hereditary leader of the chase. 
Mo"no"'kuge Mo", from nw^thi^ka, ground; no^, action of the foot; huge; 

hollow sound, like a drum. This name refers to the 

rumbling sound made by the herds of buffalo with their 

hoofs when fleeing from the hunters. 
Mo''shti'''o"(;'a Mnisldi"', irom monshtin'ge, rabbit; o'^ga, swift. Refers to 

the use of rabbit hair on the pipes. 

Nio^'bathi" Ni, water; o"6a, day; thin, from moMhi^, walk, or travel. 

No"ke'na JVo™ implies action with the foot; kena, an old word signifying 


No^shki'gthe Tracks of buffalo calf (child's name). 

No''zhi°'thia No'i'^zhi'", to rise; ihia, to fail. Unable to rise. 

Nuga' Male, bull. (In Po^'caxti, Mo"ko^' subdivision, Ponca.) 

Pa'xehashuga Thick skin of buffalo neck. 

Tade'ta Modified from tonthiMo"; refers to the running of the pipe 

bearers in the He'dewachi ceremony. Two of this name. 

Tewa'ko"no"zhi'' Sacred buffalo. (Dakota also.) 

The'i;e9abe The'^e, tongue; qahe, black. Refers to the tip of the buffalo's 

tongue. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Ti'zhebegtho" Tent door flap. In Omaha treaty, 1826. 

Uthi'sho"mo"thi" To walk around. 

U'thixide To look around. Probably refers to the runners. Two of 

this name. (In Nu'xe, Ponca.) 
Wano^'gewa'.he TFa, action with purpose; no^gc, to run; ivathe, one who causes. 

Causes them to run, or to stampede. 

Wa.shu'she Brave. (In Tr«c/j«'cftf, Ponca.) 

Wate'xi Wa, action with purpose; texe, diflBcult 

Wi'thugtho" Meaning uncertain. 

Borrowed names 

Tewa'ko"no"zhi'' Te, buffalo; icako", the Dakota waka", mysterious; no«zhi^, 

standing. Said to be borrowed from the Dakota; equiva- 
lent therein to " medicine cow." 

Dream names 

Ho°'mo"thi''zhi"ga Little night walk. 

Fanciful names 

Giu'ka Meaning unknown. 

Mo''the'gahi Refers to arrow. 

Mo"'thihi Refers to arrow. 


Wa'xupagtho" Wa'xe, white man; pa, head; uglho^, to put in. 

FimaU names 

Ha'wate Refers to the child, Ho^'ga, in Wa'wa" ceremony. 

I'nikashabi Refers to tribal pipes— objects by which the tribe is identi- 
fied as a people. 

Mi'gthedo°wi° Moon hawk, feminine. (In Ni'kapashna, Washa'be, and 

Thi'xida, Ponca.) 





Mi'gthito"i" (pi. 2(i) . . . Moon returning. 

Mi'hufa Loud voice moon. Two of this name. 

Mi'mite Meaning uncertain. 

Mi'mo^shihathi" Moon moving on high. 

Mi'texi Sacred moon. 

Te'mitexi JVmi, buffalo cow; <m, sacred. Two of this name. 

To^'i^gthihe Sudden apparition of the new moon. (In Wazha'zhe; also in 

Wa(;a^be, Ili'cada subgens, Ponca.) 
We'to^na Meaning uncertain. (In Nu'xe, Ponca.) 

I'ekithe subdivision 
Ni'kie names 

riko°'xega ^'iko"', ankles; xega, bmwn. Three of this name. (In 

Ni'kapashna, Ponca.) 

^'i"'demuxa (^'i^'de, tail; muxn, cluster. 

Gthadi°'gthitho'' Gthadin', cross; glhi, return; thon, suddenly. A wounded 

buffalo turns sideways on his hunter. Child's name. Re- 
fers to a hungry calf crossing its mother's path to nurse. 

Heba'zhu He, horns; bazhu, a little lump or knob. Three of this name. 

(Also in NinVbato" subgens.) 

Hi''to'^'zhi''ga //('», hair; to", possess; zhi^ga, little. 

I^shta'pede Inshla, eyes; pede, fire. (Also in Nini'bato'" subgens.) 

To"^wa''zhi°ga To"' it'O", village; zhi^ga, smaU. 

Wa'baku'^ga TTn, action; ba, push; kunga, jostling. Buffaloes crowding 

and pushing each other. 

Wazhi"'ho''gii First of birds. Refers to the eagle down put on the head of 

Ho^'ga in Wa'wan ceremony. 

Xitha'pahi Xitha', eagle; pahi, neck. 

Dream names 

Xu'ga Badger. 

Ta'thafapa Wood tick. 

Female names 

Age'xube ylfc, paint; zm6c, sacred. 

Mi'gasho"thi'' Travelingormovingmoon. (In Warn'bea.nd Thi'xida, Ponca.) 

Mi'gina Moon returning. 

Mi'gthito"i" Return of the new moon. 

Mi'o^bathi'' The moon that travels b)' day. 

Te'mitexi Te'mi, buffalo cow; texi, sacred. 

IIo^''GA Gens (3) 

The Ho°'ga gens camped next to the I"ke'9abe on the left. IIo°'ga 
means "leader," or "first," and implies the idea of ancient, or first, 
people; those who led. The probability of Ho°'ga being the ancient 
designation of the tribe has been discussed. (See p. 40.) This 
probability suggests a possible reason for the position of this gens and 
the duties devolving upon it. The gens occupied the center of the 
southern half (Ho°'gashenu division) of the hu'thuga. The place of 
the Ho°'ga corresponded to that set apart for the father of the family 
within the tent and the Ho°'ga filled a directive position toward the 
gentes within the hu'thuga, or dwelling of the tribe, somewhat similar 
to that of the father toward the members of the family under his care. 

154 THE OMAHA TBIBE [eth. ann. 27 

Upon the Ho°'ga devolved tlie leadership in the governing power of 
the tribe (see p. 201) and in the rites connected with the quest for food. 

There were two subgentes, the Waxthe'xeto" and the Washa'beto". 
These had charge of the two Sacred Tents, their contents, and the 
ceremonies pertaining to the objects kept in them. The tents were 
pitched in front of the place where the two subgentes came together, 
and were set about 30 feet in front of the line, toward the center of 
the Tiu'thuga, about 25 feet apart. 

The two tents represented "both sides of the house," the hu'ihuga. 
From the rites connected with the White Buffalo Hide, lodged in the 
tent (13) set in front of the Washa'beto" subgens, it is probable that 
this tent represented the Ho"'gashenu division, to which were commit- 
ted the physical welfare of the people, the rites pertaining to the quest 
of food, and the control of warfare. The tent (12) pitched in front of 
the Waxthe'xeto" subgens contained the Sacred Pole, which was allied 
to Thunder and the supernatunU Powers, and symbolized the authority 
of the chiefs — an authority believed to be derived from Wako°'da. 
This tent probably represented the Sky people, the I°shta'9u°da 
division, which had charge of the rites pertaining to the people's rela- 
tion to the supernatural. 

Waxthe' xcto'n subgens (a) 

Waxthe'xe (waxtJie'xe, "mottled, as by shadows," "a mottled 
object" — the name of the Sacred Pole (see pi. 38); to^, "to possess 
or have charge of") implied that the object thus described had the 
power to confer distinction, as the xtJie'xe, " the mark of honor." The 
tabu of this subgens was a double one, the tezhu' and the crane. The 
tezhu' was a particular cut of meat from the side of the buffalo (see 
p. 273) , that was brought as an offering to the Sacred Pole at the great 
tribal ceremony when the Pole was anointed. The feathers of the 
crane were used on the divining arrows that had a part in this same 

A group of families belonging to the Waxthe'xeto" subgens was set 
apart as servers; these were called umthi'to'^ {hom.thito'^' , "to work"), 
"workers". Their duties were connected witli ceremonies pertaining 
to the Sacred Pole. They prepared and distributed the meat brought 
as offerings by the people at the anointing rites. The tabu of this 
group was the same as that of the subgens of which they were a 
part — the tezhu' and the crane. This group camped next to the 
I'ekithe of the I"ke'(;'abe gens, and at their left camped the remainder 
of the W^axthe'xeto" subgens. 

Washa'beto^ sttbgens (ft) 

The Washa'beto" {washa'he, ''a dark object," the word "dark" 
referring not to color, but to the general appearance of an object at 
a distance — the name of a peculiar staff (fig. 27) belonging to the 







leader of the people when on the annual tribal hunt; fo^, to 
"possess") had the ofhrial duty of makino; and decorating this staflf, 
though it did not belong to this subgens to provide the materials 
required for the staff. The Washa'beto" had charge of the Te(?o"'ha 
(te, ''buffalo;" fo"', " pale" or "white;" 
Jul, "skin" or "hide") — White Buffalo 
Hide, and its tent. (PI. 27.) The tabu was 
the buffalo tongues wiiiih were brought to 
the sacred feast. A subdivision of this 
subgens, called Ho°'gaxti {xti, "original," 
as a parent stock) had charge of the 
ceremonies connected with the maize. 
They preserved the sacred corn, chanted 
its ritual, and fixed the time for planting. 
Their tabu was the hdtu' (the word hafii' 
is from ha, "skin," and tu, "green," 
referring to the outer husk of the ear of 
corn). In this connection the decora- 
tion painted on the Sacred Tent in charge 
of the Washa'be subgens, which was the 
fidl grown stalk of corn, becomes signifi- 
cant. It is probable that the Ho"'gaxti 
was the original subgens, but when the 
people came into the bidfalo country, 
the rites relating to hunting the buffalo 
overshadowed those pertaining to the 
maize; hence the subdivision that had 
charge of tiie hunt became the more 
important body, tlie group who pos- 
sessed the rites of tiie corn the subor- 
dinate. This probability bears out a 
tradition of tiie tribe that tiie people in fig. 27. washaiip. 

the course of their migrations west and northwest became more strictly 
a hunting people and that the cultivation .of the maize fell into 
abeyance or was temporarily abandoned. 

The Washa'beto" subgens camped to the left 
f of the Waxthe'xeto" subgens. 

I The symbolic cut of the luiir of children belong- 

y ing to the Ho"'ga gens consisted in cutting ofl' all 

tiie hair close to the head except a ridge which 
stood up from the forehead to the nape of the 
neck (fig. 28). This is said to represent the line 
of the buffalo's back as seen against the sky, but 
it is equally applicable to the appearance of grow- 

Kic. 28. Cut of hair, 

ing corn viewed in the same way. 



Waxthe'xeto^ suhgens (a) 
Xi'kie names 

A^'geda From every direction. (See Ritual of Sacred Buffalo Hide, 

p. 294.) Two of this name. 

Bishu'deki Refers to the dust made by the herds as they move. 

Edi'to" Edi', there; to", stands. Refers to Sacred Pole. 

E'tho°tho"be To appear repeatedly. (In Washa'be, Ponca.) 

Gai^'bazhi Ineffectual striking. 

Kaxe'giu" Kaxe, crow; giu^, to fly. Flying crow. Two of this name. 

The crow is used as one of the symbols in making the 
ivasha'he. (See Ritual of Sacred Buffalo Hide, p. 300.) 

Kaxe'no^ba Kaxe, crows; nonba, two. (In Thi'xida, Ponca.) (See 

Ritual of Sacred Buffalo Hide.) 

Mixa'to" Mi'xa, swan; to", standing. Refers to the down on the 

Sacred Pole. 

Mo"chu'ha Grizzly-bearskin. In Omaha treaty, 1836. 

Aro°chu'no''tide Mo^chu, grizzly bear; fio", action with the feet; tide, rum- 
bling sound. 

Mo"chu'pa Mo^chu, grizzly bear; pa, head. 

Mo°'pezhi Mo^, arrow; pezhi, bad. Refers to the divining arrows used 

in the ceremony of the Sacred Pole. (See Ritual of 
Sacred Pole, p. 242.) 

Mo°'umizhe On Omaha treaty of 1826. 

Neka'hano'^ge Neka'ha, edge of a lake; no't'ge, running. 

Nia'dishtagabi Ni, water; adi, there; shta, from iJ>shta, eye; gabtha, to open. 

(See Legend of Sacred Pole, p. 70), where the name 
appears without elision. 

Ni'k'umizhe Ni'k'umizhe, resting on a human being. Probably refers to 

the resting of the Sacred Pole on a scalp. 

No^'gazhi No^'ga, to run ; zhi, abbreviated form, not. Not able to run. 

No"'kaetho°be No''^'ka, back; elho^be, to appear. 

Nudo"'ho''ga Leader, principal. ( In Washa'be, Ponca.) 

Sha^beno^zhi" Shabe, dark, as an object; nonzhin, to stand. Refers to the 

Sacred Pole; (In Nu'xe, Ponca.) 

Sho°'ge Horse. Old name for wolf . 

Shu'dena9i- Shu'de, smoke; na, action by fire; fi', yellow. Refers to the 

smoke stain of the Sacred Pole. 

Shu'kamo''thi° .9/i!i';[;a, groups; mon^/jt", to walk. Walking in groups. Ref- 
erence uncertain. (In Washa'be, Hi'qada subdivision, 

Teba'gizhe Tf, buffalo; ftojiVAc, crooked, uneven. Refers to the uneven 

line of a herd of buffalo as seen against the horizon. 

Teho^'moHhi" Te, buffalo; hot, night; mo^thi". walking. 

Te'huto''bi Te, buffalo; hutonbi, bellowing. Two of this name. (See 

ritual, p. 298.) 

Tehu'xthabe Te, buffalo; hu'.rthabc, the leaf fat. 

Tenu'ga Buffalo bull. (In IPasfta'Sf, Ponca.) 

Tenu'gano''pewathe Tenu'ga, buffalo bull; no"pewathe, fear inspiring. Fear- 
inspiring buffalo bull. 

Tenu'gawazhi "pezhi. .. Tenu'ga, buffalo bull; iiazW", powerful in will, angry; pezhi, 


Tezhe'btho" Tcz/j*', buffalo dung; 6<Ao», smell. 

Thi(;po"'bi To feel of. Refers to com. (See ritual, p. 266.) 

Thigi'ge The sound made by corn husks when pulled apart. (See 

ritual, p. 266.) 

Ushko^'bitega Ushko^, wallow; hitega, making anew or afresh. 

Uthu'shino"zhi" Uthu'sM, at the front; no"zhi", tostand. Refers to the Sacred 


Wano"'shekithabi One who is made soldier. 

Washi^'une Refers to the selection of fat for the anointing of the Pole. 

Wathi'i"ge Braided ears of corn. 

We'kushto" We' hi, to give feasts; s/ito", frequent. Appears in Omaha 

treaty of 1830. 

Xtha'gaxe To blossom. Refers to com. (See ritual, p. 266). 

Zho^co"'. .- White wood. 

FaTiciful names 

Mo''chu'no°ba Two grizzly bears. 

Shaa°' Name by which Dakota are designated. 

Female names 

I°8hta'mo°fewi'' I^shta, eye; mo"ge, metal, iron; ici", female term. Two of 

this name. 

Mi'gasho"thi'' The traveling moon. Four of this name. 

Mi'gthito"i" Return of the new moon. 

Mi'mite Meaning uncertain. Four of this name. 

Mi'mo"shihathi" Moon moving on high. 

Mi'wafo" The white moon. Three of this name. (In Pon'caxti, Hi' gada 

subdivision, Ponca.) 
No"zhe'gito° Meaning uncertain. Two of this name. (In TM'xida and 

in Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 
To'"i''thi° New moon moving. Three of this name. (In Tki'xida, 

We'to^bethi" One who gives hope. {From vtonbethe, to hope or to wish for.) 

(In JVipa' gens also.) 

Wathi'tnn (hereditary servers) subdivision 
Ni'kie names 

<5a(;u'be Appearance of buffalo running against wind. (In Wazha'zhe, 


Ha'xigi Name of the first man, mythical. 

Ho°'gaxti A"(i, real. Real or original Ho°'ga. 

I°shta'pa Meaning uncertain. 

Kage'zhi°ga Kage', younger brother; zhinga, little. Child's name. 

Ni'kadathi" Ni'ka, man; dathi^, CTa.zy. 

No°shto"'azhi No"shto'', to stop; azhi, not. He does not stop. 

Sho°'geho°ga Horse leader. Old meaning, Wolf leader. 

Uthu'8hino°zhi° Ulhushi, in front; no'nzhi''', stands. Refers to the Sacred 


Fanciful names 

I°cho'^gatha Meaning uncertain. 

158 ■ THE OMAHA TRIBE rETii. ann. 27 

Ftmah nanus _ 

Mi'ako"da Mi, moon ; aho'Hh, part 'of Wn^nndn, 

Jli'mo'Vhihathi" Moon moving on high. Three of this name. 

No^zhe'^ito" Two of this name. (In Wazha'zhe a.nA Thi'xida, Foncn.) 

We'vo^kithe. To come together in an order, as a society or brotherhood. 

Fig. 29. Mo'i.xc'walhe. 

M'dxha'bctd" aidii/ens (b) 
Ni'kie rtanu's 

I"sh'a'gewahitha Ingh'a'gc, old man, venerable; uahitha', lame. Refers to the 

herald, who leans on a staff as he shouts his message. 

I^shta'bai/ude Inshta, eyes; b(it;ude, to shed. Refers to the shedding of 

the hair about the eyes of the Duffalo. (In Nu'xe, Ponca.) 

Mo"shti"'ge Rabbit. 

O^'geda From every direction. (See ritual, p. 294.) 

flktchi:r-!..\ flesche] tribal ORGANIZATION 159 

Pahi'fka Pa, head; hi, hair; (;ka., white. Refers to the appearance 

of the shoulder of the buffalo when the hair is shed. 

Tenu'gac;ka T^njj'ja, buffalo bull; fia, white. 

We'no"xilha Meaning uncertain. 

Borrowed names 

Tenu'gagthi"thi"ke Sitting buffalo bull. Said to be Dakota na-ne. 

Wako^mo^thi" Mysterious walking. Said to be Dakota name. 

Female names 

A'o^wi" Meaning uncertain. (In Wa(;a'be, Ponca.) 

Mi'mite Meaning uncertain. Four of this name. 

Mi'tena Meaning uncertain. (In Wazha'zhe, and Poi'caxti, Hi'gada 

subdivision, Ponca.) 
Tci;o"'dabe ^\'hite buffalo. (In TFofa'fte, Ponca.) Refers to the Sacred 

WTiite Buffalo Hide. 
Tevo"'wi" Te, buffalo; go", white; wi", feminine term. Two of this 

name. (In Waga'be, Ponca.) Refers to the Sacred ^\'hite 

Buffalo Hide. 
Wihe'zhi"ga Wihe', younger sister; zhi^ga, little. 

Honga'xti subdivision 

Ho^ga'xti Original Ho°'ga. 

Mo^xe'vyathe (fig. 29) . . Victorious. 

Tha'tada Gens (4) 

The Tha'tada presents points of difference from all other gentes in 
the tribe. It has no common rite or symbol. The rites of three of 
its subgentes were connected with the growth and care of the maize; 
the Wapa'be shared in rites observed at the awakening of spring ; the 
Wazlii°'ga assisted in the protection of crops from devastation by 
birds; the Ke'i° rites were connected with rain. While there was 
this general association in the purpose of the respective rites of 
these subgentes, their symbols or tabus and their ni'l-ie names were 
different. The Te'j^a was the Niiii'bato" subgens of the Tha'tada; 
this subgens seems to indicate the change that had taken place in the 
principal food supply of the tribe, in a manner somewhat similar to 
that notetl in the case of the Washa'beto" subgens of the Ho"'ga, but 
reversed. The tabu and the name of the Te'pa subgens refer to the 
head of the buffalo, but the symbolic cut of the hair and the ni'Jcie 
names refer to the eagle, which was probablj^ prominent in rites 
that were superseded by the buffalo when the people became estab- 
hshed in the buffalo country. The choice of this subgens for the 
Nini'bato° division and the duty assigned it in connection with the 
ceremonial use of the Sacred Tribal Pipes seem to indicate that this 
subgens held an important place in the tribe and its ceremonies 
prior to the present arrangement of gentes, and that this impor' 
tance was recognized by the "two old men" of the Sacred Legend. 

160 THE OMAHA TRIBE [etii. a.s.x. 27 

The Tha'tada gens camped on the left of the Ho^'ga. The word 
Tha'tada is probably a contraction of the phrase tha'ta tatMsho"- 
tho'^lca (tha'ta, "left hand;" tathisho^, "toward;'' tho'^ka, " those 
sittfng ")^that is, "those whose place in the hu'thugaw&s to the left 
of the Ho°'ga." The name is not an ancient one, probably having 
been given when the tribe was organized in its present form. 

There were four subgentes in the Tha'tada: Wa^a'be itazhi, 
Wazlii°'ga itazhi, Ke'i", and Te'pa itazhi. 

Wai;a'bc itazhi subgens (a) 

(Wafa'he, "black bear;" itazhi, "do not touch.") The rites con- 
nected with the black bear, which were formerly observed in this 
subgens, have been lost. Only the memory remains that this sub- 
gens used to join with the We'zhi°shte gens in rites observed when 
the first thunder was heard in the spring. 

Xu'ka subdivision (a') 

Xu'ka means teacher or instructor in mystic rites. The name was 
given to a group of families who were designated to act as hereditary 
prompters to the Ho"'ga gens during the singing of the rituals per- 
taining to the Wliite Buffalo Hide and to the Sacred Pole, to insure 

against mistakes when the sacred ritual songs 

were given. 

In the hu'thuga the Xu'ka subdivision camped 

next to the Ho°'ga on the left, and on the left 

of the Xu'ka camped the remainder of the 

Wa^a'be subgens. 

The tabu of the Wa^a'be subgens was the 
black l)ear. Its flesh could not be eaten nor its 
Fig. 30. Cut of hair, gkin touched. 

The symbolic cut of the hair of the children 
of this subgens consisted in the removal of all except a broad lock 
over the forehead, to represent the head of the bear (fig. 30). 

Wazhi''>''ga itazhi subgens (b) 

The name of this subgens is derived from wazhi'^'ga, "bird;" itazhi, 
"do not touch." The rites that once were practised by the subgens 
pertained to the protection of the crops from the depredation of 
the birds. These rites have long been disused and are traditional 
only. It was said that one of the acts was to scatter partially mas- 
ticated corn over the fields — a symbolic a]i])eal to Wako"'da to 
prevent the small l)irds from attacking the corn and thus depriving 
the people of food. The rites of tliis subgens evidentl}* referred to 




the period when the people depended more on the cultivation of the 
maize than they did after they entered the buffalo country. 

The tabu was all small birds. Even the boys of this subgens, in 
their games, while they would shoot their arrows or strike with sticks 
at the birds would never touch one with their hands. 

The symbolic cut of the cliild's hair consi.sted in the shaving of 
the head, leaving a fringe of hair around the base of the skull, a 
short lock in front, and a broad lock behind (fig. 
31). The fringe represented the feathered outline 
of the bird's body, the front lock its head, and 
the broad lock behind, its tail. 

The Wazhi^'ga itazhi camped next on the left of 
the Wa^a'be itazhi. 

AVi" subgens I'e) 
The name Ke'i° is compounded of Ice, "turtle;'' 

Fig. 31. Cut of hair, 
Wazhio'gj itazhi 

■I", "to carry" — "tlie turtle carriers or bearers." 
The rites that were once in the keeping of this 
subgens have long since fallen into disuse and are known only by 
tradition. It is said that tlie form of the turtle was outlined on 
the ground and the sod cut out so as to make an intaglio of the 
animal, and that ceremonies were connected with this figure which 
pertained to the securing of rain and also to the 
dispelling of storms. The rites of the Turtle-bear- 
ers may have been associated with those that be- 
longed to their neighboring subgens, the Wazhi°'ga 
itazhi, and became obsolete for the same reason, 
the superseding of agriculture by hunting. 

The tabu was the flesh of the turtle, which could 
not be eaten. 

The .symbolic cut of the hair consisted in shav- 
ing oil' all but a short fringe around the head, one 
small tuft over the forehead, two on each side, and a small lock at 
the nape of the neck (fig. 32). The short fringe outlined the shell of 
the turtle, the tuft over the forehead represented its head, the two on 
eacli side its feet, and the lock at the nape its tail. 
Tlie Ke'i° camped on the left of the 'Wazhi'"ga itazhi. 

Te'pa itazhi subgens (d) 

The derivation of the name of tliis subgens is: te, "buffalo;" pa, 
"head;" itazhi, "do not touch." The rites pertaining to the buffalo 
head, which once belonged to this subgens, have been lost and 
there remains no trustworthy tradition concerning them. A pipe 
was given to this subgens to insure to it, as representative of its gens, 

83998°— 27 eth— 11 U 

Fig. 32. Cut of hair, 
Ke'i" suhgens. 

KiG. iS. Cut of hair, 
Te'pa itazhi subgtsns. 

1^2 THE OMAHA I'mBK fETH. axn. JT 

a place in the tribal Council of Seven Chiefs, when that liody was 
instituted. The names in this sul)<i;cns whicli refer to the cai;Ie refer 
also to this ceremonial pipe. The head of the suh^ens had an ofliciai 
position as one of the bearers of the Sacred Tribal Pijies when they 
were ceremonially smoked. 

The tabu was the head of the bufl'alo. Xo member of this sub<rens 
would touch a spoon made from the horn of the bufl'alo. 

Tlie symbolic cut of the hair of children of this 
subgens did not refer to the tabu of the f^ens, but 
to the eagle, which was connected with the pipe. 
The hair was cut close to the head except a square 
tuft over the forehead, a similar one at the nape 
of the neck, and a broad lock over each ear (fig. 
."^•3). The head, tail, and two wings of the eagle 
were thus represented. 

The pipes used in tlie.Wa'wa" ceremony could 
be ])ainted on the tents of members of this gens, 
one on each side of the entrance and one at the back of the tent. 
This subgens camped ne.xt on the left of the Ke'i". 


WaQo'hr i/u:lii sub(/iiis uii 

Qida'mo^thi" Meaning uncertain. 

Gada'ka Meaning uncertain, 

Giha'zhi Probable meaning: Unkempt. • 

Gi'thiko"bi lie to whom a place is yielded. 

I"shta'duba Ifshln, eyes; duba, four. (In Wa(;u'be, Ponca.) 

Kaxe'katithe Kaxc', crow; ka, sound made by the crow; lith(. iiassiug. 

Ku'wi"xegthitho" Wliirling around. 

Mo"'shkaaxa Mo^'shka, crawti.-^h; ( lo cry fcir. (lii .Xi'tii/iiixliini. 


Mo'Hhi'uke The digger of the groiuul. (Real name of Xa'clcliann".1 

No"'kaxude No"l:ii, back; rude, gray. 

No°'pabi One who is feared. (In Hi'aida, Ponca.) 

Pi'(;ithi''ge ^'I'f', gall; thi'^gc, without, none. Appears in Omaha 

treaties of 1815, 1836. 

Shui'na Meaning uncertain. (In II'Hni'fti, Ponca.) 

Tepa'uthixaga Meaning uncertain. 

Te'thiti Kuft'alo ribs. In Omaha treaties of 18:;{>, \Mh. 

To"ga'gaxe Pretentions to greatne.^is, self-imjiorlance. 

U'xthelego" Meaning uncertain. 

Wa^a'apa Meaning uncertain, fin Xu'.n , Ponca. ) 

Wa^a'bc Black bear. 

Wa5a'bezhi°,ga Black bear; zhi'i'i/d. young, lillle. i In U(ii;u'bi, Poniia.) 

Wawe'xa To laugh at. He who laughs. 




klet(1ii;k-la kleschk) TRIBAL ORGANlZATKtN 163 

Dream tiaiiit.^ 

Ni'daho"... Vi'ijii, mythical bfiiii; nr animal (>-x'P note un rhi« nami', 

)i. T94l; hn". iiifjht. 

Frnicifiil miiin\ 

llu'petha (pi. 2S) Meaning uncerlain. 

Niu'gashudc -Vi', water; u'gashude, in make lurbid. Refers In Keara 

pawins in the water. 

Valor nanus 

A's;ahawash\i<he A'r/dha, apart from, as outside a crowd; ivoshushi , \ir-Avc. 

Distinguished for bravery. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.j 

Pa'lhi"no"pazhi I'n'thi", PawTiee; no" pet, fear; zhi, noi . Fears not Pawnee. 

(In Thi'xida, Ponca.) 

Nicknames i 

Xa'debano" llunrh grass. 

Ft /naif names 

Do^'abi Meaning tmcertain. Twn nf this name. 

Do"'ama Meaning tmcertain. 

Ma'zho"wi" Ma'zho", mazho"liei. fnx: ;m", feminine lerm. Twn of this 

Mi'bthiwi" Meaning uncertain. (In J'o"'feuti, -)/()"<-o"' siib(li\ isicm, 


Mi'hupegthi" Meaning uncertain. 

Mi'no"dabi The only sun. 

Mi'o"bathi" Moon that travels by day. 

Mi'to"i°gi New moon returning. 

Ni'dawi" Ni'ela, mythical being: c/". feminine term. 

No"5e'i''(,-e Meaning uncertain. 

To'"i"gina Refers to the new moon. Three of this name. 

Wate'wi" Victory woman. 

We'to^na Meaning uncertain. 

Xu'kii (hereditary prei^njitrrx) siiligeiis (a') 
Ni'kie names 

A'gahamo"lhi" A'geiha, apart from, uin.-ide a cnnvd; uiijnihi". moving, 

traveling, walking. 

Qi'xude <^i, feet ; xude;, gray. 

I"^tho"'xepa Wild cat undersized. 

Ka'xepa Ka'xe, crow; pa, head. 

Keo^'hazhi A'e, turtle; o^'ha, to flee; zhi, not. (In Pnn'carli. Ponia.) 

Ke'to"gai°shage Keto^ga, great ttirtle; inshage, venerable, also old man. 

Mo^'gezhide Mo^'ge, breast; zhide. red. Refers to the breast of the 

Mo''xpi'axaga Mu'^xpi, clouds; xugu, rough. 

164 THE OMAHA TKIBE - rETii. ANN. 27 

Ni'(,'tiimo''tlii° Ni\tu, backwards; moHhi^, walking. (In Wa(;a'he, 


Pahe'tape Seeking the hill.s. 

Sha'gcfkii Sha'ge, qXav/s; ffca, white. 

Watha'wajigthe Watha'^m, count; ji, then; glhe, sits. Refers to the office 

of prompter, holding the counting sticks of the songs. 

Dream names 

Tenu'ga zho^thi^'ke Sleeping buffalo bull. 

Female names 

Mi^gthito^i" Return of the new moon. 

Mi'hupagthi"^ Meaning uncertain. 

Mi'to^i^ge Returning new moon. 

Tha'tadawi" Tha'tada, name of gens; wi", feminine termination. 

To^'i^thi" New moon moving. 

Wazhi^'ga itazhi siibgeyis (b) 

Ni'kie names 

A'bthuzhide A'blhu, wing, an old word; zhidc, red. Refers to the red- 
winged blackbird. 

A'hi"xega A'hin, wings; xega, brown. Two of this name. 

A'hfzhide A'hi", wings; zhide, red — red-winged blackbird. 

Axi'abaha Meaning uncertain. 

f i'mikafi p', feet; mikaii, wolf, coyote. 

fi'xude Qi, feet; xude, gray. 

Gamo"'xpi Ga, to strike; mo^'vpi, clouds. The wind strikes the 

clouds until it rains. (In Waga'be, Ponca.) 
Gio^'habi Gi, from him; on'ha, to flee; hi, wlm is. One who is fled 

Gthed()'''no''zhi'' (J(A«rfo", hawk; )!o"2/ii'n, standing. (In Xi'hapashnn, Pcm- 

ca.) In Omaha treaty, 18-54, 1865. 

Gthed(i"'xude Glhedo", hawk; xn/ie, gray. (In Ni'kapashna, Ponca.) 

Gthedo"'zhi"ga Little hawk. 

I^shta'gka Inshta', eyes; fia, white. Refers to blackbirds. 

Ke'to°ga Ke, turtle; to^ga, big. (In Xu'ka; also in W(i(;a'he, 

Hi'fada subdivision, Ponca.) 
Ma''azhi"ga Ma'a, Cottonwood; zhinga, little, young. (In Xu'ka; also 

in Thi'xida, Ponca.) 

Mi°ke'shage Minke may be mika, raccoon; shage, claw. 

Mo'"shti'''9ka Rabbit; (ka, white. (In Wazhn'zhe, Ponca.) 

Ni'kuthibtho" Smelling human l)eing. 

No^b^'mo^thi" No'^ba', two; oionMi", walking. (In Trafa'6c, Ponca.) In 

Omaha treaty, 1830. 

No^be'duba No^be, hands; duba, four. Refers to the bear (?). 

No'"noMe A'c", mature; rjonr^c, heart. 

No^'pewathe One who is feared. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

No"zhi"'mo''thi'' No^zhi", rain; moHhin, walking. Refers to the sand 

martins which do not retreat licfore the rain. 

Pi'daega Meaning unknown. Old name. 

Shu'zhi°ga Little prairie chicken. 


Ta\va'i".!;e Meaning uncertain. 

Te^o"" Te, buffalo; po", white. In Omaha treaties of 1830, 

1836, 1865. (In Hi'qada, Ponca.) 
U'ho''no"ba Uho^, cook, one who prepares a ceremonial repast; 

no^ba, two. (In Washa'be, Ponca.) 
U'wethate U'we, field; thate, eats. Refers to eating of the corn by 


Wa'ba(,'kaha Meaning uncertain. 

Washko"'mi)"thi" Washko", strength; vioHhi^, walking. In Omaha treaties 

of 1815, 1826, 1836, 1865. (In Washa'be, Ponca.) 
Wa'thidaxe Sound as of tearing with claws, as when a bear claws a 

hollow tree to get at honey. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Wato^'i Conspicuous, plainly visible. 

Wazhi"'ga Bird. (In Waga'be, Hi'Qada subdivision, Ponca.) 

Zhi'do^hathi" He who moves in the dew. 

Dream names 

Ho"a'kipa //o", night; aii/^a, to meet. 

Tenu'gagahi Tcnw^o, male buffalo; gahi, chiei. (In A'u'ar, Ponca.) 

Tenu'gawazhi" Angry buffalo — male. 

Uha'hi Meaning uncertain. 

Wazhi°'agahige Bird chief. (In WiK^a'be gens, Ponca.) 

Fanciful names 

Pe'degahi Fire chief. (In Waga'br, Ponca.) In Omaha treaty of 

Umo"''ho"to''wo''gtho''. . . . Omaha village. 


Iti'go"no°pi" Medals worn on the neck. 

Wabthu'ga Hominy. 

Female names 

Gixpe'axa Meaning uncertain. 

Mi'ako""da Moon power. 

Mi'dasho"thi" Refers to the moon. 

Mi'o^bathi" Moon travels by day. Four of this name. 

Mi'tena Refers to the sun. 

Mo^'shihathi" Moving on high. Six of this name. 

Ni'dawi" : Nvln, a mysterious or fabulous being; lo'", feminine ter- 

Tha'tadawi" Tha'tada; wi", feminine termination. 

Tha'tawego" \\'hite Tha'tada woman. 

To°'i°gthihe Sudden return of new moon. 

We'to^na Meaning uncertain. 

Wihe'tCga Big younger sister. 

Ke'in suhgens ( c) 

Ni'kie names 

Ezhno"'zhuwagthe Ezhno", alone; zhugthe, with; wa, them. 

He'ga Buzzard . 

Hega'di Meaning uncertain. 

16r» THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

He'katho" Ilf, horns; hitho", rattle, clatter, as the horns strike the 

brush. (In Wazhin'ga subdivision.) 

I "kii'shitre Meanino; uncertain. 

Kc'iliu" Ki\ turtle; chui, plenty. Two of this name. (Doubtful it 

Ke'gaxe Ki , turtle; g<, to make. Refers to the drawini; of the 

figure of a turtle on the ground in the ceremony pertaining 

to the turtle. 
Kegthp'rpi".shtazhide . . Ke, turtle; gtheqe, spotted; inshta,; zhide, red. The sand- 
hill turtle. 

Ke'lio"ga Ke, turtle; ho"ga, leader, or ancient. 

lCe''i"zhi"ga Little Ke''i". 

Kethi'hi A>, turtle; thihi, to scare animals. Two of this name. 

Kezlii "'ga Ke, turtle; zhin'ga, little. (In Ni'hapashna, Ponca.) 

Mi'xabaku Mi'xa, goose; huku, bent, crooked. (In Ni'kapashna, Ponca). 

Mo"'5edo'' Meaning uncertain. 

Na'etho°be Na, by heat; etkotbe, appear. Refers to the hot days when 

the turtles rise to the top of the water. 
Nia'kibano" Ni, water; a, for; hibano^, to run, as in a race. Refers to the 

flight of the turtle to the water. 

Nia'tagigthe Ni, water; a, for; t/i, towards; gigthe, goes home. 

Nitha'shtage NI, water; tha, action with mouth; shtagr. tepid. 

No"'no"de AVj", mature; iwde, heart. 

No"'pewathe No^'pe, afraid; loa, on; the, to be. One who is feared. (In 

Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Shko^shko^'tithe Shkonshko" , to move with the body; titlie, smMcnly. 

Shu'zhi''ga Prairie chicken. 

Tenix'gawazhi" Tenu'gu, buffalo bull; wazhi", means hero, anger. 

Uga'hatithe Ugahi, to float ; tithe, by. 

U'namo"thi'' U'na, to borrow; itio"thii', walking. 

Wano"'9abe The scratcher. This refers to the scratches inflicted by the 

turtle in his struggles to escape when caught . 
Xae'ino"thi" Xae, rustling sound; moHhi"^, moving, walking. Refers to 

sounds made by birds. 
Dream names 

Wailii'shualiglhi" Wnlhi'xlinti, plain to the sight; tigthe. suddenly. 

I'a/f/r itaine.^ 

Ka'xebaha Ka'ce, crow; baha, to exhibit. Refers to the badge of 

Wa'lo"nu"7.hi" Wii'to", upon; no'tzhi", to stand. 


Ili'go"nii "pi" Iti'go", grandfather; no^fii", 1" wear around the neck. 

Refers to wearing medals. 

Ffmah names 

Do'''ama Meaning uncertain. Five of this name. 

Mi'ako''da Moon [tower. 

X^'gasho^thi" The moou that travels. Four of this name. (In W(uha'be 

and Thi'-ririn, Ponca.) 
XIi'gthedo''wi'' Mi, moon; gthedo", hawk; wi», feminine. Two of this name 

(In Wdshd'he and Thi'xidii, Ponra.) 
Mi'mo^shihathi" Moou moving on high. Two of this name. (In Po^'carti, 

Mo^kon' subdivision, Ponca.) 

i.-l,BTr-iiK[t-i.A i-i.Ksc HE] 'nUBAT, (IKC A NIZ ATTON 167 

Mi'U'iia Refers to the moon. Seven of this name. (In W(is)ui'b(^ 

Jf}\acla subdivision, and Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Ni'dawi" Mi'da, imps, mysteriou.s little beings; «?''>, feminine. Seven 

of (his name. (See footnote, p. 194.) 

No"(;e'i"(;e Meaning uncertain. Eight of this name. (In \]'<i:li(i':lii\ 

Thi'xida, and Washa'hc, Hi'c/ida subdivision, Ponca.) 

To°'i"gihihe Sudden apparition of the new moon. 

Wafe'wi" Writr, viotory. Three of this name. ( In Thi' ridn. Ponoa.') 

Fill M. Clui catlii");e 
Te' j)(t itazhi subyeics C/i 

Nl'kit namef 

Agthi"'duba Fourteen. 

A'hi'\-ka 'I'Ai", wings; <;kn, while. In Omaha treaty of IsiiO. iln 

Washa'he, Ponoa.) 

A'hi"(;nede A'hi'"-, wings; qnede, long. Refers to the eagle. 

A'zhido'Ho" i'zhido", bedewed; io", stands. Refers to the eagle U])on 

which the dew has fallen. 

Cha'i,'athi"ge (tig. S4) . . Cha'r^u, unkempi, ruffled; thi"gc, nol. Refers (o an un- 
usual appearance of the tidy eagle. 

Ci'ci Yellow feet. 

(.'i'ha Soles. 

(,'i'tQ-ga Big feet. 

Ezhno'''ho''ga EzhnoT, only; li'i"r/o, leader. 

168 THE OMAHA TRIBE (etii. ann. 27 

Gaha'gthi" Refers to eagle sitting on tree. Appears in t)niaha treaty of 


Gahi'ge Chief. (In Wa(;a'be, Ili'fada subdivision, Ponca.) 

Gaku'wi".\o Ga, action by striking; ku'wi^xe, to turn. Refers to the 

soaring of the eagle. (See ritual of hair cutting.) (In 

Wazha'zhe and Thi'.rida. Ponca. ) 

Gap'o"'ditho" Eagles jar the branch when alighting. 

Hi"'.\peagai,'nede Hinxpc, downy feather; ayd. drooping; (nedc, long. Refers 

to the downy feather taken from the eagle and used as a 

symbol in the pipe ceremony. 
I'gachizhe /, with ; gachizhr, to fall with a crash on dry leaves or limbs. 

Refers to the lighting of the eagle. 

I''gtho"'ga Wild cat. (Also in Xu'ka.) 

Mo"'5eguhe Meaning uncertain. 

Mo"ge'9i Mo^ge', breast; 51, yellow. 

Mo-gthi'xta Blackbird. 

Nini'ba Pipe. (In Wa(;a'he, Ponca. ) 

Nini'bai"sh'age Nini'ba, pipe; {"sh'age, old, venerable. 

No'"no''de No", mature ; no"de, heart. 

No''zhi"'mo''thi" No"zhi", rain; moHhi", walking. 

Pago"' Pa, head; po", white or whitish. J5ald-headed eagle. 

Pa90'''no"zhi" Fafon', bald-headed eagle; no^zhi", standing. 

Pe'hi"xte Tuft on the head of the eagle. 

Pi'daega Meaning uncertain. 

Sho"'to''?abe Black wolf. 

Tia'gito" Ti. house; a'gi, his own; to", stands. Refers to eagle stand- 
ing on his nest. 

Waga'apa Meaning uncertain. 

Waje'pa Old name for the tribal herald. 

Wa'thishnade (pi. 29) .. One who grasps. Refers to the eagle. 

Xitha'i"sh'age Xitha' , eagle; {"sh'age, old, aged. 

Xitha'wahi Xitha', eagle; wahi, bone. Probably refers to the eagle-bone 

whistle used in ceremonies with the pipes. 

Xitha'xega Xitha', eagle ; xega, the color of dried grass, yellowish brown. 

Xitha'xti Xitha', eagle; xti, real. Two of this name. 

Xitha' zhi^ga Xitha', eagle; zhi^ga, little, young. (In Wazha'zhc. Ponca.) 

Dream tiames 

Gaki'emo"thi" (laki'c, scattered; mo^thi", traveling. Refers to flocks of 


Fimalc names 

Gixpe'axa Meaning uncertain. Eight of this name. 

Mipi' Meaning uncertain; probably ?)u, moon; pj, good. 

Mo°'shihathi" Moving on high. Refers to the eagle. Nine of this name. 

Ni'dawi" Meaning uncertain. Three of this name. 

No°ge'i"the Meaning uncertain. Three of this name. 

Tha'tadawi" Tha'tada; iri", feminine termination. 

Tha'tawifo" Tha'ta, tha'tada; wi, wi^, feminine termination ; j-o", white or 


To^i°gthihe Sudden apparition of the new moon. Seven of this name. 

We'to"na Meaning uncertain. Eight of this name. 

■Wihe'to"ga Wihc', younger sister; to"ga, big. 





KoN'f E Gens (5) 

The name of this gens is an ancient and untranslatable word. 
It belongs to one of the tribes (Kansa) of the cogriate group of wliich 
the Omaha is a member. From this tribe the State of Kansas takes 
its name. 

In the Jiu'thuga the Ko^'^e gens camped on the left of the Tha'tada. 

There were two subdivisions in the gens: (a) Tade'ata (totZe, 
"wind;" ata, "in the direction of" — "in the direction of the wind"); 
the name is said to refer to the clouds. Rites connected with the 
wind were formerly in charge of this subgens, but they have been 
lost. In memory of the connection of these people with the wind 
was the following jesting action: when the mosquitoes were thick, a 
Ko°'pe man was beaten witli robes; this would call up a breeze to 
drive away the pests. (6) Nini'bato". 

The tabu of the entire gens, as well as of its subgentes, v/as ver- 
digris, which the people were forbidden to touch. 

The symbolic cut of the cliildren's hair represents a design which 
it is said used to be cut upon the earth after the sod had been 
removed when the ancient rites relating to the wind were practised. 
All the hair was cut off except a tuft over the forehead, one 
at the nape of the neck, and one on each side over 
the ear. From each of these four tufts, represent- 
ing the four points of the compass, a narrow line 
of hair extended upward, terminating in a round 
tuft on the top of the head (fig. 35). 

When the Hethu'shka society formerly was led 
around the tribal circle by the Ko^'fe the act may 
have been in recognition of the power of the wind 
to befriend the warriors, as certain customs prac- fig. 3.->. cm or uair, 
tised during warfare suggest. (See p. 39.) The Ko»vogcns. 

Ko°'ce also had the office of starting the ball game which was played 
by the two grand divisions of the Jiu'thuga. (See p. 197.) 

The Tade'ata subgens camped on the left of the Te'pa itazhi of the 
Tha'tada, and on the left of the Tade'ata was the Nini'bato" 


Tade'ata subgens (a) 
Ni'kie names 

Da'do''thi''ge Da'do^, possessions; thingc, not, nothing. He has nothing. 

Refers to the invisible nature of the air or wind. (In 

Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Ko'»'5edathi" dathi^, crazy — Crazy Ko°'ce. 

Kuge' The sound made by a drum. 

170 TIIK DMAIIA TRIBE [eth. ann. :i7 

Ma''axude Ma"a, cottonwood; xtidc, gray. 

Mu'xano"zhi" (pi. 30) . . . Refers to the clouds. 

Ni'ka^'ahi Chief. 

No"xtha'demo"thi". . . . The creeping sensation of a bug crawling. 

Tagi'ha Old name, meaning uncertain. 

Tade'umo"tlii" Tade',vnni; u, in; moHhin, walking. (See ritual of hair 

cutting.) (In Wazha'zhe&nd Ni'kapashtw, Ponca.) 
Thi.Kthi'gazhi Thixthiga, old; zhi, not (abbreviated) never old. Two of 

this name. 
Wa'(,i(;i"de Flapping with a quivering motion, as when the wind blows 

the tent flaps. 

linrrotrrd names 

Cho°'cho"xepa Dakota. 

Mi'chaxpe Omaha . 

Dream namt.i 

\Vaba'hizhi"ga Waba'lii, to graze; zhi'ii/n. little — little nibblcr. (In Wiizlia'zlic. 

Zho''gi'mo"de Zho^, wood; fi', yellow: inonde, bow. 

Female names 

A5e'to"ga Meaning uncertain. (In Pnn'mxti. ytnnl-on' subdivision, 


Mi'akoMa Mi, moon; ako'"-da, power. ' 

Mi'mo"shihathi'' Moon mo\-ing on high. 

Mi'texi Sacred moon. ' 

Mi'to"i"ge New moon returning. 

Mi'xube Mi, moon ; xuhe, sacred . 

Mo^'shathi "ke Mon'sha, on high; thinke, sitting (moon). 

Tade'wi" Tade, wind; c'l", feminine term. 

To'"i"thi " New moon moving. 

Xu'degi Xu'de, gray; gi. returning. Refers to the mist blown b-y the 


Nini'biilo" siihilii isioa (b) 
Ni kit names 

Ezhno"'githabi Ezhnnn', only; yithabi, who is favored — f/i, posse.s,sive sign; 

</ia, favored ; fci, who is. The favored soni? i 
Gahi'zhi''ga (pi. 31 ]. . . . Gahi', gahi'gi, chief; zhi'tga, little. (In Ki'kapWihna, Ponca.) 

Micha'xpezhi"ga Little star — old name. 

Mo"'shewakude Meaning uncertain; probably, old man who shoots an arrow. 

Mo"zho"'hathi" Mo'izho"', the earth; hit, over; thin, from mnnthi". to walk or 

travel. Travels over the earth. Refers to the wind. The 

bearer of this name was a herald. 
Mo"'zh()"kide Watches over the land. Refers to wind. (In O.sage.) 

Appears in treaties of 1815 and 1826. 

Pavi'duha Four buffaloes. (In Wcisha'be, Ponca.) 

Wami"' Blood. (In TAi'nV/r/. Ponca.) 

Zha'bezhi"ga Zlia'be,\>ea\eT; zhingti. little. 

Ft mute natiiis 

Ko"(.ewi" Ko'>(^; "i", feminine termination. Five of tbis name. 


Nami's iDtctasnfied as to snhgentes 

Ni'kie name.'' 

Heba'dizho" Ucba'tli, half: zAo", sleep. Sleeps halfway. 

Ko"(;egahige A'Cft, Kansa chief. 

Ko"'9ezhi°ga Little io»'?f . 

No"'dethi"ge jVonrfc. heart; thinge, not -dny. 

Pahi'thagthi" Good hair. 

Pa'nuhu Owl. 

Tade'ta To the wind. Al.'io in I"k<''c,(i}ie ritual nf hair cutting. 

Tade'u^va Tade', wind ; u'^c^a, swift. 

Waba'.shetho" Meaning uncertain. 

Wate'wahi Meaning uncertain. 

Xage'wathe One who causes weeping. 

Zhega'no"ba Zhegn, legs; no't'ha, two. 

Female names 

Tade'wahaae Meaning uncertain. 

Mo^'thi^kagaxe Gens ((ii 

The significance of this name (jnoHhi^Jca, "earth;" gaxe, " to make") 
is somewliat obscure, but the rites committed to this gens seem to 
have been connected with the rock or stone and with the gray wolf. 
^That these rites were is not now known. They have long since fallen 
into disuse and become lost. In myths that deal with the creation of 
the earth, with the contention of man against strange monsters that con- 
trolled the animals, with the interdependence of various forms of life, 
and with the persistent mystery of death we find the idea of perma- 
nence, of length of days, of wisdom accjuired by age, to be symbolized 
by the rock or stone; wliile man's restlessness, liis questionings of fate, 
his destructiveness, are frecjuently sj'mbolized by the wolf. These 
two, the rock or stone and the gray wolf, are in myths represented as 
brothers and in the ancient rites belonging to this gens they were 
symbolically imited, in some way now unknown, a fact that makes it 
not unlikely that the name of the gens, "earth makers," preserves the 
puq)ose of the rites once committed to these people — rites that not 
only dramatized the myth of Creation, but were believed to insure 
the continuance of tliat wliich had been created. 

Accordmg to tradition there were formerly in the keeping of this 
gens four sacred stones, which were painted, respectively, white, 
black, red, and green or blue. These stones were ceremonially placed 
in a circular hole made in the ground, and over them was spread the 
down of t he swan ( Cygnusamencanus) . As late as the last century one 
of these stones was in existence, in charge of To"'wo°gaxe. It is 
said that at the meetings of the Pebble society he would "place it on 
the ground and make it walk." There is a tradition that m the 

172 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ax.n. 27 

ancient rites pertaining to the stones water or rain was represented. 
This tradition is borne out l>y the iise of tiie down of the swan, a water 
bird, to cover ceremonially the stones. The connection with water 
rites is probably also indicated by the statement that the old keeper 
of the stones coidd take them to the Pebble society, whose rites per- 
tained to the element water. All four stones are now lost. The last 
one was probably buried with To^'wo^gaxe. The connection of the 
stones with the water adds to the probability that the lost rites of 
this gens dealt with the Creation. 

There are no subgentes in this gens. Within the last century the 
groups of families to whom were formerly assigned certain duties 
connected with the ancient rites have taken names referring: to 
their ancient hereditary office, and as a result these groups have 
been mistaken for subgentes. The Xu'be (sacred) group had direct 
charge of the sacred stones. Another group, whose office pertained 
to that part of the rites which related to the wolf, called themselves 
the Mi'kafi (wolf). Still another, to whom belonged the duties 
relating to the water and the swan, called themselves Mi'xafo" 
(swan) . 

All of the above-mentioned groups had the same tabus as the gens, 
namely: The swan, the clay used for making the colors with which to 
paint the stones, and the soot from the kettle em- 
ployed in preparing the black paint used on the 

The cut of the hair of the children of these groups 
was peculiar. The hair on the right side of the 
head was shaved off, while that on the left side was 
allowed to grow (lig. 36). It has been impossible 
to oI)tain a general explanation of this symbolic 
FiG.:it. Cut of hair, Mo-'- style of Cutting the hair. Some have said it rep- 
1" -agaxe gens. resented the bare rock and the falling rain. 

At the organization of the tribe in its present form a group of 
famOies was set apart in the gens as Nini'bato", keepers of the pipes, 
and a chief from this group was given a place in the Ct»uncil of Seven 
Chiefs. In this group occurs a name found nowhere else in the tribe: 
Nini'ushi, filler of the pipes; this may refer in some way to the 
rites which once l)e]onged to this gens, and whicli, as they probably 
pertained to the Creation, may have had a significance in the Council 
of Seven Chiefs, that ruled the tribe. 

The cut of the hair of the children belonging to (lie Nini'bato" 
group was the same as that used by the other Niiii'bato" sulidivisions 
in the gentes of the tribe. 

In camping, tiie Xu'be (a) pitched their tents immediately on the 
left of the Ko"'(,"e ; then came the Mi'ka9i (h) ; next, the Mi'xago" (c) ; 
and on their left the Nini'bato" subdivision (d). 









Xu'be subdivision (a) 

Ni'kie names 

A'xabazhi A'xa, to cry for; ba, they ; zhi, not. One who is not cried for. 

Gachi'zhitho" Gachi'zhi, to fall with a crash; tho'"', contraction of ithon, 

suddenly. Refers to the noise made by the eagle when 


I'gasho" Wanderers; refers to wolf. Two of this name. 

Mo^'glhitho-' Standing up suddenly. Refers to a little animal that 

suddenly rises to an upright position. 
No°'gemo"thi" No'^'ge, to run; moHhi^, walks or travels. Travels running. 

(In Waqa'be, Ponca.) 

No"zhi"'mo"thi" iVonzAi"', rain; ??io»<Ai™, travels. (In PTosAa'fce, Ponca.) 

Sho^'gefka (pi. 32) Sho^'ge, horse (old name for wolf); (ka, white. Appears 

in treaties of 1826, 1830, 1836, 1854. (See Sho^ge'^abe, 

Tapa' gens.) (In Nu'xe, Ponca and Osage.) 

Uga'sho°zhi°ga Uga'sho^, traveler; zlii^ga, little. (In Washa'be, Ponca.) 

Waba'hii-i Waba'hi, to graze; fi, yellow. Yellow object grazing; refers 

to yellow wolf. (In Po^'caxti, Monho'n' subdivision, 

Wahu'thabi One of whom permission is asked. Appears in treaty of 181.5. 

Dream names 

figthe'rio"pabi Qigihe, footprints; no'npabi, to fear. One whose footprints, 

even, are feared. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Wafa'beto"ga Wafa'be, black bear; to^ga, big. (In Thi'xida, Ponca.) 

Wa'dupa Old dream name. Two of this name. 

Wahe'he Easy to break, tender to the touch. 

Wako'^da Power. Refers to sacred stones. {In Wazha'zhe, Voncai.) 

Wako'-'daukie Talks to AVako^'da. 

Washi'shka Shell. (In Thi'xida, Ponca.) 

Borrowed names 

Hexa'gano"zhi" Hexa'ga, elk (Dakota); nonzhi'n, to Ftand. (In Washn'be, 

Ko°'5eho''ga JEbn'fe, name of gens and tribe, Kausa; honga, leader. (In 

Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Mixa'fka White swan. 

Wazhi'i'gafabe.: Wazhin'ga, bird; qabe, black. (In Wa(;a'bc, Ponca.) 

Fanciful names 

To^'wo'igaxe T'o^'idO", village; ^axe, maker. 

To'^wo°gaxezhi''ga (pi. Zhi^ga, little. Little village maker. 

We'thishku We, to do something for another; thishku, from thishluda, to 

dig with the fingers. 

Valor names 

Mo''ga'azhi Mo'"-, arrow; ga'azhi, not afraid. (In Wai;a'be, Ponca.) 

Wafe'athi" WaQe', paint; athi", have. Refer? to war parties. 

Washi'bino''hi'' Washi'bi, to ask one to work; no^hi^ from ino'^hi^, willing. 

Willing to serve. 

174 THE OMAHA TKIBE rETH. Axx. 27 

Female nanus 

Mi'mitega The new moon. Four of this name. 

Mi'mo"shihathi" Moon moving on high. 

Mi'texi Mi, moon; to/, sacred. Two of Ihin name. 

Mi'to^i" New moon. Two of this name. 

No^zhe'gito" Meaning uncertain. (In Wazhu'zhc, Ponca.) Two of tliie 

Po^'cago" White Ponka. (In Fo'^caxti, Mo'>ko'>' subdivi-sion, Ponca.) 

Three of this name. 

Po°'cawi° Po'nca feminine. (In Wa(;a'he, Ponca.) 

To°'i°gina New moon returning. Three of this name. 

We'tewi" Meaning uncertain. Five of this name. 

Nini'buton subdivision id) 

Uncla.sjiifitd names 

Ce'cethinke The trotter; indicating the characteristic gait of the wolf. 

(^i^'dezhfga Little tail. 

Gahi'gewadathi"ga Refers to the peaceful office of the chiefs. This name 

appears among the Osage, and is sometimes misleadingly 

translated as Saucy Chief or Crazy Chief. 

Gthedo^'no^pabi Hawk who is feared. 

Gthedo'^wi" Gthedo", hawk, ut", feminine termination. Two of this name. 

Gu'dahi There-he-goes! An exclamation of hunters who scare up a 


Huti'gthe Voice heard at a distance. Refers to wolves. 

I ""go" White rock. Refers to the sacred stones. 

I^ke'gaxe Refers to pipes. 

I^zhi'de Red rock. Refers to the sacred stones. 

Mi'gthedo"wi" Mi, moon; gthtdo", hawk; ui", feminine termination. 

Mixa'gka J/i'.ra, swan; fi-a, white. (In TAfrtrfa, Ponca.) Two of this 

Mo^'gthitho" Mongthe, to stand; ithon, suddenly. The last vowel in m<>"- 

gthi is dropped. Refers to sudden action of graj' wolf. 

Two of this name. 
Ni'ka(;tuwathe The gatherer. Refers to the Sacred Tribal Pipes and iheir 

unification of the people into one social body. 

Nini'ushi Nini', pipe; ushi, to present. Refers to ceremony of jiipes. 

Sho^'to'igagka The white gray wolf. 

Sho""to''gamo°shiadi . . . The tall gray wolf. 

Sho^'to^gatu The blue gray wolf. 

Sho°'to°gawathihu(;a . . . The mad gray wolf. 

Sho"'to''zhi''ga 5/io«to«, gray wolf; zhinga, little or young. 

Thata'xitigthe Crunching of bones. Refers to wolf. 

The'dewathatha Refers to the frequent cautious looking backward of the 

wolf as he trots along. 

Ugaf'i''no'' The peeper. Refers to the coyote. 

Uga''sho°no°zhi" The wanderer. The restless habit of the coyote. 

tTga'sho"to'' The wanderer. The restlessness of (he wolf. 

U'shkadazhi Dauntless, rushing into battle without hesitation. (In 

Nu'xe, Ponca.) 
Utha'gabi Refers to wolf. 


Wa'gawi"xe The soarer. Refers tu the eagle. 

Walhi'glho"thi°ge No mind. 

Borrowed nanus 

Ki'shtawagu Said to tie Pawnee. (In TFaya'fee gens, Ponca ) 

Waxua'tai^ge Said to be Oto. 

Dream names 

Ho^'hemonhj" Night walker. 

Mo^chu'wakoMa Bear god. 

Valor names ' 

l^ke'washushe Brave soldier. 

^ Nicknames 

I''shti'thi"ke Name of a mythical mischievous being. 

Female names 

Aye'xube. Afe', from inii-e, paint ; xube, sacred. 

Gixpe'axa Meaning lost. Old name. Two of this name. 

Mi'ashteshto" Meaning uncertain. Three of this name. 

Te^-i'"de Gens (,7) 

The name of this gens has reference to the huffalo {te, "huffalo;" 
pi"de, "tail"). There are no subgentes. 

The rites anciently committed to the people of this gens have been 
lost. Nothing but a tradition remains, which states that the ceremony 
pertained to the crow. In certain mytlis that speak of the Creation 
it is said that human beings were at first without bodies; they dwelt 
in the upper world, in the air, and the crow was instrumental in 
helj)ing the people to secure bodies so that thej' could live on the 
earth and become as men and women. 

The tabu of the gens favors the tradition that the rites under its 
charge referred to the birth of the people in bodily form. They were 
forbidden to touch the unborn young of an animal. 
In later days the tabu applied especially to the 
buffalo 3'oung, and also to the lowest rib adher- 
ing to the backbone, as the head of the fetus was 
said to rest against this part of the animal; con- 
sequently the meat from this rib could not be 

The symbolic cut of the hair referred to the 
young of the buffalo. All the hair was cut off fig. 37. cut of hair, 
except two small tufts on the side of the crown, ''^' ''^™°' 

indicating the coming horns, and a lock at the nape of tlie neck 
representing the tail of the calf (fig. 37). 

When the tribe was organized in its present form, a Xini'bato" 
group of families was chosen in this gens and the leader of the group 
was given a place in tlie tribal Council of Seven Chiefs. 

176 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

The tabu of this subdivision was the same as that of the gens itself. 
Tlie symbolic cut of the hair was like that of all the children belonging 
to Xini'bato" subdivisions. 

The Tei'i'"ile («) camped on the left of the Mo^'thi-'kagaxe, the 
Nini'bato" sul)division (h) being at the extreme left of the gens. 


Te^in'de subdivision (a) 

Ni'kie names 

Heba'zhu He, horns; bazhu, knobby. 

He'xude lie, horns; .rude, gray. 

Hi"i;i'zihi"ga Hi", hair, of an animal; ci, yellow; zhi^ga, little. Refers to 

the young buffalo. (In Washa'be, Ponca; also in Inke'rfibe.) 
I'shibazhi The name of an old hero whose deeds are preserved in song 

and story. 

Ka'xenumpi" Crow necklace. 

Kigtha'zho'Vho" Kigtha, himself; zho^zho^, to shake — shakes himself. Refers to 

a buffalo. {In Pon^caxti, J/o"i'o»' subdivision, Ponca. I 
Tamo'^'xaga Ta, a corruption of te, buffalo; mo«, arrows; xaga, bristling. 

Two o'f this name. 

Uma'abi Cut into pieces and spread (scattered?). 

Waho'^thi''ge (pi. 34). TTa, a prefix by which a condition is generalized and expressed 

as a noun; ho^, from eAo", mother (general term); thi^ge, 

none. Hence, wahon'thi'^ge, orphan. The loss of the mother 

makes an orphan, according to the Omaha idea. (In Tl'a- 

sha'be, Ponca.) 

Female names 

Mi'ako''da Mi, vaooa;al:o''da, irako^da. Fourof this name. (In Pon'caxli, 

Mo'^ko"' subdivision, Ponca.) 
Mi'gthito''i" J/i, moon; jrrti", return; (C^i", new. The new moon returns. (In 

Inshla'i;unda gens.) 

Mi'xube Mi, moon; xube, sacred. 

Te(,'o°'wi'' AMiite buffalo, feminine term. Three of this name. 

To°'i"gi To'^'i^, new moon, gi, coming. (In Inshta'<;unda gens.) 

Umo^'agthi" Meaning uncertain. 

Uthe'amo"thi" Three of this name. 

Uzho'''geagthi'' Uzho^'ge, trail; agthi", to sit on. Refers to buffalo sitting in 

the buffalo path. 
Wihe'gthedo" Wihe', younger sister; glhedo", hawk. Two of this name. 

Nini'bato'"' subdivision (6) 
Ki'kie names 

f i"'dethiho" Qin'de, tail; thihoit, to lift. The father (now dead) bore same 

name. (In Nu'xe, Ponca.) 

I "shta'shabe I'^shta', eye; shabe, black. Two of this name. (In Wara'be, 


Mo"a''xaga Mo", arrow; a'xaga, bristling — bristling with arrows. 

Mo'"sho''ho°ga Refers to feathers on the pipe leaders. 

No"'dewahi Bone heart . 

No'''gethia No^'ge, to run; thi'a, not able. Probably refers to the new- 
born Calf. (In Nu'xe, Ponca.) 






No"o"'bi No^o", to hear; bi, who is. One who is heard. (In Wazha'zhe, 


Pe'zhexuta Wild sage (artemisia). 

Shu'degina Shu'dc, smoke; gina, coming. Refers to the smoke-like 

appearance of the cloud of dust raised by the herds of buffalo 

as they approach. 

Ta'mo°ha Ta, deer; /no", mo^ge, breast; ha, skin. 

Tato^'gashkade Tato^'ga, lata^ha, Dakota for buffalo; shhade, to play — Dakota, 

sha'ta. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Tenu'gazhi''ga Tenvfga, buffalo bull; zhi^ga, little. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Texe'uno"zhi'' Texe, marsh; u, in; no'nzhi^, to stand. Standing in buffalo 

Thixa'bazhi Thi.ra', to chase; 6a, they ; zhi, not. Two of this name. Refers 

to the calf that no one chases. 
Uzhna'gaxe Pi/fvm', clear space; ^a/jc, to make. Refers to the wallow. (In 

Nii'xe, Ponca.) 
Waba'xe The many layers. Refers to the fat about the stomach of the 

buffalo. Two of this name. 
Zhu'gthethi''ge Zhugthe, companion; thi^ge, none. 

Female names 

Mi'febe, Mi, moon; f«6c, dark or shadowy. May refer to the shadowy 

part of the moon seen when the moon is new. Two of this 

Mi'gthito"!" Mi, moon; gthi, return; (o")'", new, applied to the new moon. 

Three of this name. 

Mo'"i,'epewi'' Ax; wi", feminine termination. 

Tefo"'wi" White buffalo, loi", feminine termination. (In Tngihe'zhide.) 

Six of this name. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 
Uthe'amo"thi" Uthe, a route usually taken; a, over; inoHhin, walking. May 

refer to the migrations of the buffalo. Six of this name. 

Unclassified names 

Heba'chage He, horns; ba'chage, crumpled. 

No''he'gazhi Running hard. 

No"'kapai No^'ka, back; pai, sharp. 

Shu'kagthi" Shu'ka, a group; j^Ai", agthin, to eit. 


Wau'xtawathe Admirer of women. 

Fanciful names 
Mo"'5epeto''ga_ Mo^'^^pe, ax; to"ga, big. 

Tapa' Gens (8) 

Tapa', "head of the deer," is the name given to the Pleiades. 
The rites formerly in charge of this gens are lost, but the'-e are tradi- 
tions that point to the strong probabihty that they related to the 
stars and the night skies. These rites seem to have been connected 
with myths dealing with the Creation. In them the wild-cat skin and 
the fawn skin were used, their spotted appearance having a symbolic 
reference to the heavens at night. The thunder and zigzag lightning 
83993°— 27 etu— 11 12 

178 rilK OMAHA IKIliK [eth. ann. 27 

were also typified, and were connected witli the ceremonies ])ertaining 
to the cuttinfi; of tiie ciiild'shair, ceremonies in which this <^ens formerly 
took part, and represented the father, the sky. Of the ancient rites 
<inly a few vestifjes now remain, such as the painting of spots on the 
child along the sides of its spine, when a few days after birth the child 
received its baby name. This was done by an old man of the gens, 
who dipped three fingers into the paint and with them made the 
symbolic spots on tlie child. These spots had the double significance 
of the fawn — the young or newborn of the deer — and the constella- 
tion known by the name of "the deer's head.'' Names in the gens 
refer to the lightning, antl it is said that red lines were sometimes 
painted on the child's arms, typical of it. 

There were no subgentes in the Tapa' gens, but formerly there were 
groups in charge of certain duties connected with the ancient rites. 
These groups continued to cling together, although their duties became 
obsolete with tlie loss of the rites. They still exist and are known as 
the group under ilike'nitha or f i"'dexo''xo°. The members of this 
group sometimes speak of themselves as Tapa'xti ("the real or original 
Tapa'") ; the group under Pa'thi"gahige seems to have had charge of 
that part of the ancient ceremonies which referred to the thunder; 
to the group under Zlii°ga'gahige seems to have been committed 
the symbolic fawn skin. Pa'tlii"gahige and Zhi°ga'gahige were not 
chiefs but leading men. These groups have sometimes been mistaken 
for subgentes. 

Tabu: charcoal and verdigris could not be touched by this gens. 
The verdigris by its color was said to symbohze the sky, and the 
a.ssociation of charcoal with the verdigris would in- 
dicate that the dark, or night, sky was symbolized 
in the tabu. 

The symbolic cut of the hair consisted in shaving 
the head, leaving only a tuft over the forehead and 
a thin lock at the nape of the neck. The signifi- 
cance of this style is uncertain (fig. 38). 

At the organization of the tribe in its present 
Fig. 3S. Cut of hair, fomi a group of families became the Nini'bato" 
Tapa' gens subdivision, and its leader had a seat in the tribal 

Council of Seven Chiefs. The Nini'bato" observetl the tabu of the 
gens, but the hair of the children was cut in the style of all the 
Nini'bato" subdivisions in the tribe. 

This gens affords anotlier instance of the change that takes place 
in the general significance of tlie name of a gens when the rites 
intrusted to it have become obsolete and lost. The star cult rites of 
the gens being no longer practised, the deer's head ceased to be 
regarded merely as symbolic and took on a literal interpretation. 


This is evidenced in the personal names wliere the stellar significance 
has been hirgely lost sifjht of. 

In the Jiv'tJiuga the group under f4'"dexo"xo" (a), or Mike'nitha, 
camped on the left of the Tefi^'de people; next was the group under 
Pa'thi"gahige (h) ; on their left the group under Zhi"ga'gahige (c) ; 
and at the left end of the Tapa' was the Xini'bato" subdivision (rf). 


Grouji uiu/ir ri'i'deritnjo" i Mite' nil ha) (a) 
Ni'kif namex 

Barhi'zhithe... 5m-/i('2/)i', to rut<h iu iu .xpite of obstacles; the, to go — as the deer 

rushing into the hushes. (In Wazha'zhe, Punra.") 

(,'igthti'no"ge (^'igthu, trail in; iioige, running. 

(.'^i'l'devka Ci"de, tail; qka, white. (In Po^'ca^xti, iUfha"' subdivi.4on, 

(,'i"'dei,o"tigthe (^''y'de, tail; fo", pale; tigthe, sudden. Refers to the sudden 

flash of the white tail of the deer as the animal leaps into 

the cover. Four of this name. 
Qi'^degabizhe ._.... (^'{"'de, tail; gabizhe, wagging. Two of this name. 
(^i""dexo"xo'' (fig. 39)- i^'?"'*, tail; zon.rr)", glittering. 
Hethi'axe iJf, horn; Mio.rc, rattling. Refers to the rattling .lound of the 

antlers against the bushes as the deer plunges iuln a thicket. 

Hexa'gazhi"ga Jfe, horn; xa'ga, rough; zhi^ga. little. 

Hezha'ta He, horn; zhata, forked. Two of this name, (lu Thi'iida, 


I'l^gabi rirtga, rejected; hi, who is. 

Keba'ha Ke, turtle; 6o^fl, to show — tiutle showing himself. (In Thi'- 

xida, Ponca.) 
Mika'xage i/('ia, , raccoon ; xage, to cry — crying raccoon. (In J'n'i'm.rt!, 

Mo'iko"' subdivision, Ponca.) 

Mike'nitha Old name; meaning uncertain. Four of this name. 

Mo^no^'xaxa jl/o", earth; oo", action by the feet; x«,Ta, to scrape, to tear up. 

Refers to the rutting of the deer. 
No"'(70"dazhi iVb"'fo"(/«, to dodge; zhi, from o'^'iazhi, not. (In M^iixha'be, 


No"'kahega Ni}"hi, back; liega, brown. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

C'hazhi O^'ha, to flee; zM, from (i"'k.azhi, not. Makes no allcmiit to 


Pahi'fka Pa, head; hi, hair; <;hi, white. 

Shage'duba Shage', hoofs; duha, four. (In Wa<;a'he, Ponca.) 

Sha'gezhi°ga Sha'ge, hoofs; zhinga, little. Two of this name. 

Shko"'.shko"tithe. . . . Shho", to move; shko^shko^, continually moving; lil/ir, sud- 
denly. Two of this name. 
Tato"'gamo"thi" Ta, deer; to^ga, big; moMhi^, walking. (In .Xi'l-n/Hisliiiii, 


Ta'xtiduija Ta'xti, original deer; dubu, four. 

Te'hego" Te, buffalo: he, horn ; got. like. Refers to the .•'tage of growth 

when the antler re,sembles the horn of the buffalo. Two of 

this n;nne. 
Thiti'bitho" Bounding up. 


Ti(lc'ino"lhi" Tide, noise, rumblin;;;; 7no'"lhi'', walking, moving. 

Uwo"'i;itithc l'w(P>'(;i, to jump up; l.ilhe, suddenly. 

\Va'xano"7.hi" Wa'xa. in advance; no'izhi^, standinc;. (In I'on'caxti, Mo^'hyn' 

subdivision, Ponca.) 
iVaxpe'sha Old name, meaning lost. {\i\ Wnzha'zhe,'P< Appears in 

treaty of 1830. 
Xitha'nika Xitha', eagle; w'i'n, from nikashlga, person. (In Wazha'zhe, 

Zhideto"' Zhide. red : tc". stands. 

Flli. ;tll l,'i"'ilrX0".\ii" i.Mikf llillMi 

Ftmalt names 

Gthedo"'shte\vi" Meaning uncertain. Nine of this name. 

Hi"'xude\vi" //i«, hair; xiidc, brown; win, feminine termination. 

Mi'gthedo"wi" l/(, moon; (//Aft/o", hawk; wi", feminine termination. Seven 

of this name. 

Mi'mo"shihathi" Mi, moon; moving on high. 

Mo^'gepewi" Mon'cepe, axe; wi", feminine termination. Three of this name. 


No"ve'i"9e Meaning uncertain. Four of thi.« name. 

Po"'cago" Pale or white Ponra. Nine of this name. 

Po"rawi " Ponra woman. 

Te90"'wi" TV, buffalo; fo", white; wi^, feminine. Belongs also to 

Ingthe' zhide gens. 

Group under I'a'thingahigeib) 

He'9o"thi"ke He, horn; ro", white; thi^ke, to sit. Refers to the deer when 

sitting in the grass so that only his white horns are visible. 

Hezho"'ka Ik, horn; zho^ka, forked. 

Ilu'hazhi Meaning uncertain. (In PJas/jn'tf, Ponca.) 

Pchu'iVa^ka I^chu^'ga, weasel; fA-a, white. (In Ni'knpashiiii, Ponca.) 

I°shta'basho"sho" I^shta', eyes; basho''sho'', zigzag. 

Kaxe'yabe Kaxe, crow; ^abe, black. (In Ni'kapashna, Ponca.) 

No"'kagthezhe Noika, back; gthezhe, spotted. Refers to the fawn. Two of 

this name. 

Ta'shkahiagtho" Refers to the oak struck by lightning. 

Wapa'de One who cuts up the carcass. (In Washo'be, Ponca.) 

Wefo^githe Old name, an organizer. Name of Pa'thi"gahige. 

Borrowed nunus 

A'.shkamo"thi" yl's/iX-a, near; )?!o"?/iin, walking. Dakota name. 

Pa'thi"gahige Pa^^i'", Pawnee; gahige. chiei. {In ]V(i:ha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Fcmah namcti 

Ezhno"'mo"hc Ezhno"^, lone, solitary; mo''he, one who is dwelling in another's 

house. Five of this name. 

Gthedo"'shtewi" Refers to hawk difficult to handle. Three of this name. 

Gthedo"'wi"texi GMcrfo", hawk; uA", feminine term; le.ri, sacred. Four of this 


Mi'huc;a Meaning uncertain. (In Inshta'(;unda gens.) 

Po"'ca(,-o" Pale Ponca. Six of this name. 

We'to'ibethi" Two of this name. 

Group U7ider Zhinga'gahige (c) 

Ni'kie names 

riha' Ci, feet; ha, skin. Soles. (In Wa^a'be, Ponca.) 

Te'vehi"<,-abe Te^e, belly; hi.r', hair; fohc, black. (In iras/io'if, Ponca. ) 

Tenu'gano"ba TV, buffalo; nuga, bull; nonba, two. Two of this name. (In 

Thi'xida, Ponca.) 
Thae'githabi Thae, from thaethe, liked or beloved; gi, passive; h!, who is. 

Refers to a calf that is caressed by its mother. (In Po'n'caxti, 


Female names 

He'wegaga lie, horn' ue, with; gaqa, cut. 

Mi'giu"the Mi, moon; giuri, to fly; the, to go. 

Po"'ca(,'o" Pale or white Ponca. Three of this name. 

To"'i"gthihe Meaning uncertain. 

Umo^'agthi" Meaning uncertain. 


THE ( I.MAI f A TlilHK 

1 BTII. A.NiN. 1'7 


Nini'lialo" suhdiinaiiin (d) 

Ni'kir vnmtn 

-I'/'/V/if, to uulcii ()v<'i-: (in)iiiic. v\\'h4. f'hipf whn watfhi's, (In 
A'i'l-d /iifsliici. I'niira. I 

1 ly. *) llciUi kin\i"\c v>u'i ^i sho" goi.aln.'j. 

H.>ilirkii\vi"xe^tiy.40). /Ye, horn; M/'i-UfCj'wjc, turning around. Helei-s luthelwisliatr 

of the anllei-s before shedding. 
Hexa'ga He. horn; .raya, rough. Refers to the rough antlers of the deer. 

Two of this name. (In Wazha'zhf, Ponra.) 

ri.Kiini-;K-i.A I't.j':.' 


ShaKi''iliil>;i''.hi"ga-- ■ ■ Shayc', hoofs; dubu, foiu-; zhlngu, little. (It is said that zhinga 
has been recently added to distinguish this name.) 

Sho"'geval)e (sh« fi^'. Sho^ge, horse; rfibe, black. (It is said that this name was 
40). originally Shage(,'abe ("black hoofs ") and that it has been 

changed since the introduction of horses.) (In War,a'be, 

Tato"'ga Great Male Deer; old name. (In Thi'xidu, Ponca.) 

\Vazhi"'kide Wazhin^ will power, anger; Tcidc, to .ihoot. Refers to a chal- 
lenging male animal. 

Xitha'i,ka A'irta', eagle; fi«, white. (In 77(i'.iiV/(/, I'nni-a. ) 

Xitha'gahige Xitha', eagle; gahige, chief. Two of this name. ( In I'on'rd.iti, 

Mo^ko'"' subdivision, Ponca. ) 

Xitha'gaxi- A" !7/(a', eagle; jraj'e, maker. Three of this name. (In /'di'm.rti, 

Mo^ko^' subdivision, Ponca. l 

BiirriiiiHd nnmrx 

Xithiv'giu" Xitha', eagle; gin", to fly. Flying eagle. Dakota name. 

FtmiiU nanif-s 

Gthedo"'wi"te.\i Olhedo", hawk; »(", feminine termination; teri, sacred. Five 

of this name. (In ll'ofo'fce and in I'on'mxli, Mo^ko'^' sub- 
division, Ponca.) 

Mo"'vepewi" Mo'n(;epe, axe; wt'n, feminine term. Seven of this name. 

Po"cai,-o" i'o", pale. Pale or white Ponca. Twelve of this name. 

\Ve'to"bevi" (In I{on'g<i gens. ) Six of this name. 

Fniicy iHlmtK 

Wani'tawaxa Lion. (This name was given by a government otticial in 

Washington City when the bearer and other Indians were on 

a visit.) 

L'Ticla.^siped name.'! 

Gthedo"'thihi Glhedon' , hawk; ikihi, to scare by approaching, the bird. 

Hexa'ga(;ka Hexaga, hexaka, Dakota for elk; gka, white. 

Hezho"'kato"ga //<>, horns; zho'^ka, forked; tonga, big. 

I'kuhabi I,i^', iw/ie, fear of the unknown; 6?,whois. One who is feared. 

Ki'dabazhi Ki'da, to shoot; bazhi, they not. They do not .shoot him. 

Mo"'i,'ebaha Mo^'e^e, metal; baha, to show. 

Mo"'ge(,'ka Mo^'ge, breast; qka, white. Refers to the deer. 

No"zhi"'tithe No^zhi^, to rise; tithe, suddenly. 

Pa'thi^waya Meaning uncertain. 

Tano"'zhi" Ta, deer; no^'^'zhin, to stand. 

Wa'bagthazhi Wa'bagtha, bashful, timid; :hi. imt. from o'thizlii. 

Wadu'kishke Meaning uncertain. 

Wathi'hi To startle game. 

Xu')jego"tha Xi('be, holy, sacred; go"lhii, want, desire. 

Dnv/n naiinx 

Tai;hu'gei,'ka Taqhu'ge, antelope; qka, white. 

Ta'xtidathi" Ta'xti, deer; dathi", crazy. 

I'-'GTHE'zHinE GkNS (9) 

The name of this gens refers to the reddish excrement of the newly 
born calf. The rites committetl to the keeping of the gens have been 
lost. Traditions speak of these having been connected with the 
procreation of the race to insure its continuance through the medium 
of the sky powers. 

184 THE OMAHA TRIBE [bth. ann. 27 

Tlie name I°gthe'zhiclo has given rise to considerable speculation 
by white observers, and stories are told to account for it," but these 
stories and explanations are not corroborated by the old and trusty 
men of the tribe, nor do they accord with what is known of the 
functions of the gentes of the tribe and the fundamental ideas of the 
tribal organization. 

Tabu: The fetus of an animal must not be touched. As the buffalo 
was most commonly met with, the tabu came to 
be confined to the unborn young of the buffalo. 

The symbolic cut of the hair consisted in shaving 
the head, all except a small lock in front, one behind, 
and one on each side of the head, to represent the 
head and the tail of the young animal, and the 
knobs where the horns would grow (fig. 41). 

There were no subgentes and no subdivisions or 
Fig. 41. tut of hair, groups, uor was there a representative from this 

logthe'zhide gens. -iin -ifo ni- c 

gens in the Councu or Seven Cmefs. 
The I°gthe'zhide camped on the left of the Nini'bato " subdivision 
of the Tapa'. 


Ni'kie names 

A'hi''weti"' j4'^!>, wings; wc^!", to strike. 

5i'"de<;i^'nu Ci'>de, tail; <;ii;nu, to drag. 

Qi^'wano^zhi" Meaning uncertain. 

^ni'titho" t'/ii, cold; <!'(/ion, to come. 

Iho°'ugine Iho^', mother (spoken of); ugine, seeks for his. Refers to buf- 
falo calf after the slaughter of its mother. 

Kaxe'axube Kaxe'a, crow; xube, sacred. Refers to the symbolic use of the 


Ko"'(;epa A''o''f<', nameof one of theOmahagentes; pa, head. Old name. 

Mika'czhi^sa Mika'e, star; zhinga, little. 

Sha'nugahi Meaning uncertain. (In Thi'xida, Ponca.) 

Te'monhi" TV;, buffalo; ?no'»«/ii>, walking, traveling. {l\\Pon'(axti,Monho^ 

subdivision, Ponca.) 

Te'pezhi Te, buffalo; pezhi, from piazhi, bad. 

Tezhi^'ga Te. buffalo; zhin'ga, little. (In Washa'be, Ponca.) 

Ti'shimuxa Tishi, tent poles; jnujM, to spread out. (In IFasAa'fcf, Ponca.) 

Uho°'gemo''thi'' Uho'''ge, at the end of a single file; mo^fAi", walking. (In 

Nu'xe, Ponca.) 

Uho'''geno''zhi''(pl.35) JJ/foWf/e, at theendof asinglefile; no^zAin, standing. (\n Nu'xe, 

Uki'pato" Rolling himself. Two of this name. (In Pon'nixti, Mo^ko"^ 

subdivision, Ponca.) 

Wa'backaha Meaning uncertain. Two of this name. 

a As in Long, Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, i, 327, Fhiladelphia, 1823. 





VVa'iiio''zhi° IFa'i, over them; nonj/ii", standing. Probably refers to the last 

halt of the hunters as they ceremonially approach the herd of 
buffalo. Two of this name. (In IFasAa'fte, Ponca.) 

Wako'^'ha Meaning uncertain. Two of this name. 

Wano"'pazhi Wano^'pa, fear; zhi, from o'^kazhi, not. Having no fear. Two 

of this name. (In Ni'kapashna, Ponca.) 

Wati'thakuge Meaning uncertain. 

VVazhi'^gthedo". . . . Wazhin' , will power; gthedon, hawk. Sometimes translated as 
Angry Hawk. 

Dream names 

Mo''a'zhi''ga .J/b^a', bank; 2/iing'a, little. (In Thi'xida, Ponca.) 

Mo"'(;edo" jl/o«fe, metal; rfo^, to possess. Two of this name. {InWasha'be, 


Mo'''sho''9ka Mon'shon, feather; gka, white. (In Ni'kapashna, Ponca.) 

Noi^katu No^ka, back ; tu, blue. Refers to the sparrow hawk. (In Ni'- 
kapashna, Ponca.) 
Waa"' K'aa™', to sing. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Female names 

Gi'do^abe Meaning uncertain. 

Mi'gthedo°wi" Mi, moon; glhcdo", hawk; in«, feminine. Six of this name. 

Mi'gthito''i'' i/j, moon; 9MJ, to return; (onr", new. Return of the new moon, 

or the moon returns new. 

Mi'hewi" Mi, moon; hewi^, the new moon liea horizontal, like a canoe. 

Mi'hezhi"ga Little moon. Two of this name. 

Mo'''shihathi° Moving on high. Refers to the eagle. 

No^'gtheve No"-, action by the foot; gthege, impressions on the ground in 

lines. Refers to the tracks of buffalo calves. Two of this 

Te^'o'^wi" Te, buffalo; 50"', pale or white; toin, feminine. Refers to the 

Sacred WTaite Buffalo Hide. 
Ugi^nemo^thi" Ugi'ne, seeks for his; mo'>thi"-, walking. Wanders seeking for 

his mother. The feminine counterpart of Iho^ugine. 

INsHTA'tu^DA Gens (10) 

The name of this gens is an ancient term that may be translated 
as follows: i^shta' , "eyes;" (-u^da, "flashing." The word refers to 
the lightning, and the rites committed to this gens were connected 
with the thunder and lightning as manifestations of the sky forces 
which represented the power of Wako^'da in controlling man's 
life and death. The name of this gens was applied to one-half of the 
hu'thuga — the half that represented the Sky people who, in union 
with the Earth people, gave birth to the human race. (See p. 135.) 

At present there are in this gens but one subgens and the Nini'bato" 
subdivision. Formerly there was another subgens, but the cere- 
monies of which it had charge have long since been lost and the 
subgens disintegrated. An example of how such disintegration can 
come about may be seen to-day in the Nini'bato" subdivision. During 
the last century the Nini'bato" became reduced to one family; of this 

186 THK OMAHA TRIBE [eth. a.nn. 27 

I'amily there is at the present time but one survivor, wlio has an only 
son; if this son should be childless, on his death the subdivision would 
be extinct. In the past when a subgens lost its distinctive rites and 
became depleted through death the survivors seem to have joined the 
nearest related group within the gens. That such a change has taken 
place in the I"shta'9u"da gens is evidenced by the names. Formerly 
there seems to have been a clear line of demarcation between the 
subgentes as well as the gentes of the tribe, and each had its set of 
names that referred directly to the rites belonging to the gens or 
subgens. Laxity in the use of subgentes' names, owing probably to 
disintegration, had already set in by 1883, when the names as here 
given were collected, although each gens still clung with tenacity to 
its distinctive ni'lcie names. 

Of the two subgentes formerly existing in the I''shta'(;'ii°da gens 
one referred to the earth and the other to the sky. At first glance 
these two rites appear unrelated, but in fact they were allied and 
formed an epitome of the basal idea expressed in the tribal organiza- 
tion. The rites wliich pertained to the earth subgens as well as its 
name have been lost, and the people who composetl this subgens have 
mingled with the siu-viving subgens. From the meaning of the name 
of the latter antl the significance of its rites it is possible to identify 
not only those names which originally belonged to it but also those 
names whicli were formerly associated with the rites of the lost earth 
subgens. In this connection it is interesting to note that the present 
tabu of the entire gens (worms, insects, etc.) relates to the lost rites of 
the lost subgens rather than to the rites of the sur\'iving subgens, a 
fact that throws light on the relation which existed between the rites 
of the two subgentes. The subgens which survives and the rites which 
it controls pertain to the sky, to the power which descends to fructify 
the earth. This power is typifietl by the rain which falls from the 
storm clouds, with their thunder and lightning, and causes the earth 
to bring forth. The response of the earth is typified by the abound- 
ing life as seen in the worms, insects, and small burrowing creatures 
liAang in the earth. These were the sign, or symbol, of the result of 
the fructifying power from above. Tradition says that one of the 
symbols used in the rites of the lost subgens was a mole, paintetl red 
(the life color) . 

The surviving subgens is called Washe'to". The prefix wa denotes 
action with a purpose; sAf is from shie, a generic term for diildren (as, 
shie' athi^hithe, "to beget children," and shie' githe, "to adopt chil- 
dren") ; to" means "to possess" or "become possessed of." The word 
washe'to" therefore means "the act of possessing chiklren." Through 
the rites pertaining to this subgens the child's life was consecrated to 
the life-giving power symbolized by the thunder and lightning, and 


passed out of the simple relation it bore to its parents and was reborn, 
so to speak, as a member of the tribe. A detailed account of this cere- 
mom' in connection with the consecration of the child and its entrance 
into the tribe has been given (p. 117). 

On the fourth day after the birth of a child a baby name was given 
to it, and if it was a bo}^, a belt ornamented with the claws of the 
wild-cat was put about its body. The significance and use of the skin 
of the wUd-cat and the skin of the fawn in reference to the stars and 
the newly born were mentionetl in connection with the lost stellar 
rites of the Tapa' gens which referred to the sky, the masculine 
(father) element. If the child was a girl, a girdle of mussel shells 
strung on a string was put around her. Here, again, is to be noted 
the connection of the shell with water and of water as the medium 
for transmitting power from the Above to the mother earth. The 
placing of these s3'mbolic emblems on the infant constituted a prayer 
for the preservation of the tribe and for the continuation of life 
through children. 

There is a curious tradition concerning the formation of the Xini'- 
bato" subdivision in this gens. At the time of the organization of 
tlie tribe in its present form, when this group of families was selected 
and the pipe was offered them, they refused, their chief saying: "I 
am not worthy to keep this pipe that represents all that is good. I 
am a wanderer, a bloody man. I might stain this sacred article with 
blood. Take it back.'' Three times was the pipe offered and rejected; 
the fourth time the pipe was left with them and the old men who 
brought it turned away; but the families returned the pipe, accom- 
panied with many gifts, because they feared to accept the responsi- 
bility put upon them by the reception of the pipe. But again they 
were remonstrated with, and finally the pipe and the duties connected 
with it were fully accepted. These duties consisted in not only fur- 
nishing a member of the Council of Seven Chiefs, which governed the 
tribe, but in the preservation and recital of a ritual to be used when 
the two Sacred Pipes belonging to the tribe were filled for ceremonial 
purposes, as at the inauguration of chiefs or some other equally impor- 
tant tribal event. The recitation of this ritual was essential when 
the tobacco was placed in the pipes to make them ready for smoking. 
This ritual is now irrevocably lost. Its last keeper was Mo°'hi°9i. 
He died about 1850 without imparting the knowledge of the ritual 
to anyone." 

a It is said that lie withheld it from his son because of the latter's nervous, energetic temperament. 
He thought that, with added years, the youn{.' man would be able to become the quiet, sedate person 
to whom so important an office might be safely trusted: but death overtook the old man before he was 
satisfied that he ought to put his sacred charge into the keeping of his son. Since his death the Sacred 
Tribal Pipes have never been ceremonially filled. The son developed into a fine, trustworthy man, 
with a remarkably well-poised mind but with a great fiuid of hiunor. 

188 TlIK (IMAIIA THlliK. Iktii. axx. 27 

It hiis been inii)ossihle to leiiin the exact nature of this ritual, hut 
from the Httle information that could be gleaned it would seem to 
have been a histor\' of the development of the Sacred Pipes and 
their ceremonies. The old chiefs who had heard it rpin;arded it as 
too sacred to talk about. 

■ The Nini'bato" subdivision bids fair soon to follow the lost ritual, 
as only one person survives. 

When the growing corn was infested by grassho]ipers or other 
destructive insects the owner of the troubled field applied to the 
I"shta'fu"da gens for help. A feast was made, to which those were 
invited who had the hereditary right to make the ceremonial appeal 
for the preservation of the crop. A young man was dispatched to 
the threatened field of corn with instructions to catch one of the 
grasshoppers or beetles. On his return he handed the captured 
insect to the leader, who removed one of its wings and broke off a bit 
from the tip, which he dropped into the vessel containing the food 
about to be eaten. 

The whole ceremony was a dramatic form of prayer. The feast 
symbobzed the appeal for a plentiful supply of food; breaking the 
wing and putting a piece of its tip into the pot 
of footl set forth the wish that the destructive 
creatures might lose their power to be active and 
thus to destroy the corn. This latter act exem- 
])lified the belief in the living connection of a 
l)art with its whole ; consequently, the bit of wing 
was thouglit to have a vital relation to all the 
insects that were feeding on the maize, and its 
Fig. 42. Cut of hair, severance and destruction to have a like effect on 

I"sh.aVu">la gens. .^jj j^^ j.j,,^| 

This ceremony, which is probably the survival of a rite pertaining 
to the lost subgens, has been inaccurately reported and misunder- 
stood. Only a l)it of the wing was cast into the food for the cere- 
monial feast. No other creature, nor any other part of the insect, 
was used. 

In the hn'tliuf/d, the place of the lost gens (a) was left of the 
I"gthe'zhide; next came the Nini'bato" sub(hvisi(m (b); then the 
Washe'to° (c) ; this last-named subgens formed the eastern end of 
the line of the I"shta'(;>u°da division of the tribe. 

Tabu: The entire gens was forbidilen to touch all manner of 
creeping insects, bugs, worms,'* and similar creatures. 

The symbolic cut of the hair consistetl in removing all hair from the 
crown, leaving a number of little locks arounil the base of the skull 
(fig. 42), saitl to represent the many legs of insects. 

a Lightning is said to feed on the giun weed, monfro'i to«ga ("big raocasin"). and to leave a worm at 
the root. 





Nini'bato^ subdivision (6) 

!^'kie names 

Gahi'petho''ba Gahi, from gahige, chief; pe'lho'nba, seven. Refers to the 

?even orii?;inal chiefs when the Omaha reorganized. 

Fig. 43. Teu'konha. 

Ho^'gashenu Ilo^'gn, leader; shenu, young man (full brother of Kawa'ha ; 

now live-s with the Pawnee tribe). (In Wazha'zhe, 


Kawa'ha Meaning uncertain. 

Mo'''hi°(;i Mo'"hi'>, stone knife; gi, yellow. 

Uliira De.-serted, as a dwelling. 

1<)0 THK OMAHA TRIBE Ibih.ann. 27 

liriaiii nfimts 

M()"(hu'waxe Mo'icliu', jirizzly bear; waxe, maker. 

Teii'kp"ha (tifi. -l:^) Te, l)uftalo; u'ko"ha, alone; refers to the male ImlH'alo in the 

wiiilcr season, when its habit was to remain alone. 

Harrowed names 

Ushka'<lewako" Dakola name. 

Densit^e na mes 

Wazhe'thi"ge Wazhe', f^mtitude; /hinge, none. (In Wdzhii'zlu. Pnnca.) 

Female name,': 

Mi'gthito°i" Return of (he new moon. 

Mi'mo°shihathi" Moon moving above. 

Mi'mo'Mhi" Mi, moon; inn'ilhin, walking, traveling; refers to the mov- 
ing of (he moon across the heavens. Two of this name. 

Mi'texi(,'i J/i, moon; /f.ri', sacred; fi', yellow. Three of this name. 

Mo°'shadithi" One moving on high. 

To"'i"gi jTo'H'n, new; gi, coming. Refers to moon. Two of this 


\\'e'to"na Meaning uncertain. Two of this name. (In Thl'riih, 

Ponca. I 

Washe'ti>n (owners of the chilriren) siihgens (c) 
Ni'kie nauifs 

A'thiude l>eft alone, abandoned. 

Athu'hage '. The last, in a file of men or animals. (In Wnzhet'zhe, 

Chu''gthi'shkamo"thi" Chun, meaning uncertain, perhaps wood; iraglhi'shlii. bug; 

monthin, walking. Two of this name. 

Edi'to" Edi, there; to", stands. 

Ga'gigthethi" Ga, at a distance; gigthe, passing toward home; Ihi". \m<\- 

ing. Refers to thunder. Two of thi.-^ name. 

Gahi'l^shage Gahi, chief; inghage, old. 

Ha'shimo"thi" Walking last in a file. Two of this name, iln Thi'xietet, 


Heba"a He, horn; ho'«, worn down. 

Heba'eabazhi lie, horn; huqnhe, splinter; zhi, <i"hizhi. not Refers (u a 

horn nol yet jagged from age. 
Heco^'nida //', horn; <;o". white or pale; niilii. a niylhical animal. 

(See note on nield. p. 194.) 
He'.shathage Jle, horn; shalhage, branching. Refers lo (he elk. (In 

Thi'.rida, Ponca.) 
Ho'''do"mo"thi" //o", nigh(; r/o", when or at; iiui"lhi". walking. Refei-s to 

Hu'lo"to" 1/u'to". noise; to", stands. Roars as he siands ( referring 

lo thunder). Two of this name. 
I'baho"bi /'6a/(o'', lo know; it, he is. He is known. Refer.- in a 

chief's son. (In Ni'kujMshnei, Ponca.) 

I'gado"ne Same as preceding. 

rgado"lha Probably refers to clouds driven by ihe wind. 

I"ke'to"ga I"ke', shoulder; tong'n, big. Two of this name. (In 

Po'^'caxti, Mo"kon' subdi\-ision, Ponca.) 
I".sha'gemo''thi" Inaha'ge, old man; monthi", walking. Refers to thunder. 

(In A'l/'iy gens. Ponca.) 


r'.ihta'xi lishla' , eye; .r/, yellowish. Refers to liKhtniiiK. "the yel- 
low eye of the thunder." 

Ka'etha Kethu, clear sky, after a storui . 

Ki'mo"ho" Against or facing the wind. Two of this name, (In 

Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Ku'zhiwate Ku'zhi, afar; -uale, a valorous deed. Victory widespread. 

Ma'fikide Ma\i, cedar; hide, to shoot. Refers to the myth of the 

thunder striking the cedar tree. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Mo"a'gata Mo", arrow; a' gala, to aim. 

Mo"'hi"dulia Mo^'hi", stone knife; duhu, four. One of the names of the 

keeper of the ritual used in cutting the hair and conse- 
crating the child to the thunder. The bearer of this 
name died in 1884. 

Mo"shi'ahamo"lhi" Mo^shi'uha, above; moMhi", moving. (In Thi'xida, Ponca.) 

Mo"xpi' Clouds. Two of this name. 

Mo"xpi'nio"thi" Mo^xpi' , clouds; moHhi", walking. Thi.s name appears 

in the treaties of 1826 and 1836, signed by Omaha chiefs. 

Paga'sho" I'a, head; ga'sho^, to nod. Refers to bugs nodding the 

head a,s they walk. 

She(la'in()"lhi" Shcda. meaning uncertain; tito'Uhin, walking. Appears in 

treaty of 1826. 

Shugi'shugi Meaning uncertain. 

Te'bi'a Frog. 

Thigthi'vemo"thi" Thigthi^e, zigzag lightning; in(>"thi'i. walking. (In 

Washa'be, Ponca.) 

Thio"'bagigthe Thio"'ba, general term for lightning; gigfhc, goingby, on the 

way home. (In Washn'bf, Ili'^ada subdivision, Ponca.) 

Thio"'bagina Thio't'ba, lightning; giiia, coming. Two of this name. 

Thio"'haliglhe Thion'ba, lightning; tiqthe, sudden. (In Washa'be, Hi'(;ada 

subdivision, Ponca.) 

Ti'gaxa Ti, tent or ^'illage; gaxa, to approach by stealth. Refers to 

the thunder under the of a warrior approaching the 
village by stealth. 

Ti'ulhio"l)a Ti, tent; u, in; thio^ba, lightning. Lightning flashes into 

the lodge. {\nWa(;a'be, //f'^arfo subdivision. Ponca.) 

U'bani" U, in; ba, to push; nin, digging. Digging in the earth. 

Said to refer to a small reptile that disappears in the 
earth when the thunder comes. Two of this name; one 
in I'nshta'(^uiida:cli subdivision. 

Uvu'gaxe f'f"', path; gate, to make. Refers to one who leads. 

(The name of a subdivi.sion of Wazha' zhe(;ka gens, Osage. 
Occurs in Wazha'zhe gens, Ponca.) Appears in Omaha 
treaty of 1815. Two of this name. 

Uha'mo"thi" Uha', In a hollow; moithi", walking. Refers to the thun- 
der storms following the valleys and river courses. 

Ushu'dem<i"thi" U, in; shu'de, mist; monthi'", walking. 

Wagi'asha Meaning lost. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Waha'xi Wnha, skin; xi, yellowish. (In Washa'be, Ponca.) Two 

of this name. 

\Va'huto"to" Wa, prefix denoting action wdth a purpose; huto", noise; 

ton, stands. (See Hu'tonion.) 

\Vano"'kuge (lig. 44) Wa, in action; «o", action with the feet; huge, 

sound of a drum. Refers to the resounding footsteps of 
the thunder. Ajipears in the Omaha treaties of 1854 
and 1865. 



lETH. A.N.N. i;7 

Washa'ge Claw. Refers to the wild-cat claw, an hereditary jiopses- 

sioii, and used in ceremonies conducted by this t;ens. 

Washe'to"zhi"i;a Washe'to'^, the name of this subdi%-ision; zlti'igo, little. 

Washe'zhi"ga Washe', an abbreviation of vasltc'to^; zhi^ga, little. 

Washko"'hi Washko", strength. Refers to the power of thunder. (In 

Wnzhn'z!ii', Ponca..l 

[''ui. 44. \Vano"'kuKi>. 

Wazhi"'tka tVa2/a»', will, niitid; riy/, white. Wisdom. (In Thi'xida, 


Wazhi"'o"ba Wazhi'^', will power, energy; onha, day. Sometimes trans- 
lated as '•angry or turbulent day," a day of storms of 
thunder and lightning. 


We'g'a Snake. (In Wazha'zhe, Tonc&.) 

We'g'a.ho"ga We'(;'a, snake; honga, leader. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

We'5'azhi"ga TT'c'f'n, snake; zhi^ga, little. Two of this name. (In 

Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 
Wi'ukipae Meaning uncertain 

Vnlor names 

KuVthe Rushing forward suddenly. This name was bestowed 

on the man because he rushed suddenly on a large 
party of Sioux, armed only with a hatchet. 

Waba'afe Wa, iraa^', a valorous deed ; a successful war party is also 

called waa'"-'; baage, to put to flight, to scare. This name 
was won by a man who, although partially paralyzed, 
killed his adversary in single combat during a fight with 
the Dakota. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Wai'^washi Wai", to carry; washi, to ask another to do something for 


Wano'^8hezhi''ga Wanon'she, soldier; zhi^ga, little. (In Wazha'zhe, Ponca.) 

Two of this name — one in Nini'baton subdivision. 

Dnaw names 

0'^po"wahi 0^'pon, elk ; icahi, bone. 

Sho'^'geo"ta Shoiige, horse; w"?a, from ^i'"^agi, swift. 

Wa'shi°nixa The layers of fat about the stomach of an animal — the 


Navies taken from incidents or historic experiences 

Qithe'dezhi°ga Qithe'de, heel; zhi^ga, little. (In WaQa'be, Ponca.) 

Nibtha'cka Ni, water; btha(;ka, flat. The name by which the Omaha 

call the Platte river. Nebraska is a corruption of Nibtha- 
' gka. 

Tahe'gaxe Ta, deer; he, horn; gaxe, branch. 

To^'wo^pezhe ro"'»on, village; pezhe,bad. Said to be a nickname given 

to a man who had poisoned several persons. It is said 

also that the name refers to the Thunder village, whence 

the Thunder issues to kill men. 
U'ho"zhi°ga U'ho", cook; zhi'nga, little. Two of this name — one in 

Nini'bato"' subdi^•ision. Appears in Omaha treaty of 

182G. (In Washa'be, Ponca.) 
Une'cezhi''ga Vne't;e, fireplace; zhinga, little. 

Names borrowed from cognate tribes, modified or unmodified 

NCxe'wanida Dakota name. 

Thio^'ba^ka Thio^'ba, lightning; fka, white. This is said to be taken 

from the Dakota name WaMya'''ska, meaning White 


Waxtha'thuto" Oto name. 

83993°— 27 eth— 11 13 

194 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann.27 

Female nftmes 

(pigi'kawato Qigi'ka, turkey; wate, victory. 

Hii'lo"wi" Hu'to", noise; m™, feminine termination. Refers to 


I°.-'lita'?o"wi° Tnshla',eye\ fo", white or pale; m»», feminine termination. 

Two of this name. 

Mi'aaheto" Mi, moon; asheto", the end. The waning moon. 

Mi'sthito''i'' Mi, moon; gthi, to return; to»H'«, new. The return of the 

new moon. Four of this name — one in Nini'bato'"- sub- 
division. (In Washa'be und Thi'xida, Ponca.) 

Mj'huga Mi, moon; Awfa, loud voice. 

Mi'mCt^hihathi" Mi, moon; mo^shiha, above; thi"", moving. Five of this 

name — one in Nini'balon subdivision. 

Mi'o''bathi° Mi, moon; onba, day; Ihi", moving. Three of this name. 

(In Thi'xida, Ponca.) 

Mo"'shadithi"' One moving on high. Refers to thunder. Six of this 

name — one in iVini'feato" subdivision. (In Washa'be and 
Ni'kapashna, Ponca.) 

Ni'dawi" Ni'da, a mythical being; «■)«, feminine. Six of this 


Ni'kano''zhiha Ni'ha, person; no'^zhiha, human hair. Three of thi.'* name- 

No"'xti5ewi" Meaning uncertain. 

O^'bathagthi" On'ba. day; thagfhi^, fine. Two of this name. 

To"'i'»gina To^'i'^, new; gi, coming; rut, who does. Refers to the 

moon symbolically. Three of this name. (In Ni'ka-. 
pashna, Ponca.) 

Tc'l^gthihe To^'in, new; gthihe, to return suddenly. The sudden ap- 
parition of the new moon. Three of this name. 

To°'i°thi° To^'i", new; thi", moving. Refers to the new moon 

moving in the heavens. Three of this name. 

After the preceding detailed account of the Omaha gentes it may 
be of service to tlie reader to recapitulate briefly the salient features 
of the tribal organization. 

Five gentes composed the southern half of the hu'ihnga or tribal 
circle. These had charge of the physical welfare of the people. The 
We'zhi''shte gens had charge of the Sacred Tent of Wtir and its 
duties, and also of rites connected with the first thunder of the sjjring. 
These rites, which wore fragmentary, probably once formed part of 
ancient ceremonies connected with surviving articles no longer cere- 
monially used — the Sacred Shell and the Cedar Pole. The elk was 
tabu to the We'zhi"shte gens, antl it is to be noted that elk rites 
were associated with war in the Osage tribe. (See Ceremony of 
Adoption, p. 61.) The other four gentes were charged with duties 
and rites connected with the food supply and were under the direc- 
tion of the Ho"'ga gens. This gens was leader, as its name implies, 
and had the care of the two Sacred Tents; one contained the White 

"The Nida was a mythical creature, in one conception a sort of elf that crept in and out of the earth. 

The word was apjilied also to the bones of large e.xtinct animals, as the niaytotlon. When the elephant 
was llrst seen it was called Nida, and that name is still applied to it by the Omaha, I'onca, and Osage. 


Buffalo Hkle. Its keeper conducted the rites attending the planting 
of maize and the hunting of the buffalo. The other tent held the 
Sacred Pole. Its keepers were the custodians of the rites concerned 
with the maintaining of the authority of the chiefs in the govern- 
ment of the tribe. Protection from without, the preservation of 
peace witiiin the tribe, the obtaining of food and clothing, devolved 
upon the rites in charge of the gentes composing the Ho°'gashenu 
half of the hu'thuga. 

The five gentes on the north half of the tribal circle were custodians 
of rites that related to the creation, the stars, the manifestation of 
the cosmic forces that pertain to life. Nearly all of these rites have 
become obsolete, except those of the last-named class, in charge of 
the I°shta'Qu"da gens. These constituted the ritual by which the 
child was introduced to the Cosmos (see p. 115), the ceremony through 
which the child was inducted into its place and duty in the tribe 
(see p. 117), and the ritual required when the two Sacred Tribal 
Pipes were filled for use on solemn tribal occasions. 

In view of what has been discemetl of the practical character of 
the Omaha, it is interesting to note that only those rites directly 
concerned with the maintenance of the tribal organization and gov- 
ernment were kept active and vital, while other rites, kindred but 
not so closely connected with the tribal organization, \\ere suffered 
to fall into neglect. 

The Omaha Gens not a Political Organization 

From the foregoing account of the gentes of the tribe, it is apparent 
that the Omaha gens was not a pohtical organization. It differed 
from the Latin gens in that the people composing it did not claim to 
be descended from a common ancestor from whom the group took 
its name and crest. There was, however, one point of resemblance, 
and because of this one point of resemblance the name gens is applied 
to the Omaha group; namely, the practice of a common rite the 
title to share in which descended solely through the father. Beyond 
this one point all resemblance ends. The rights and duties of the 
Omaha father in no way corresponded to those devolving on the 
head of a Roman family. Nor was the Omaha group a clan, for the 
bond between the people was not because of a common ancestor 
whose name and crest were the clan designation and from whom were 
descended the hereditary rulers of the clan. The Omaha gens was a 
group of exogamous kindred who jiractised a particular rite, the 
child's birthright to which descended solely through the father; and 
the symbol characteristic of that rite became the symbol, crest, or 
"totem," of the gens. There was no pohtical or governing chief of 
an Omaha gens or subgens, but there were persons to whom belonged 

196 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. Ann. 27 

tlic licreditary right to be keepers, or 'priests," in the ceremonies 
that were in charge of the gens. The Omaha gens, the two grand 
divi-sions composing the tribe, and the tribe as a whole, were eacli and 
all expressive and representative of certain fundamental religious ideas 
and behefs that were dramatized in rites. 

Later, when the tribe was reorganized into its present form, the 
political government of the people was vested in certain chiefs, but 
these did not derive their position from their gentes as representatives 
of political organizations. 


• Looking at the hu'fhuga, we observe that the rites and duties 
belonging to the gentes composing the Ho°'gashenu division bear out 
their designation as "the Earth people." All the rites and all the 
duties intrusted to these gentes have a direct relation to the physical 
welfare of the people. The ceremonies connected with the warrior 
as the protector of the life and property of the tribe were in charge 
of the We'zhi"shte gens, whose place was at the eastern end of this 
division and at the southern side of the opening, or "door," of the 
Jiu'tlmga, viewed as when oriented. The rites pertaining to the 
people's food supply — the hunting of the buffalo, the planting of the 
maize, the protection of the growing crops from the depredations of 
birds, and the fostering help of wind and rain — were in charge of the 
other four gentes of tliis division, each gens having its special share in 
these ceremonies. Besides these rites which bore directly upon the 
food supply, there were other duties which were concerned with the 
governing power and the maintenance of peace within the tribe. 
When the governing power was vested in a Council of Seven Chiefs, 
the right to convene this council became the duty of the Ho'"ga 
gens, and the custody of the two Sacred Tribal Pipes was given to the 
Pke'^abe gens. The presence and use of these pipes were essential 
to any authoritative proceeding but the' preparation of the pipes 
for use could not be undertaken by any member of the IIo"'gashenu 
division. This preparation belonged solely to the I"shta'9U°da gens. 
Therefore the pipes when in use became tribal, and represented both 
of the di^^sions of the tribe. 

The I"shta'vu°da division, spoken of as "the Sky people," had 
charge of those rites by which supernatural aid was sought and 
secured. The rites committed to the gentes composing this tlivision 
were all connected with the creation and the maintenance on tlie 
earth of all living forms. To the I"shta'9U°da gens belonged the 
rites which enforced the belief that the life and tiie death of each 
person was in the keeping of a supernatural power — a power that 
could punish an offender and that alone could give authority to the 




I I 

words and acts of the council of chiefs. Although the rites and duties 
of the I°shta'?u°da division pertained distinctively to the super- 
natural, to the creative and directive forces as related to man's social 
and individual life, j-et they were necessary and essential to the rites 
and duties of the Ho°'gashenu division, in whose charge was the 
physical well-being of the people. The former gave a supernatural 
sanction and authority to the latter, and made them effective not 
only over the animals and the fruits of the earth, but exercised an 
equally potent control over the governing power and the life of every 
member of the tribe. Thus the belief that by union of the Sky people 
and the Earth people the human race and all other li%nng forms 
were created and perpetuated was not only sym- 
bolized in the organization of the tribe, but this 
belief was kept vital and continually present to the 
minds of the people by the rites, the grouping and 
interrelation of the gentes, and the share given 
the two great divisions in tribal affairs and 
ceremonies. No tribal ceremony, negotiation, or 
consultation could take place without both divi- 
sions being represented; no council could act 
unless there were present one chief from the 
Pshta'^u^da division and two from the Ho"'- 
gashenu. In this connection, the sa^nng of an 
old Omaha man may throw light on how tliis 
representation from the two divisions was re- 
garded by the people. He said: "The I°shta'- 
(ju^da represented the great power, so that one 
chief from that side was enough, while two were 
necessary from the Ho^'gashenu." This native 
estimate of the reason for the unequal represen- 
tation of cliiefs is the reverse of what a member 
of the white race would naturally conclude — that 
the more important di^nsion shoidil be represented 
by the two cliiefs. 

In former times a ball game used to be ceremonially played between 
the young men of the two divisions. At such times it was the duty 
of a member of the Tade'ata, or Wind, subgens of the Ko°'9e gens, to 
start the ball. A circle with two lines crossing each other at right 
angles was drawn on the cleared ground, and the ball placed in the 
center (fig. 45). The ball was first rolled toward the north along the 
line drawn to the edge of the circle, and then back on the same line to 
the center. It was then rolled on the line toward the east to the 
edge of the circle and back to the center. Next it was rolled to the 
south and returned on the same line to the center. Finally it was 
rolled to the west on its line, and back to the center, and then it was 

I I 


Fig. 43. 

Diagram of ball 


tosscd into the air and the game ])roper began. Tiie game is said to 
have had a cosmic significance and the initial movements of the ball 
referred to the winds, the bringers of life. It was played by the two 
divisions of the Itu'tluiga as representatives of the earth and the sky. 
The demarcation between the two divisions of the Jiu'thuga was 
well known to the boys of the tribe, and no boy dared to go alone 
across this line. When for any purpose a boy was sent on an errand 
from the Ho°'gashenu side to the I"shta'9u''da side, he was obliged 
to go attended by his friends from the gentes belonging to his own 
side, for a fight was always the result of an attempt to cross the line. 
It is an interesting fact that while the old men of the tribe generally 
punished boys for fighting together, these juvenile combats over the 
line were not objected to by the parents and elders. This custom 
seems to have come into practice to serve a purpose similar to that 
of the symbolic cutting of the hair. The cutting of the hair was 
done, it was said, iii order to impress on the mind of a child, as in an 
object lesson, the gentes to wliich his playmates belonged. That it 
servetl its purpose has been observed by the writers. Frequenth' 
when a man has been asked to what gens a certain person belonged, 
he would pause and then say: "I remember, his hair used to be cut 

thus and so when we were boys, so he must be ," mentioning 

the gens that used this symbolic cut of the hair. The line that 
marked the two divisions of the hu'thuga, although invisible, was well 
known to the boys as the fighting line, where they could have a scrim- 
mage without being interfered with, and each boy knew his own 
half of the hu'thuga and the boundaiy, where he was at liberty to 
attack and where he must stand on the defensive. This custom of 
one tlivision standing by its members in a fight as against outsiders 
throws a side light on the word for tribe already referred to. 

Development of Political Unity 

From an examination by the lio;ht of tribal traditions of the rites, 
duties, and interrelations of the gentes, one discerns in the tribal 
organization of the Omaha and cognates, as it stood in the. early part 
of the nineteenth century, the evidences of past vicissitudes, all of 
wliich show that a tendency had existed toward disintegration 
because of a lack of close political organization, and that various ex- 
pedients for holding the people together had been tried. This weak- 
ness seems to have been specially felt when the people were in the 
buffalo country; wlule there groups would wander away, following 
the game, and become lost. Occasionally they were discovered and 
would rejoin the main body, as has been shown m the case of the 
Ho^'ga utanatsi of the Osage tribe. The environment of the people 
did not foster sedentary habits, such as would have tended toward a 
close political union; therefore the nature of the coimtry in which 
these cognates dwelt added to rather than lessened the danger of dis- 
integration. This danger was further increased by the number of 
religious rites among the people, each one of which was more or less 
complete in itself and was in the keeping of a group of exogamous 
kindred. The fact that the group was exogamous indicates that 
some form of organization had long existed among the people, but the 
frequent separations that took place emphasized the importance of 
maintaining the unity of the tribe, and the problem of devising means 
to secure this essential result was a matter of serious concern to the 
thinking and constructive minds among the people. The Sacred 
Legend, already quoted, says: "And the people thought. How can 
we better ourselves ? " 

As has been stated, the ideas fimdamental to the tribal organiza- 
tion of the Omaha and their cognates related to the creation and 
per])etuation of living creatures. The expression of these ideas in 
the (h'amatic form of rites seems to have been early achieved and 
those which syrabolicalty present the connection of cosmic forces 
with the birth and well-being of mankind seem to have persisted in 
whole or in part throughout the various experiences of the five cog- 
nate tribes, and to have kept an important place m tribal life. These 
rites constitute what may be regarded as the lower stratum of reli- 
gious ceremonies — for examjde, in the recognition of the vital relation 
of the Wind, as shown in the ceremony of Turning the Child, per- 


200 THE OMAHA TRIBE [bth. ann. 27 

formed when it entered on its tiil)!il life (see ]). 117): in tlie names 
bestoweil on females, wiiieli generally refer to natural phenomena or 
objects rather than to religions observances; in the ceremonies con- 
nected with Thunder as the god of war and arbiter of the life and 
death of man. There are indications that other rites relating to 
cosmic forces have been lost in tiie passage of years. Among the 
Omaha certam articles still survive rites long since disused, as the 
Cedar Pole and the Sacred Shell, both of which were preserved until 
recently in the Sacred Tent of War in charge of the We'zlii°shte gens. 
It is probable that the rites connected with the Sacred Shell were the 
older and that they once held an important place and exercised a 
widespread influence in the tribe, as indicated by the reverence and 
fear with which this object was regarded by the people of every 
Omaha gens. Other Omaha rites, as has been shown, have ceased 
to be observed — those connected with the thunder (p. 142), the stars 
(p. 177), and the winds (p. 169). The disappearance of former rites 
may indicate physiographic changes experienced by the people, which 
affected their food supply, avocations, and other phases of life, 
thereby causing certain rites to be superseded bj' others more in 
harmony with a changed environment. Thus life in the buiTalo 
country naturally resulted in rites which pertained to hunting the 
buffalo finally taking precedence over those which pertained to the 
cultivation of the maize (see pp. 147, 155). 

There are indications that luider these and other disturbing and 
disintegrating influences certain ceremonies were instituted to coun- 
teract these tendencies by fostering tribal consciousness in order to 
help to bind the people together. The Hede'wachi ceremony is of 
this character and seems to date far back in the history of the Omalia 
tribe. It is impossible to trace as in a sequence the growth of the 
idea of the desirability' of })olitical unity, for there were many influ- 
ences, religious and secular, at work to bring about modifications of 
customs and actual changes in government. The efforts to regulate 
warfare and to place it imder greater control and at the same time 
to enhance the honor with which the warrior was to be regarded seem 
to have been among the first steps taken toward developing a defi- 
nite governing power within the tribe. The act of placing the rites 
pertaining to war in charge of one gens was probably the result of 
combined influences. When this modification of earlier forms was 
accomplished a new name seems to have been given to the gens 
holding this office, and thus the ])resent term We'zhi"shte (see ]). 142) 
came into use. The former name of this kmship group is not known, 
but judging from analogy it ])robably had reference to one or the 
other of the lost ceremonies connected with the sacred articles left 
in its care. Wliile the segregation of the war ])ower may have tended 


to stay some of the disintegrating tendencies it did not have the 
positive unifying force that was desired. If other devices were tried 
to bring about tliis result nothing is known of them. 

Tlie Sacred Legend and other accounts tell the story of the waj^ in 
which a central governing body was fuially formed ami all agree that it 
was devised for the purpose of "holdmg the people together." One 
version speaks of seven old men who, wliile visitors to the tribe, inaugu- 
rated the governing council. The Sacred Legend declares that the 
council was the outcome of ' ' thought ' ' and ' ' consultation among the 
wise old men," their purpose taking form in the plan to establish a 
Nini'bato° " subdivision in some of the gentes, each subdivision to 
fiu-nish one member to the council, wliich was to be the governing 
authority, exercising control over the people, maintaining peace in 
the tribe, but having no relation to offensive warfare. According 
to the Legend account of the formation of the Nini'bato", "two okl 
men," one from the Ho°'ga gens and the otherfrom the I°ke'(;'abe gens, 
were commissioned to carry out the plan of the "wise old men." The 
term ' ' old ' ' is one of respect and indicates that these men had gained 
wisdom from experience, and that their plan was the result of knowl- 
edge and thought concerning actual conditions in the past and in the 
present, rather than one based on speculative notions. The "two 
old men" were entrusted with the two Sacred Tribal Pipes; as they 
passed around the hu'ihuga they would stop at a certain gens, desig- 
nating a family wliich was to become a Nini'bato" and making this 
choice official by the presentation of a pipe. For some unknown 
reason intliis circuit of the tribe the "old men" passed by the I°gthe'- 
zhide gens and did not give them a pipe. Nor was a pipe given to the 
We'zhi°slite gens or to the Ho"'ga gens. It was explained concerrmag 
these latter omissions that the We'zlii"shte had already been given 
the control of the war rites of the tribe, while the duties of the council 
formed from the Nini'bato" subdivisions were to be solely in the 
interests of peace, and to the Ho"'ga gens was to belong the duty of 
calling together this governing council. 

The two Sacred Pipes carried by the "two old men" were their 
credentials. The authority of these two pipes must have been of 
long standing and undisputed by the people in order to have made 
it possible for their bearers to inaugurate such an innovation as setting 
apart a certain family within a gens and giving to it a new class of 
duties — duties that were to be civil and not connected with the 
established rights of the gentes. These new duties did not conflict, 

a The word nini'bafon means 'Ho possess a pipe." The origin of the significant use of the pipe lies 
m a remote past. Among the Omaha and cognate tribes tlie pipe was regarded as a medium by 
which the breath of man ascended to Wako"'da through the fragrant smolce and conveyed the prayer or 
aspiration of the person smoking; the act also partook of the nature of an oath, an affirmation to attest 
sincerity and responsibility. The pipe was a credential known and respected by all. 

202 THE OMAHA TRTBE • fKrii. ann. 27 

however, with any of such rites, nor did they deprive tlie Nini'bato" 
famihos from participating in them. A new class of obhgations to 
Wako°'da and to all persons composing the tribe were laitl upon the 
Nini'bato" and tlie new council. 


The earhest tradition among the Omaha as to the establishment of 
cliiefs is contained in the story already recounted concerning the 
formation of the Nini'bato" and governing council, which was to be 
composed of hereditary cliiefs. How long the hereditary character 
was maintained and what had pre\'iously constituted leadership in 
the tribe are not known, nor is there any knowledge as to how the 
change from hereditary to competitive membersliip in the council 
came about. It may be that the change was the result of increasing 
recogmtion of the importance of strengthening the power of the 
governing council b}' making it both the source and the goal of 
tribal honors, thus enhancing its authority and at the same time 
emi)hasizing the desirabihty of tribal unity. All that the writers 
have been able to ascertain concerning the change in the composi- 
tion of the council from hereditary to competitive membership has 
been that it took place several generations ago, how many could not 
be learned. 

Orders or Chiefs 

The period of the establishment of these orders is lost in the past, 
but internal evidence seems to point to tlieir formation after the coun- 
cil with its Nini'bato" membership had been fully established and 
accepted by the people. 

There were two orders of chiefs, the Ni'kagahi xu'de and the 
Ni'kagahi sha'be. The name of the first {ni'kagaM, "chief;" xu'de, 
"brown") has reference to a uniform color, as of the brown earth, 
where all are practically alike, of one hue or rank. The Ni'kaga- 
hi xu'de order was unlimited as to membership, but admittance into 
it depended upon the consent of the Ni'kagahi sha'be {ni'Tcagalii, 
"chief," sha'be, "dark"). The word sha'be does not refer to color, 
but to the appearance of an object raised above the uniform level 
and seen against the horizon as a ilark object. Men who hail risen 
from the Ni'kagahi xu'de into the limited order of the Ni'kagahi 
sha'be were regarded as elevated before tlie people. 


Entrance into tliis order was possible only when a vacancy 
occurred, and then only to a member of the order of Ni'kagahi xu'de 
after the performance of certain acts known as wathi'''ethe (from wa, 
"thing having power;" thi",irom thi"'ge, "nothing:" the. "to nuike" 
or " to cause," the word meaning something done or given for wliich 


there is no material return but through which honor is received). 
Wathi"'ethe stands for acts and gifts which do not directly add to the 
comfort and wealth of the actor or donor, but which have relation 
to the welfare of the tribe by promoting internal order and peace, 
by providing for the cliiefs and keepers (see p. 212), by assuring 
friendly relations with other tribes; they partook therefore of a 
public rather than a private character, and while they opened a 
man's way to tribal honors and position, they did so by serving 
the welfare of all the people. Entrance into the order of Ni'kagahi 
xu'de was through the performance of certain wathi^'ethe; in this 
instance the gifts of the aspirant were made solelv to the Seven 

The election of members to the order of Ni'kagahi xu'de took 
place at a meeting of the Ni'kagahi sha'be called by the leaders 
of the Ho°'ga gens for this purpose. After the tribal pipes had been 
smoked the name of a candidate was mentioned, and his record and 
the number and value of liis gifts were canvassed. The prescribed 
articles used in making these gifts were eagles, eagle war bonnets, 
quivers (including bows and arrows), catlinite pipes witli orna- 
mented stems, tobacco pouches, otter skins, buft'alo robes, orna- 
mented shirts, and leggings. In olden times, burden-bearing dogs, 
tents, and pottery were given; in recent times these have been 
replaced by horses, guns, blankets, blue and red cloth, silver medals, 
and copper kettles. It is noteworthy that all the raw materials used 
in construction, as well as the unmanufactured articles of the earh- 
native type, were such as required of the candidate prowess as a 
hunter, care in accumulating, and skilled industry. A man often 
had to travel far to acquire some of these articles, and be exposed 
to danger from enemies in securing and bringing them home, so 
that they represented, besities industry as a hunter, bravery and 
skill as a warrior. Moreover, as upon the men devolved the ardu- 
ous task of procuring all the meat for food and the pelts usetl to make 
clothing, bedding, and tents, and as there was no common medium 
of exchange for labor in the tribe, such as money affords, each house- 
hold had to provide from the very foundation, so to speak, every 
article it used or consumed. It will therefore be seen that persistent 
work on the part of a man aspiring to enter the order of cluef was 
necessary, as he must not only provitle food and clothing for the 
daily use of his family, but accumulate a surplus so as to obtain 
leisure for the construction of the articles to be counted as irathi"'eth€. 
The men matle the bows and arrows, the war bonnets, and the pipes; 
the ornamentation was the woman's task. Her deft fingers prepared 
the porcupine quills after her husband or brother had caught the 
wary little animals. For the slow task of dyemg the quills and 
embroidering with them she needed a house well stocked with food 

204 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. anx. 27 

and defended from lurkuio; war parties, in order to have time and 
security for her work. A hizy fellow or an impulsive, improvident 
man could not acquire the ])roperty represented by these gifts. There 
was no prescribed number of gifts demanded for entrance into the 
Xu'de order but they had to be sufficient to warrant the chiefs in 
admittmg him, for the man once in the order could, by persistent 
industr}^ and care, rise so as to become a candidate for the order of 
Sha'be when a vacancy occurred. 

When a favorable decision as to the candidate was reached the 
chiefs arose and followed the Sacred Pipes, borne reverently, with the 
stems elevated, by the two leading chiefs. Thus led, the company 
walked slowly about the camp to the lodge of the man who had been 
elected a Xu'de and paused before the door. At this point the man 
had the option to refuse or to accept the honor. If he should say: "I 
do not wish to become a chief," and wave away the tribal pipes offered 
him to smoke, thus refusing permission to the chiefs to enter his lodge, 
they would pass on, leaving him as though he had not been elected. 
When the man accepted the position he smoked the pipes as they 
were offered, whereupon the chiefs entered his lodge, bearing the 
pipes before them, and slowl}^ passed around his fireplace. This act 
signified to all the tribe that the man was thenceforth a chief, a 
member of the order of Ni'kagahi xu'de. He was now eligible to 
other honors — all of which, however, depended upon further efforts 
on his part. (For portrait of Omaha chiefs, see pis. 36, 37.) 

Eligibility to enter the order of Ni'kagahi sha'be depended upon 
the performance of certain graded watM'^'ethe. Vacancies occurred 
only by death or by the resignation of very old men. A vacancy 
was filled by the one in the Xu'de order who could " count " the most 
wathi^'ethe given to the chiefs or who had performed the graded 
acts of the watJii"'ethe. The order and value of these graded acts 
were not generally known to the people, nor even to all the chiefs 
of the Xu'de. Those who became possessed of this knowledge were 
apt to keep it for the benefit of their aspiring kinsmen. The lack 
of this knowledge, it is said, occasionallv cost a man the loss of an 
advantage which he would otherwise have had. 

There were seven grades of wathi^' cthe the performance of which 
made a man eligible to a ])lace in the order of Ni'kagahi sha'be. 
They ranked as follows: 

First. Washa'be ga'xe (washa'be, "an official staff;" ga'xe, "to 
make"). This grade consisted in procuring the materials necessary 
to make the washa'be, an ornamented staff carried by the leader of 
the annual buffalo hunt. (See p. 155.) These materials were a 
di-essed buffalo skin, a cro^\-, two eagles, a shell cUsk, sinew, a pipe 
with an ornamented stem, and, in oFden times, a cooking vessel of 
potteiy, replaced in modern times by a copper kettle. The money 





value of these articles, rated by ordinary trading terms, was not 
less than $100 to $130. The performance of the first grade four 
times would constitute the highest act possible for a man. Xo Omaha 
has ever accomplished this act so many times. 

Second. Bo"'wakithe ("I caused the herald to call"). The 
aspirant requested the tribal herald to sunmion the Ni'kagahi slia'be 
together with the keeper of the ritual used in fdling the Sacred Pipes, 
from the I°shta'9U°da gens, to a feast. Besides providing for the 
feast, gifts of leggings, robes, bows and arrows, and tobacco were 
required as gifts for the guests. If it chanced that the aspirant for 
honors was not on friendly terms with the keeper of the ritual, or if 
from any other motive the keeper desired to check the man's ambi- 
tion, it lay in his power to thwart it by allowing the pipes to remain 
unfilled, in which case the gifts and feast went for nothing. 

Third. U'gaslikegtho° ("to tether a horse"). A man would make 
a feast for the Ni'kagahi sha'be and tie at the door of his tent a 
horse with a new I'obe thrown over it. The horse and the robe were 
gifts to his guests. A man once gained renown by "counting" seven 
acts of this grade, performing four in one day. 

Fourth. Gafi'ge no°shto" wakithe {gafi'ge, "marching abreast;" 
no^sMo^, "to halt;" tvaJcitlie, "to make or cause"), "causing the 
people to halt." This act was possible only during the annual hunt. 
As the people were moving, the Sacred Pole and the governing 
chiefs in advance, a man would bring a horse or a new robe and 
present it to the Pole. The gift was appropriated by the Waxthe'- 
xeto" subgens of the Ho^'ga, who had charge of the Pole. During 
this act the entire tribe halted, while the herald proclaimed the name 
of the giver. This act should be repeated four times in one day. 

Fifth. Te thishke' wakithe {te, "buffalo;" thishke', "to untie;" 
wakithe, "to make or cause"), "causing the Sacred White Buffalo 
Hide to be opened and shown." During this ceremony of exhibiting 
the White Buft'alo Hide a shell disk or some other article of value 
was presented to the Hide, the gifts becoming the property of the 
Waxthe'beto" subgens of the Ho"'ga, who had charge of this sacred 
object. This act had to be repeated four times in one day. 

Sixth. Wa't'edo°be (wa, "things having power and pui-pose;" t'e, 
"dead;" do'^he, "to see"). This act consisted in taking gifts to the 
family of a chief when a death occurred. The costliest donation 
remembered to have been made under this class was on the occasion 
of the death of the son of old Big Elk, who died of .smallpox in the 
early part of the nineteenth centuiy, when a fine horse on which was 
spread a bearskin was offered in honor of the dead. 

Seventh. Wlien a person had been killed accidentally or in anger 
the chiefs took the Sacred Tribal Pipes to the kindred of the man, 
accompanied by gifts, in order to prevent any revengeful act. All 


those who contriljiited towaid these gifts could "count" them as 
belonging to the seventh grade. If the aggrieved partj' smoked 
the l^ipe and accepted the gifts, hloodslied was averted and peace 
maintained in the tribe. 

All of the gifts constituting these seven grades were made to the 
chiefs of the governing council in recognition of their authority. 
They were for a definite purpose — to enable the giver to secure 
entrance into the order of Xi'kagahi sha'be whenever a vacancy 
should occur in that botly. 

It will be noticed that the act constituting the first grade differed 
from the other six in that it was not a direct gift made to the chiefs, 
but was connected with the ceremonial stafT of the leader of the 
annual buffalo hunt. It was, however, a recognition of authority, an 
authority which held the people in order and made it possible for 
each family to secure its supply of food and clothing. It was there- 
fore,' in its intrinsic character, in harmony with the purpose of the 
other six graded watJii^'etlie. 

lVa6a.'/iO", designated an act not belonging to the regular wathi^- 
ethe, but esteemed as a generous deed that redounded to the credit 
of the doer. The term means "to raise or push up," and refere to 
placing a deer, bufl'alo, or elk on its breast and putting bits of tobacco 
along its back, all of which signified that the hunter had dedicated 
the animal as a gift to the chiefs. A chief could not receive such a 
gift, however, iniless he had perfoi'med the act of waba'ho^ four 
times. If he had not performed the acts and desired to receive the 
gift he could call on his near of kin to help him to "count." If he 
was thus able to receive the gift, it became his duty to divide the 
game with those who had helped him by lending their "count." If 
he was able to "count" four waha'ho^ himself, he could then keep 
the entire animal for his own use. 

In admitting a man to either order of chiefs his personal character 
was always taken into consideration. If he was of a disputatious or 
f[uarrelsome nature no amount of gifts would seciu'e his election to 
the order of Xi'kagahi xu'de or make possible a place for him in the 
Ni'kagahi sha'be. The maxim was: "A chief must be a man who can 
govern himself." 

The Council of Seven Chiefs 

The origin of this governing council as given in the Sacred Legend 
and elsewhere has been recounted and the change from the early 
form of hereditary membership mentioned. The institution of a 
small body representing the entire tribe, to have full control of the 
people, to settle all contentions, and to subordinate all factions to a 
central authority, was an important governmental movement. The 
credential of this authority both for the act of its creation and for the 
exercise of its functions was the presence and ceremonial use of the 


two Sacred Tribal Pipes. The two stood for the fundamental idea 
in the dual organization of the hu'thuga (see p. 137). This was 
recognized also in the ceremonial custody and preparation of the 
Pipes. The keeping of them belonged to the I"ke'9abe gens of the 
southern (earth) side of the hu'thuga; the office of ceremonially hlling 
the Pipes, making them ready for use, was vested in the I°shta'9u°da 
gens of the northern (upper) realm of the hu'thuga, representative of 
the abode of the supernatural forces to which man must appeal for help. 
Through the ceremonies and use of the two Sacred Pipes the halves 
of the hu'thuga were welded, as it were, the Pipes thus becoming 
representative of the tribe as a whole. The prominence given to the 
Pipes, as the credential of the "old men," as their authority in the 
creation of chiefs and the governing council, seems to indicate that 
the institution of the Nini'bato" and the establishment of the ouncil, 
although a progressive movement, was a growtli, a development of 
earlier forms, rather than an invention or arbitrary arrangement of 
the ''old men." The retaining of the two Pipes as the supreme or 
confirmatory authority within the council rather than giving that 
power to a head chief was consonant with the fundamental idea 
embodied in the tribal organization. The number of the council 
(seven) probably had its origin in the significance of the number 
which represented the whole of man's environment — the four quarters 
where were the four paths down which the Above came to the Below, 
where stood man. The ancient ideas and beliefs of the people con- 
cerning man's relation to the cosmos were thus interwoven with their 
latest social achievement, the establishment of a representative 
governing body. 

Whether the ornamentation of the two Tribal Pipes was authorized 
at this time is not known; but it is probable that in this as in every 
other arrangement there was the adaptation or modification of some 
old and accepted form of expression to meet the needs of newer 
conditions. It is said that the seven woodpecker heads on one of 
the Tribal Pipes stood for the seven chiefs that composed the govern- 
ing council, while the use of but one woodpecker head on the other 
pipe represented the unity of authority of the cliiefs. This explana- 
tion explams only in part. The reason for the choice of the wood- 
pecker as a symbol lies far back in the history of the people, and it 
may be that it did not originate in this linguistic group. In myths 
found throughout a wide region this bird was connected with tlio sun. 
It was used on the calumet pipes, which had a wide range, covering 
almost the whole of the Mississippi dramage. It is not improbable 
that the woodpecker symbol was accepted at the time the calumet 
ceremony became known to the Omaha and adopted as a symbol 
of peacefid authority, but a definite statement on the subject at 
present is impossible. 

208 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

The seven members of the comicil helouged to the order of Ni'kagahi 
sha'be, in fact they may be said to have represented tliat order in 
wlaich each man held his place until death or voluntary resignation. 
Five other persons were entitled to attend the meetings of tiie council, 
being of an ex ollicio class: The keeper of the Sacred Pole; the keeper 
of the Sacred Buffalo Hide; the keeper of the two Sacred Tribal Pipes; 
the keeper of the ritual used when fdling them; and the keeper of the 
Sacred Tent of War. None of these five keepers had a voice m the 
decisions of the council, the responsibility of deciding devolving solely 
on the Seven Chiefs who composetl the council proper. 

At council meetings the men sat in a semicircle. The two chiefs 
who could count the greatest number of watM^'ethe were called 
Ni'kagahi u'zhu {u'zhu "principal"); these chiefs sat side by side 
back of the fireplace, facing the east and the entrance of the lodge. 
They represented the two halves of the hu'thuga, the one who sat on 
the right (toward the south) representing the Ho^'gashenu, the one 
who sat on the left (toward the north), the I°shta'(;'u°da. The other 
members sat in the order of their "counts" on each side of the 
principal chiefs, the highest next to those chiefs and so on to the end 
of the line. The position assignetl each member on entrance into the 
council remained unchanged until a death or resignation took place. 
In the case of a vacancy m the u'zhu, the place was taken by whoever 
could comit the most tvathi'^'ethe; he might be an old member of the 
council or a new man from the order of Ni'kagahi xu'de. Any 
vacancy occurring was likely to cause a change in the places of the 
members, accordmg to the "count" of the new member, but the 
place and position of u'zhu were affected only by death or resignation. 
An u'zhu held his rank against all claimants. 

The mamier of deliberatmg and coniuig to a decision in the Council 
of Seven is said to have been as follows : A question or plan of operation 
was presented by a member; it was then referred to the chief sitting 
next, who took it under consideration ami then passed it on to the 
next person and so on around the circle until it reached the man who 
first jiresented it. The matter would pass again and agam around 
the circle luitil all came to agreement. All day was frequently spent 
in deliberation. No one person would dare to take the responsibility 
of the act. All must accept it and then carry it through as one msin. 
This unity of decision was regarded as having a supernatm-al power 
and authority. Old men explained to the writers that the members 
of the council had been made chiefs ]\v the Sacred Tribal Pipes, whicli 
were from Wako"'da; therefore, '"when the cliiefs had deliberated on 
a matter and had smoked, the decision was as the word of Wako"'da." 

The ceremonial nranner of smoking the Sacreil Pipes was as follows: 

After the members of the council were in their places the keeper of 
the Sacred Pipes laid them before the two principal chiefs, who called 


on the keeper of the ritual to prepare the Pipes for use. As he 
filled them with native tobacco he mtoned in a low voice the ritual 
which belonged to that act. He had to be careful not to let either of 
the Pipes fall. Should tliis happen, that meeting of the council would 
be at an end, and the life of the keeper would be in danger from the 
supernatural powers. After the Pipes were filled they were agam 
laid before the two principal cliiefs. When the time came to smoke 
the Pipes m order to give authority to a decision, the I"ke'9abe 
keeper arose, took up one of the Pipes, and held it for the principal 
chief sittmg toward the north, to smoke. The assistant from the 
Te'pa subgens of the Tha'tada gens (see p. 159) followed, taking up 
the other Pipe and lioldmg it for the principal chief sittmg toward 
the south, to smoke. The Pipes were then passed around the council, 
the I"ke'9abe keeper leading and carefully holding the Pipe for each 
member to smoke, the assistant following and servmg the other Pipe 
in the same mamier. The prmcipal chief sitting toward the south 
was the last to smoke from the Pipe borne by the I"ke'9abe keeper, 
who then laid the Pipe m the place from which he had taken it. 
When the Te'pa assistant reached the cliief to whom he had first 
offered the Pipe he laid it down beside the other. The keeper of 
the ritual from the I''shta'(;'u°da gens then arose and cleaned the 
Pipes, after which he laid them back before the two chiefs, who then 
called the keeper from the I°ke'9abe gens to take them in charge." 

"The seven must have but one heart and speak as with one mouth," 
said the old men who explamed these things to the writers, adduag: 
"It is because these decisions come from Wako°'da that a chief is 
slow to speak. No word can be without meaning and every one 
must be uttered in soberness. That is why when a chief speaks the 
others listen, for the words of a cliief must be few." When a con- 
clusion was reached by the council the herald was summoned, and 
he went about the camp cii'cle and proclaimed the decision. No one 
dared to dispute, for it was said: "This is the voice of the chiefs." 

Among the duties of the Council of Seven besides that of main- 
taining peace and order within the tribe were making peace with other 
tribes, securing allies, determinmg the time of the annual buffalo 
limit, and confirming the man who was to act as leader, on whom 
rested the responsibility of that important movement. While on the 
hunt the Seven Chiefs were in a sense subordinate to the leader, 
their duties beuig advisory rather than governing in character; they 
were always regarded, however, as directly responsible to Wako"'da 
for the welfare of the tribe. The council appointed officers called 

o All the other sacred articles used in tribal ceremonies have been turned over to the writers for safe- 
keeping, but no arguments could induce the leading men to part with the two Sacred Pipes. The answer 
was always, "They must remain." And they are still with the people. 

83993°— 27 eth— 11 14 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

wano^'she ("soldiers") to cany out tlieir commainls. These officers 
were chosen from the order of Ni'kagahi xu'de and were ahvays men 
who had won honors, and whose character commanded the respect 
of the tribe. (Fig. 46.) Frequently they were appointed for some 
special service, as when an unauthorized war party committed dep- 
redations on a neighbormg tribe; if the chiefs ordered the stolen 

Fig. 46. Kaxe'no"ba, who frequently sen-ed as a " soldier." 

property returned, the booty woidd then be sent back under "sol- 
diers" selected for the task. "Soldiers" were appointed by the 
council to preserve order durmg the amiual hunt, the ollice expiring 
with the hunt. Men who had once filled the office of "soldier" 
were apt to be called on to assist the council in the preservation of 
order withm the tribe. 


Should a sudden attack be made on the tribe the Seven Chiefs 
would then join in the defense and if need be lead the people against 
the enemy. The council cooperated with the keeper of the Tent of 
War in sending out scouts during the annual tribal hunt (see p. 279). 
The punishment of men who slipped away on unauthorized warfare 
devolved on these chiefs (see ]). 404). On one notable occasion the 
Council of Seven temporarily resigned, and placed the entire tribe 
under the control of one man, Wa'bapka, who led the people 
against the Pawnee. This exception to all tribal rule has been pre- 
served in both story and song (see p. 406). When a man desired to 
perform the Wa'wa" ceremony (see p. 376) and carry the pijies to 
another tribe or to a man within the tribe, permission from the chiefs 
had first to be obtained. The consent of the Seven Chiefs was also 
necessary to the admission of a candidate to the Ho°'hewachi. 

There were no other governing chiefs in the tribe besides those of 
the council. No gens had a chief possessing authority over it, nor was 
there any council of a gens, nor could a gens act by itself. There was 
one possible exception; sometimes a gens went on a hunt under the 
leadersliip of its chiefs, for there were chiefs in every gens, men who 
belonged to the order of Xi'kagahi xu'de or who had entered the 
ranks of the Ni'kagahi slia'be; but none of these men could individ- 
ually exercise governing power within a gens or in the tribe. The gens, 
as has been shown, was not a political organization, but a group of 
kindred, imited tln-ough a common rite. The leading men of a gens 
were those who had charge of its rites; those who could count many 
wathi^' ethe, and those who had been designated to act as "soldiers." 
Such men were invited on various occasions to sit with the Council of 
Seven, as in the communal tent when the ceremony of anointing the 
Sacred Pole took jilace. There was no tribal assembly or tribal 
council. All power for both decision and action was lodged in the 
Council of Seven. 

The old Omaha men, who are the authority for the mterpreta- 
tions of tribal rites and customs contained m tliis memoh', have 
earnestly sought to impress upon the writers that peace and order 
witUn the tribe were of prime importance; without these it was 
declared neither the people nor the tribe as an organization could 
exist. War was secondary; its true function was protective — to 
guard the people from outside enemies. Aggressive warfare was to 
be discouraged; any gains made by it were more than offset by the 
troubles entailed. It was recognized that it was difficult to restrain 
young men; therefore restrictions were thrown about predatory 
warfare (see p. 404), that all who went on the warpath should first 
secure permission, wliile the special honors accorded to those 
whose brave acts were performed in defense of the tribe tended to 
make war secondary to peace. 

212 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

"Plentiful food and peace," it was said, "are necessary to the 
prosperity of the tribe." 

In later years, under the influence of traders and of United States 
Government officials, the old order of chieftainship lost much of its 
power. Men who were pliant were enriched by traders and became 
unduly important, and the same was frequently true of the men who 
were made "chiefs" by United States Government officials. Some of 
these have been men who had no rightful claim according to tribal 
usage to that office. Chiefs made by the Governmsnt were called 
" paper chiefs. " These men sometimes exercised considerable influ- 
ence, as they were supposed by the people to be supported by the 
Government, but their influence was that born of expediency rather 
than that growing out of the ancient belief that the chief was one who 
was favored by Wako^'da and who represented before the people 
certain aspects of that mysterious power. 

Emoluments of Chiefs and Keepers 

Entrance into the order of chieftainship was secured through cer- 
tain prescribed acts and gifts called ivathi^'ethe (seep. 202). All of 
the gifts, except those belonging to the first and second grades (see 
p. 204), were made to the Seven Chiefs. The two exceptions were 
contributions to ceremonies connected with the maintenance of order 
and the consequent welfare of the tribe. Wliile all the tmthi'^'etlie 
were in a sense voluntary, they were obligator}' on the man who 
desired to rise to a position of prominence in the tribe. It was 
explained that " the gifts made to the chiefs were not only in recogni- 
tion of their high office and authority as the governing power of the 
tribe but to supply them with the means to meet the demands made 
upon them because of their official position." It was further 
explained thatr — 

Chiefs were expected to entertain all visitors from other tribes, also the leading men 
within the tribe and to make adequate gifts to their visitors. Both Chiefs and Keepers 
were often deterred from hunting by their official duties and thus were prevented from 
securing a large supply of food or of the raw material needed for the manufacture of 
articles suitable to present as gifts to visitors. The gifts made by aspirants to tribal 
office therefore partook of the nature of payment to the Chiefs and Keepers for the 
services they rendered to the people. 

Not only did the wathi^'ethe accomplish the purpose as explamed 
above, but the custom stimidated industry and enterprise among the 
men and women, and thus indirectly served the cause of peace within 
the tribe. 

Beside their use as stated above, gifts were demanded as entrance 
fees to the various societies. Those requisite for admission to the 
Ho"'hewachi were particularly costly (see p. 493). Moreover, the 
meetings of the societies matle demands on the accumulated wealth, 


so to speak, of the family. Food was required for the "feasts" of the 
members, and gifts were expected as a part of some of the ceremonies. 
All these had to be drawn from the surplus store, a -store tliat had to 
be created by the skill of the man as a hunter and by the industry of 
the woman. No one gave feasts or made gifts which left the family 
in want of food or of clothing. 

At the anointing of the Sacred Pole a supplj^ of meats of the cut 
called tezhu' (see p. 273) was expected from every family in the tribe 
except from those of the Ho'''ga subgens, that had charge of the Pole 
and its ceremonies. Wliile there was no penalty attached to the non- 
fulfilhiient of this tribal duty, as it was considered, yet from a series of 
coincidences a belief hud grown up that a refusal would be. punished 

These customs in reference to gifts made as xoathi'^'ethe show that 
the people had progressed to the recognition that something more 
was required of a man than merely to supply his own physical needs; 
that he had social and public duties to perform and must give of his 
labor to support the chiefs and keepers, officers who served and 
promoted the general welfare of the people. 

Offenses and Punishments 

The authority of the chiefs and social order were safeguarded by 
the following punisliment: 

Within the Tent Sacred to War was kept a staff of ironwootl, one 
end of which was rough, as if broken. On this splinted end poison 
was put when the staff was to be used officially for punishment. In 
the pack kept in this tent was fountl a bhxdder, witliin which were«four 
rattlesnake heads, and with them in a separate bundle the poison 
fangs (fig. 47; Peabody Museum nos. 48262-3). These were probably 
used to compound tlie poison put on the staff. As men's bodies were 
usually naked, it was not difficult when near a person in a crowd 
to prod liim with the staff, making a wound and introducing tlie 
deadly poison, which is said always to have- resulted in death. This 
form of punishment was applied to a man who made light of the 
authority of the cliiefs or of the wain'waxube, the packs which could 
authorize a war party, such a person being a disturber of the peace and 
order of the tribe. The punishment was decided on by the Coun- 
cil of Seven Chiefs, wliich designated a trustworthy man to apply the 
staff to the offeniler. Sometimes the man was given a chance for 
his life by having liis horses struck antl poisoned. If, however, he 
did not take this warning, he paid the forfeit of liis life, for he would 
be struck by the poisoned staff" end and killed. 

Tliievmg (wamo^'tho") was uncommon. Restitution was tlie only 
punishment. Assaults were not frequent. Wlien they occurred 
they were settled privately between the parties and their relatives. 



Feth. ANN. 27 

In all offenses the relatives stood as one. Each could be held respon- 
sible for the acts of another — a custom that sometimes worked injus- 
tice, but on the whole was conducive to social order. 

Running off with a man's wife or committing adultery was severely 
punished. In this class of offenses the husband or his near relatives 
administered punishment. The woman might be whipped, but the 
heavy punishment fell on the guilty man. Generally his property 
was taken from liim, and if the man offered resistance he was either 

Fig. 47. Rattlesnake heads and fangs. 

slashed with a knife or beaten with a bludgeon. The revenge taken by 
a husband on a man makhig advtmccs to his wife was calle<l miwa'da. 
A wife jealous of another woman who was attentive to her hus- 
band was apt to attack her witli a knife. An assault of this kind, 
called no"''wo''(i, was seldom interfereil with. If a man's wife died 
and left cldldren, custom requireil that he marry his wife's sister. 
Should he fail to do so, the woman's relatives sometimes took up the 
matter and tlireatened the man with punisliment. 


The term wano^'lcaihe was used in reference to murder, or to any 
act wliich caused personal injury to another, even if it was unpre- 
meditated. In the hitter case the act woukl be condoned by gifts 
made to the injured party or his relatives. Dehberate murder was 
punished by banishment. \Vlien the knowledge of such a deed was 
brought to the notice of the cliiefs, banishment was ordered, the 
offender was told of the decision and he obeyed. Banishment was 
four years, unless the man was sooner forgiven by the relatives of 
the murdered man. During this period the man had to camp outside 
the village and could hold no communication with anyone except his 
nearest kindretl, who were permitted to see him. He was obliged to 
wear night and day a close-fitting garment of skin, covering his body 
and legs, and was not allowed to remove tliis covering during Iris 
punishment. His wife could carry him food but he was obliged to 
live apart from his family and to be entirely alone during the period 
of his exile. 

It was believed that the spirit of a murdered man was inclined to 
come back to his village to punish the people. To prevent a mur- 
dered man from haunting his village he was turned face downward, 
and to impede his steps the soles of his feet were slit lengthwise. 
The return of a spirit to haunt people was called ivathi'hide , "dis- 
turbance." Such a haunting spirit was supposed to bring famine. 
To avert this disaster, when a murdered man was buried, besides the 
precautions already mentioned, a piece of fat was put m his right 
hand, so that if he should come to the village he would bring plenty 
rather than famine, fat being the symbol of plenty. Even the rela- 
tives of the murdered man would treat the body of their kinsman in 
the manner described. 

The sentence being passed on a murderer, the cliiefs at once took 
the Tribal Pipes to the family of the murdered man and by gifts 
besought them to forego any further punishment upon the family of 
the murderer. If they accepted the gifts and smoked the pipe, there 
was no further disturbance connected with the crime. (See seventh 
grade, p. 205.) 

The offense of watM'hi, that of scaring off game while the tribe was 
on the buffalo hunt, could take place only by a man slipping away 
and hunting for himself. By this act, while he might secure food for 
his own use, he imperiled the food supply of the entire tribe by fright- 
ening away the herd. Such a deed was punished by flogging. Sol- 
diers were appointed by the cliiefs to go to the offender's tent and 
administer this punishment. Should the man dare to resist their 
authority he was doubly flogged because of his second offense. Such 
a flogging sometimes caused death. Besides this flogging, the man's 
tent was destroyed, his horses and other property were confiscated, 
and his tent poles burned ; in short, he was reduced to beggary. 


The punishment of a disturber of the peace of the tribe, by the 
exercise of wazhi^'agthe, the placing of will power on the offender by 
the chiefs, was a peculiar form of chastisement by wliich the person 
was put out of friendly relations with men and animals. (See p. 497.) 
For a similar placing of the mind on an offender, see Ponca custom, 
page 48. 

Wliite Eagle (Ponca) narrated the following as showing the Ponca 
treatment of a murderer, even if the killing was an accident : 

A Ponca killed a man. It was not intentional, but nevertheless he was, by the 
consent of the people, punished by the father of the man who was killed. The father 
cut all the edges of the man's robe, so that nothing about him could flutter should 
the wind blow. The spirit of a murdered person will haunt the people, and when the 
tribe is on the hunt, will cause the wind to blow in such a direction as to betray the 
hunters to the game and cause the herd to scatter, making it impossible for the people 
to get food. [The Omaha have the same belief about ghosts scattering the herds by 
raising the wind.] After the man's robe was cut it was sewed together in front, but 
space was left for his arm to have freedom. He was then bade to say, as he drew 
the arrow from the wound and rubbed it over the dead man, "I did nut kill a man, 
but an animal." Then his hair was cut short for fear it might blow and cause the 
winds to become restless. The covering about the heart of a buffalo was taken and put 
over the man's head, and he was banished from the tribe for four years. The man 
obeyed strictly all the directions given him, and, further than that, he wept every day 
for the man he had slain. This action so moved the relatives of the dead, it is said, 
that in one year they pardoned him, gave him his liberty, and he returned to the tribe 
and his family. 




In the process of governmental development it became expedient to 
have something which should symbolize the unity of the tribe and of 
its governing power — something which should appeal to the people, an 
object they could all behold and around which they could gather to 
manifest their loyalty to the idea it represented. The two Tribal 
Pipes, which hitherto had been the only representative of the govern- 
ing authority, were not only complex in their symbolism, but they 
were not easily visible to the entire tribe and did not meet the need 
for a central object at great tribal gatherings. The ceremony of the 
He'dewachi had familiarized the people with the symbol of the tree 
as a type of unity. A similar idea would seem to have been expressed 
in the ancient Cedar Pole, which is said to have stood as a cosmic 
symbol representative of supernatural authority; its name was 
taken and the ceremonies formerly connected with it seem to have 
been preserved in part, at least, in those of the Sacred Pole. 

Tradition states that the Sacred Pole was cut before the "Ponca 
gens broke away [from the Omaha] and became the Ponca tribe. " 
Other evidence indicates that the tribes had already become more 
or less distinct when the Sacred Pole was cut. 

There are two versions of the story of the finding of the Sacred 
Pole. Both have points in common. One runs as follows: 

A great council was being held to devise some means by which the bands of the tribe 
might be kept together and the tribe itself saved from extinction. This council lasted 
many days. Meanwhile the son of one of the ruling men was off on a hunt. On his 
way home he came to a great forest and in the night lost his way. He walked and 
walked until he was exhausted with pushing his way through the underbrush. He 
stopped to rest and to find the "motionless star" for his guide when he was suddenly 
attracted by a light. Believing that it came from a tent the young hunter went 
toward it, but on coming to the place whence the welcome light came he was amazed 
to find that it was a tree that sent forth the light. He went up to it and found that 
the whole tree, its trunk, branches, and leaves, were alight, yet remained unconsumed. 
He touched the tree but no heat came from it. This mystified him and he stood 
watching the strange tree, for how long he did not know. At last day approached, 
the brightness of the tree began to fade, until with the rising of the sun the tree with 
its foliage resumed its natural appearance. The man remained there in order to 
watch the tree another night. As twilight came on it began to be luminous and 


218 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

continued so until the sun again arose. When the young man returned home he told 
his father of the wonder. Together they went to see the tree; they saw it all alight 
as it was before but the father observed something that had escaped the notice of the 
young man; this was that four animal paths led to it. These paths were well beaten 
and as the two men examined the paths and the tree it was clear to them that the 
animals came to the tree and had rubbed against it and polished its bark by so doing. 
This was full of significance to the elder man and on his return he told the leading 
men of the mysterious tree. It was agreed by all that the tree was a gift from Wako^'da 
and that it would be the thing that would help to keep the people together. With 
great ceremony they cut the tree down and hewed it to portable size. 

Both Omaha and Ponca legends concerning the Pole say that the 
people were living in a village near a lake, and that the tree grew 
near a lake at some distance from where the people were dwelling. 
The finding of the Pole is said to have occurred while a council was 
in progress between the Cheyenne, Arikara, Omaha, Ponca, and Iowa, 
to reach an agreement on terms of peace and rules of war and hunt- 
ing, and to adopt a peace ceremony." (See p. 74.) 

The accoimt in the Omaha Sacred Legend is as follows: 

During this time a young man who had been wandering came back to his \-illage. 
When he reached his home he said . "Father, I have seen a wonderful t'ee! " And he 
described it. The old man listened but he kept silent, for all was not yet settled 
between the tribes. 

After a little while the young man went again to \-isit the tree. On his return 
home he repeated his former tale to his father about the wonderful tree. The old 
man kept silent, for the chiefs were still conferring. At last, when everything was 
agreed upon between the tribes, the old man sent for the chiefs and said: "My son 
has seen a wonderful tree. The Thunder birds come and go upon this tree, making 
a trail of fire that leaves four paths on the burnt grass that stretch toward the Four 
Winds. \Mien the Thunder birds alight upon the tree it bursts into flame and the 
fire mounts to the top. The tree stands burning, but no one can see the fire except 
at night." 

^^'hen the chiefs heard this tale they sent runners to see what this tree might be. 
The nmners came back and told the same storj- — how in the night they saw the tree 
standing and burning as it stood. Then all the people held a council as to what this 
might mean, and the chiefs said: "We shall ruti for it; put on your ornaments and 
prepare as for battle." So the men stripped, painted themselves, put on their orna- 
ments, and set out for the tree, which stood near a lake. They ran as in a race to 
attack the tree as if it were a warrior enemy. All the men ran. A Ponca was the 
first to reach the tree, and he struck it as he would an enemy. [Note the resemblance 
to the charge upon the He'dewachi tree; also in the manner of felling and bringing 
the tree into camp. (See p. 253.)] 

Then they cut the tree down and four men, walking in line, carried it on their 
shoulders to the village. The chiefs sang four nights the songs that had been com- 
posed for the tree while they held a council and deliberated concerning the tree. A 
tent was made for the tree and set up within the circle of lodges. The chiefs worked 
upon the tree; they trimmed it and called it a human being. They made a basket' 
work receptacle of twigs and feathers and tied it about the middle. Then they said: 
"It has no hair! " So they sent out to get a large scalp lock and they put it on the 
top of the Pole for hair. Afterward the chiefs bade the herald tell the people that 
when all was completed they should see the Pole. 

Then they painted the Pole and set it up before the tent, leaning it on a crotched 
stick, which they called imongthe (a staff). They summoned the people, and all the 

o See the Hako, in the Twenty-second Annual Report of the Bureau of A merican Ethnology, part 2. 





people came — men, women, and children. \\Tien they were gathered the chiefs stood 
up and said: "You now see before you a mystery. WTienever we meet with troubles 
we shall bring all our troubles to him [the Pole]. We shall make offerings and requests. 
All our prayers must be accompanied by gifts. This [the Pole] belongs to all the peo- 
ple, but it shall be in the keeping of one family (in the Ho^'ga gens), and the leader- 
ship shall be with them. If anyone desires to lead (to become a chief) and to take 
responsibility in governing the people, he shall make presents to the Keepers [of the 
Pole] and they shall give him authority." When all was finished the people said: 
"Let us appoint a time when we shall again paint him [the Pole] and act before him 
the battles we have fought." The time was fixed; it was to take place in "the moon 
when the buffaloes bellow" (July). This was the beginning of the ceremony of 
Waxthe'xe xigithe (see p. 230), and it was agreed that this ceremony should be kept up. 

Makk of Honor 

Waxthe'xe, the name given to the Pole, was the name of the ancient 
Cedar Pole preserved in the Tent of War. The word is flifficult to 
translate. The prefix wa indicates that the object spoken of had 
power, the power of motion, of life; xthexe means "mottled as by 
shadows;" the word has also the idea of bringing into prominence 
to be seen by all the people as something distmctive. XtJiexe' 
was the name of the "mark of honor" put on a girl by her father 
or near of kin who had won, through certain acts, entrance mto the 
Ho^'hewachi, and so secured the right to have this mark tattooed on 
the girl. (See fig. 105.) The name of the Pole, Waxthe'xe, signifies 
that the power to give the right to possess this "mark of honor" was 
vested in the Pole. The mark placeil on tlie girl was not a mark of her 
own achievements, but of her father's, as no girl or woman could by 
herself win it. The designs tattooed on the girl were all cosmic sym- 
bols. "VVliile the "mark of honor," as its name shows, was directly 
connected with the Cedar Pole, which was related to Thunder and 
war, the tattooed "mark of honor" among the Omaha was not con- 
nected with war, but with achievements that related to hunting and 
to the maintenance of peace within the tribe. 

It was the custom among the Osage to tattoo the "mark of 
honor" on the warrior and on the hereditarj' keeper of the Honor 
Packs of War. The description of the Osage practice, which appears 
below, may relate to a time antedating tiie separation of the cognate 
tribes when the Cedar Pole may have been common property. The 
photograph from which the accompanying illustration (pi. 37a) was 
made, was taken in 1897. The design tattooed on the neck and chest 
(fig. 48) comes to a point about 2 incites above the waist line and i 
extends over the shoulders to the back. The central part of the design, ' 
extending from under the chin downward to the lowest point, repre- 
sents the stone knife. Two bands on each side of this central figure 
extend up to the hair an inch or two behind the ear, terminat- 
ing in a knob solidty tattooed. This figure is called i'hashabe (mean- 
ing unknown) ; the name and significance of these bands were not 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

given. A pipe is tattooed on each side of the central figure, the 
bowl pointing upward. At the root of the neck, on each side of the 
stone knife, a triangle is traced ; a line from the hypotenuse extends 
to the top of the shoulder. These represent tents. The design 
means that "the Sacred Pipe has descended." "All its keepers 
must be marked in this way." If a keeper had cut off heads in 
battle, skulls would be represented between the pointed ends of the 
bands which fall over the shoulders. It was explained that the 

Fig. 48. Tattooed design, "mark of honor" (Osage). 

pictured skulls would draw to the tattooed man the strength of the 
men he had killed, so that las life would be prolonged by virtue 
of their unexpended days. 

The man here shown was about 17 years okl when he was tattooed. 
He said that the tattooing was done " to make bun faithful m keeping 
the rites;" that he had tried to have visions by the Pipes, which he 
had alwaj's respected and "had never laid on the ground;" and tiuit 
he had sought these visions and had been thus carefid of the Pipes 
in order that his children might have long life. 


A warrior who had won honors in battles was entitled to the privi- 
lege of tattooing his body or that of his wife or daughter as a mark 
of distinction. The lowest mark of such honors was three narrow 
lines beginning at the top of each shoulder and meeting at an angle 
at the lower part of the chest. The next higher mark had in addition 
to the lines on the chest three narrow lines running down the outer sur- 
face of the arms to the wrists. The highest mark had in addition to 
the lines on the chest and arms three narrow lines that continued 
from the shoulders, where the lines of the first mark began, meeting 
at an angle in the middle of the back. The tattooing was done by 
a man who was learned in the rituals connected with the ceremony. 
The needles used were tipped with the rattles of the rattlesnake. 

The Sacred Tents 

The tent set apart for the Sacred Pole was pitched in front of the 
Waxthe'xeto"" subgens of the Ho°'ga gens, who, as their name im- 
plies, were given charge of the Pole. The tent was decorated with 
round red spots, which probably referred to the sun. Some have 
said they represented the buffalo wallow, but this seems improbable, 
judging from other evidence and the character of the Pole. The 
three Sacred Tents of the Omaha tribe were all objects of fear to the 
people because of the character of their contents. No one unbidden 
went near them or touched them; nor could anyone borrow fire from 
any of the Sacred Tents; nor could holes be made about the fireplace. 
Should any person, animal, or object, as a tent pole, accidentally 
come in contact with any of these Sacred Tents, the offending person, 
animal, or thing had to be taken to the keeper of the tent that had 
been touched and be cleansed ceremonially in order to prevent the 
evil believed to follow such sacrilege. A piece of meat that chanced 
to drop into the fire while being roasted in one of the Sacred Tents 
could not be taken out but was left to be entirely consumed. 

The contents of two of the Sacred Tents of the Omaha tribe have 
been placed for safe keeping in the Peabody Museum of Harvard 
University — those of the Sacred Tent of War in 1 884 and the Sacred 
Pole with its belongings, in 1888. (See p. 411.) All these relics are 
unique and of ethnologic value. The disposition to be made of these 
sacred objects, which for generations had been essential in the tribal 
ceremonies and expressive of the authority of the chiefs, was a 
serious problem for the leading men of the tribe. To destroj- these 
sacred relics was not to be thought of, and it was finally decided that 
they should be buried with their keepers. 

For many years the writers hail been engaged in a serious study 
of the tribe and it seemed a grave misfortune that these venerable 

a Waithe'zey the name of the Sacred Pole; to", "to possess*' or "to keep and care for." 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

objects shoiikl be buried and the full story of the tribe be forever 
lost, for that story was as yet but imperfectly known, anil luitil these 
sacred articles, so carefully hidden from inspection, could be exam- 
ined it was impossible to £i;ain a i)oint of view whence to study, as 
from the center, the ceremonies connected with these articles and 
their relation to tlie autonomy of the tribe. The importance of 

Fig. 49. Joseph La Flesche. 

securinc]; tl\e objects became more and more apparent, and influences 
were brought to bear on the chiefs and their keepers to prevent the 
carrying out of the plan for burial. After years of labor, for which 
great credit must be given to the late Pshta'maza (Joseph T^a 
Flesche, fig. 49), former principal chief of the tribe, the sacred articles 
were finally secured . 

fletcher-la flesche] the sacked pole 223 

Legend and Description of the Sacred Pole 

Wlieii the Pole was finally in safe keepins; it seemed very important 
to secure its legend, which was known only to a chief of the Ho^'ga. 
The fear inspired by the Pole was such that it seemed as though it 

Fig. 50. Moichu'nonbe (Shu'denagi). 

would be impossible to gain tliis information, but the desired result 
was fuially brought about, and one summer day in September, 18SS, 
old Shu'denafi (Smoked Yellow; refers to the Sacred Tent of the 
Ho°'ga gens), figure 50, came to the house of Joseph La Flesche to 
tell the legend of his people treasured with the Sacred Pole. Extracts 
from this Sacred Legend have already been given. 

224 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

It was a memorable day. The harvest was ended, and tall sheafs 
of wheat cast their shadows over the stubble fields that were once 
covered with buffalo ^rass. The past was irrevocably gone. The 
old man had consented to speak but not without misgivings until 
his former principal chief said that he would "cheerfully accept for 
lumself any penalty that might follow the revealing of these sacred 
traditions," an act formerly held to be a profanation and punish- 
able by the supernatural. Wliile the old chief talked he continually 
tapped the floor with a little stick he held m his hand, markuig with 
it the rhythm peculiar to the drumming of a man who is invoking 
the unseen powers during the performance of certain rites. His 
eyes were cast down, his speech was tleliberate, and liis voice low, as 
if speaking to himself alone. The scene in that little room where 
sat the four actors in this human drama was solemn, as at the obse- 
quies of a past once so full of human activity and hope. The fear 
inspired by the Pole was strengthened in its passmg away, for by a 
singular coincidence the touch of fatal disease fell upon Joseph 
La Flesche almost at the close of this interview, which lasted tliree 
days, and in a fortnight he lay dead in the very room in wliich had 
been revealed the Sacred Legend connected with the Pole. 

The Sacred Pole (pi. 38 and fig. 51) is of cotton wood, 2 J m. in length, 
and bears marks of great age. It has been subjected to manipulation; 
the bark has been removed, and the pole shaved and shaped at both 
ends, the top, or "head," rounded into a cone-shaped knob, and the 
lower end trimmed to a dull point. Its circumference near tlie head 
is 15 cm. 2 mm. The circumference increases in the middle to 19 cm. 
and diminishes toward the foot to 14 cm. 6 mm. To the lower end is 
fastened by strips of tanned hide a piece of harder wood, probably 
ash, 55 cm. 2^ mm. m length, rounded at the top, with a groove cut 
to prevent the straps from slipping, and with the lower end sharpened 
so as to be easily driven into the ground. There is a crack in the 
Pole extending several centimeters abt)ve this foot piece, wliich has 
probably given rise to a modern idea tliat the piece was added to 
strengthen or mend the Pole wlien it had become worn with long 
usage. But the Pole itself shows no indication of ever having been 
in the ground; there is no decay apparent, as is shown on the foot 
piece, the flattened top of which proves that it was driven into the 
ground. Moreover, the name of tliis piece of wood is zhi'he, " leg; " as 
the Pole itself represents a man and aa the name zhi'be is not applied 
to a piece of wood spliced on to lengthen a pole, it is probable that 
tliis foot or leg was originally attached to the Pole. 

Upon this zhi'ie the Pole rested; it was never placed upright but 
inclined forward at an angle of about 45°, beuig held in position by 
a stick tied to it 1 m. 46 cm. from the "head." The native name of 
this support is i'mo^^he, meaning a staff such as old men lean upon. 







Upon the top, or "liead," of the Pole was tied a large scalp, ni'lo 
no^zhiha. About one end, 14 cm. 5 mm. from the "head" is a piece 
of hide bound to the Pole by bands of tannetl skin. This wrapping 
covers a basketwork of twigs, now shriveled with age, which is 
lightly filled with feathers and the down of the crane. Tlie length 
of this bundle of hide is 44 cm. 5 mm., and its circumference about 
50 cm. In 1875 the last ceremony was performed and the wrappmg 
put on as it remains to-day. 

Fig. 31. A section of the Sacred Pole showing incrustation from ancient anointings. (The I'ole 
is here represented in its usual position, supported by the Vmongthe, or staff.) 

The name of this receptacle, a'xo"depa, is the word used to desig- 
nate the leather shield worn on the wrist of an Indian to protect it 
from the bowstrmg. Tliis name affords unmistakable evidence that the 
Pole was mtended to symbolize a man, as no other creature could wear 
the bowstring shield. It mdicates also that the man thus symbolized 
was one who was both a provider for ami a protector of his people. 

83993°— 27 eth— 11 15 

226 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

Sacred Packs and Contents 

Tlie pack (fig. 52; Peabody Museum no. 47834) accompanying 
the Pole contained a number of articles which were used in the cere- 
monies of the Sacred Pole. It is an oblong piece of buffalo hide 
which, when wrapped around its contents, makes a round bundle 
about SO cm. long and 60 cm. in circumference, bound together by 
bands of rawhide. The pack was called wathi'xahe, meaning literally 
"things flayed," referring to the scalps stored withm the pack. 
Nine scalps were found in it when opened at the Museum. Some 
show signs of considerable wear; they are all very large and on one 
are the remams of a feather, worn away all but the quill. 

The pipe belongmg to the Pole and used ui its rites was kept in this 
pack (fig. 53; Peabody Museum no. 47838). The stem is round 
anil 89 cm. in length. It is probably of ash and shows marks of long 
usage. The bowl is of red catlinite, 12 cm. 5 mm. at its greatest 


W^^ ^^ ^1*^^ 






Fig 5J. rack belonging to Sacred Pole. 

length, and 7 cm. 2 mm. in height. The bowl proper rises 4 cm. 5 
mm. from the base. Upon the sides and bottom of tlie stone certain 
figures are incised, which are difficult to identify; they may 
represent a conventionalized bird grasping the pipe. The Imes of 
the figures are filled with a semilustrous black substance composed 
of vegetable matter, which brings the design into full relief; this 
substance is also painted on the front and back of the bowl,' leav- 
ing a band of red showing at the sides. The effect is that of a black 
and red inlaid pipe. Wlien this pipe was smoked the stone end rested 
on the grounil; it was not lifted but dragged by the stem as it 
passed from man to man while they sat m the Sacred Tent or mclosure. 
To prevent the bowl falling off, a mishap which would be disas- 
trous, a hole was drilled through a little flange at the end of the 
stone pipe where it is fitted to the wooden stem, and through this 
hole one end of a sinew cord was passed and fastened, the other end 




being securely tied jihout the pipestem 13 em. above its entiimee into 
tlie bowl. 

The stiek used to clean this pipe, nimu'thubafki (fig. 54), was kept 
in a case or sheath of reed wound round with a fine rope of human haii\ 

Fig. 53. Pipe belonging to Sacred Pole. 

Fig. 54. IMpe-cleaner. 

fastened with sinew ; a feather, said to be from the crane, was bound 
to the lower end of this .sheath. Only part of the quill remains. 

Sweet grass {pe'zJiefo^fta) and cedar (ma'fi), broken up and tied 
in bundles, were in the pack. Bits of the grass and cedar were 



[f.tii. a XX. 

spread on the top of the tobiicco when the pipe was filled, so that 
when it was lis;hted these were first consumed, makmg an oft'erinjj of 
savory smoke. Sweet grass and cedar were used also in consecrating 
the seven arrows for ceremonial use. 

Seven arrows, 7)io"'petho'"ba (fig. 55; Peabocty Museum no. 47835) 
were in the pack. The shafts are much broken; they were origi- 

Kn;. ').") l>i\iiiin^j iiriuu^ 

nally 45 cm. 6 mm. long, feathered from the crane, with stone heads. 
Part of the cjuills of the feathers remain l)ut tlie arrowheads are lost. 
A curious l)rush (fig. 56; Peal)ody Musemii no. 47837) made of a 
piece of hide, having one edge cut into a coarse fringe and the hide 
rolled together and bound with bands, was the rude utensil with 

Fui. 50. Bnisli nsi'd ill painting Sacred I'ole. 

whicli tiie paint, mixed with buffalo fat, was put on the I'ole. A 
bundle of sinew cord, and of reil paait {wafi'zhkle), used in paintuig 
the Pole, complete the contents of the pack. 




Tlie ancient Cedar Pole (fig. 57 ; Peabody Museum no. 
37561) preserved in the Tent of War was tlie prototype 
of the Sacred Pole. The two had features in common; 
both simidated something more than a pole, and di<l not 
typify a tree, as tlid the pole in the He'dewachi ceremony, 
but represented a being; both had the zhi'be, or leg; on 
the body of one was bound a stick like a club, on the 
other a device called a bow sliield. Both poles were 
associated with Thunder, and any profanation of either 
was supernaturally punislied by deatli. The cedar tree 
was a favorite place for the Thunder birds to alight 
and according to the Legend attention was called to 
the tree from which the Sacred Pole was shapetl by 
the Thunder birds coming to it from the four direc- 
tions and the mj'sterious burning which followed, all 
of which caused the Sacred Pole to stand in the 
minds of the people as entlowed with supernatural 
power by the ancient Thunder gods. "As a result," 
the Legend saj^s, "the people began to pray to tlie Pole 
for courage and for trophies in war and their prayers were 

Associated with the Pole was the White Buffalo Hide. 
Its tent stood beside that of the Pole. The ritual and 
ceremonies relating to the Hide (given oq p. 286) show 
that it was directly connected with hunting the buffalo. 
The Pole, on the other hand, was a political symbol rep- 
resentative of the authority of the chiefs, and mysteriouslv 
associated with Thunder, as cited above; it was related to 
defensive warfare as a means of protecting the tribe and 
was also connected with the hunt, the means by which 
food, clothing, and shelter w^ere secured by the people. 

The Pole had its keeper, who was one of the subgens 
having its rites in charge. Wlien the tribe moved out on 
the annual hunt the Pole was carried on the hack of the 
keeper by means of a strap passed over his shoulders, the 
ends of which were fastened near the head and foot of the 
Pole. As he walked carrying the Pole the keeper had to 
wear his robe ceremonially, the hair outside. The food, 
tent, and personal belongings of the keeper could be trans- 
ported on a horse; the Pole had always to be carried on 
the back of the man. The presence of the Pole was 
regarded at all times as of vital importance. "It held 
the tribe together; without it the people might scat- 
ter," was the common expression as to the purpose and 
needed presence of the Pole. 

Fig. 57. An- 
cient Cedar 

230 THE OMAHA TRIBE [ETH ann 27 

The follownng incident ocfiiriTtl duriiiij: tlie early part of tlie last 
century : 

The keeper of the Pole had become a very old man, but he still clung to his duties- 
Misfortune had come to him, and he had no horse when the time came for the tribe 
to move out on the annual hunt. The old man and his aged wife had no one to help 
them to carry their tent and provisions, which, added to the Sacred Pole, made a heavy 
load tor the old people. The old man struggled on for some days, his strength gradu- 
ally failing. At last the time came when he had to choose between caiTying food or 
carrying the Pole. The tribe had started on; he hesitated, then self-preservation 
decided in favor of the food, so leaving the Pole as it stood the old man slowly walked 
away. As he neared the tribal camp a young man saw him and asked what had hap- 
pened that he was without the Pole. The old man told his story. The young man 
was poor and had only the horse he was riding, but he at once turned back to the 
deserted camp to rescue the Pole. The ride was a dangerous one, for there were 
enemies near. He risked his life to save the Pole by turning back. He found it 
where it had been left by the old man; then mounting his horse with it he made 
haste to rejoin the tribe, ^^■hen he came near to where the people were camped he 
dismounted, took the Pole on his back, and leading his horse made his way to the old 
keeper, delivered to him the Pole, and at the same time presented his horse to the 
old man. This was the only time the Pole was ever carried on horseback. The act 
of the young man was at once known, and he was publicly.thanked by the Ho^'ga 
subgens that had charge of the Pole and its ceremonies. A few days later the Seven 
Chiefs were called to a coimcil, and they sent for the young man, bidding him to come 
to them and to wear his robe in the ceremonial manner. He hesitated at what seemed 
to him must be a mistake in the summons, but he was told he must obey, ^^'hen he 
entered the tent where the chiefs were sitting he was motioned to a vacant place 
beside one of the principal chiefs. The young man was thus made an honorary chief 
because of his generous act toward the Pole; he could sit with the chiefs, but he had 
no voice in their deliberations. 

Anointing the Sacred Pole 

The name of this ceremony was Waxthe'xe xigithe ( Waxthe'xe, 
"the Sacred Pole;" xigithe, "to tinge with red''). The ceremony of 
Anointmg the Pole was commemorative of the original presentation 
of the Pole to the people, and the season set for this ceremony made 
it also a ceremony of thanksgiving for the gifts received through 
the hunt. The ceremony took place after the fourth tribal chase 
and the four ceremonies connected with the buffalo tongues and 
hearts had taken place. Then the Waxthe'xeto" subgens of the 
Ho°'ga gens, wliich hat! charge of the Pole, called the Seven Cliiefs, 
the governing council, to the Sacred Tent to transact the prelimmary 
business. They sat there with the tent closed tight, chul in their 
buffalo robes, worn ceremonially, the hair outsiile and the head 
falling on the left arm; in a crouching attitude, without a knife or 
spoon, in imitation of the buffalo's feedmg, they ate the food provided 
and took care not to drop any of it. Should a morsel fall on the 
grountl, however, it was carefully pushed toward the fire; such a 
morsel was said to be desired by the Pole, anti as the Legend says. 
"No one must take anything claimed by tlie Pole." 

Wlien the council had agreed on the ilay for the ceremony they 
smoked the pipe belonging to the Pole, and the herald announced the 


decision to the tribe. Runners were sent out to search for a herd of 
buffalo, and if one was found within four days it w^as accounted a 
sacred herd, and the chase that took place provided fresh meat for 
the commg ceremony. If within four days the runners failed to 
discover a herd, dried meat was used. 

In this preliminary council the number of men to be called on to 
secuie poles for the communal tent was determined; then each chief 
took a reed from a bundle kept in the Sacred Tent, which constituted 
the tally of the men of the tribe, and mentioned the name of a man of 
valorous exploits. \Ylien the names of the number of men agreed 
on had been mentioned, the leader of the subgens gave the repre- 
sentative reeds to the tribal herald to distribute to these designated 
men. On receiving the reed each man proceeded to the Sacred Tent, 
and by the act of returning his reed to the leader of the subgens 
accepted the distinction that had been conferred on him. It was 
now the duty of these men to visit the lodges of the tribe and select 
from each tent a pole to be used in the constiiiction of a lodge for 
the coming ceremonies. This they did by entering the tent and 
striking a chosen pole, while they recounted the valiant deeds of their 
past life. These men were followed by other men from the Waxthe'- 
xeto° subgens, who, with their wives, withdrew the selected poles and 
carried them to the vicinity of the Sacred Tent, where they were set 
up and covered so as to form a semicircular lodge (fig. 58)." This 
lodge was erected on the site of the Sacred Tents, which were incor- 
porated in it. The lodge opened toward the center of the tribal circle; 
as the poles used in its construction were taken from the tents of the 
tribe the lodge represented all the people and was called icaxu'be, 
"holy" or "sacred," because it was erected for a religious ceremony. 

Up to this time the tribe may have been moving and camping every 
day, but now a halt was called until the close of the ceremony. From 
this time to the close of the rites all the horses had to be kept outside 
the hu'thuga, and the people were not allowed to loiter about or pass to 
and fro across the entrance. To enforce this regulation two men were 
stationed as guards at the opening of the tribal circle. 

All being in readiness, the leader of the subgens of the no"'ga 
having charge of the Pole summonetl the Seven Chiefs and the head- 
men of the gentes, who, wearing buflalo robes in the ceremonial 
manner, sedately walked to the communal tent and took their seats. 

The Xu'ka, a grouj) belonging to the Tha'tada gens, which in the 
hu'thuga camped next to the Ho°'ga on tlie left, and whose duty it was 
to act as prompters in the ceremonies pei-formed by the Ho°'ga, took 
their places toward the end of the great communal tent on the left. 
The Xu'ka followed closely the singing of the ritual songs. To aid 
them in their dut}' as prompters they used counters — little sticks 

a The four figures in front were made of grass : later in the oeremony these represented enemies. 




about t) inches long. As soon as a song was sung, its counter was 
laid at one side. If the Ho"'ga had any doubt as to the proper song 
in the sequence of the ritual, the}' consulted tlie Xu'ka. 

If by any chance a mistake occurred during the ceremonies con- 
nected with the Sacred Pole, and one of the songs was sung out of 
sef[uence, then the following ceremony became obligatory: All the 
Waxthe'xeto" subgens of the IIo"'ga, they who had charge of the 
Sacred Pole and its rites, arose, lifted their arms, held their hands 
with the palms upward, and, standing thus in the attitude of suppli- 
cation, wept. After a few moments one of the official servers came 
forward, passed in front of the line of standing singers, and wiped the 

Fig. 58. Communal ceremonial structure— grass figures in foregroimd iniilivc drawingi. 

tears from each man's face. Then the singers resumed their ])laces, 
and the ceremony began again from the beginning as though for the 
first time. This ceremony of contrition took jilace only wlu>n by 
accident the se<(uence of the songs of the Sacreil Pole was broken. 

The Xu'ka also acted as jjiomptcrs when the Washa'bt>to" sub- 
gens of the ]Io"'ga sang the ritual of tiie Sacred ^Miite Bull'alo Hide. 
If a song of that ritual was sung out of its onh'V tlie entire ritual had to 
be begun again, for tliere nuist be no breidv in the parts of the ritual — 
its course "must be straight." 

On the ceremonial occasion here described the herald wore a band 
of matted buffalo wool about his head, with a downy eagle feather 
standins: in it. 




Tlie Sacred Pole was carried by the wife of the keeper of the Pole to 
the edge of the communal lodge, where the keeper arranged it so as to 
lean on its " staff " (a crotched stick) toward the center of the hu'thuga. 

The pipe belonging to the Sacred Pole was first smoked; then the 
bundle of reeds was brought, which served as a count of the men of 
the tribe who were able to serve as warriors. Each chief as he drew 
a reed mentioned the name of a man. He must lie one who lived in 
his own loilge as the head of a family (what we would term a house- 
holder), not a man dependent on relatives. As the chief spoke 
the name, the herald advanced to the Pole and shouted the name 
so as to be heard by the whole tribe. Should the name given be 
that of a chief, the herald substituted tiiat of his son. The man 
called was expecteil to send by the hand of one of his children his 
finest and fattest piece of buffalo meat, of a peculiar cut known as 
the tezhu'. (See p. 273.) If the meat was heavj^, one of the parents 
helped to carry it to the communal tent. The little ones were full 
of dread, fearing particularly the fat wJiich was to be used on the 
Pole. So they often stopped to wipe their greasy fingers on tiie grass 
so as to escape any blame or possible guilt of sacrilege. Anyone 
refusing to make this offering to the Pole would be struck by light- 
ning, wounded in battle, or lose a limb by a splinter running into liis 
foot. There are well-known instances of such results having followed 

Ritual Songs 

All the ritual songs I'elating to the ceremonies of the Sacretl Pole 
were the property of the Waxthe'xeto" subgens of the Ho°'ga gens, 
and were sung by them during the performance of the rites. 

This song accompanied the placing of the Pole ami the cuttmg of 
the svmbolic design on tiie ground in front of it: 

First Song 

(Sling in octaves) 

The a- ma wa sthi - to° - bi 


\Va-gthi-to''-bi Wa-gthi-to''-bi tlioho. 

-*-^ — 'e)T-» — ' 

tho ho gthi-to°. 






gthi - to" 








— ^ — ^ — « — , — • — • — ^ — *- 
Wa- gthi-to" - bi Wa-gthi-lo" - bi 


xi e-he 

L'thi - to" 


Thea'nia wagthito°bi tho ho! gthito"ba 

Wagthito°bi, wagthito"bi, tho ho 

Te'xi ehe gthito°ba 

Wagthito°bi, wagthito"bi te'xi che gthito"ba 


234 THE OMAHA TEIBE [eth axn. 27 

Literal translation: Theanid, liere are they (the people); vof/thi- 
t<)'*hi — the prefix wa indicates that the ohject has power, gtliUoHn, 
touching what is theirs ("touching" here means the touching that is 
necessaiy for a preparation of the objects) ; tho Tio! is an exclamation 
here used in the sense of a call to Wako°'da, to arrest attention, to 
announce that something is in progress relating to serious matters; 
te'xi, that which is of the most precious or sacred nature; eTie, I say. 

Free translation 

The people cry aloud — tho ho! before thee. 

Here they prepare for sacred rites — tho ho! 

Their Sacred, Sacred Pole. 

With reverent hands, I say, they touch the Sacred Pole before thee. 

After the Pole was in place, the one who officiated and repre- 
sented the keepers of the Pole, the Waxthe'xeto" subgens of the 
Ho°'ga, advanced toward the Pole to untie the skin which concealed 
the wickerwork object bound to the middle of the Pole. As this was 
being done, the Ho°'ga keepers sang the next stanza: 

Wagthishkabi, wagthishkabi tho ho! gthishkaba 

Wagthishkabi, wagthishkabi tho ho 

Te'xi ehe gthishkaba 

Wagthishkabi, wagthishkabi, te'xi ehe gthishkaba 

Literal translation: Wagthishliahi — the prefix wa indicates that the 
object has power; gtJiisTikahi, undoing, so as to expose to view that 
which is covered or encased. The rest of the words have been 
translated in the first stanza. 

Free translation 

We now unloose and bring to view, tho ho! before thee. 

We bring to view for sacred rites, tho ho! 

This sacred, sacred thing. 

These sacred rites, this sacred thing comes to view before thee. 

In front of the Pole the symbolic figure, called uzhi^'eti, figure 59 
(see p. 241), was then cut on the ground, the sod removed, and the 
earth loosened, after which the following song was sung: 




Second Song 



the wa 

gthi - to° - bi 

tha ha 


gthi - to" - bi 

Ehe the he gthito°bi thaha ha 

Ehe the he the wagthito°bi tha ha ha 

Ehe the he the wagthito°bi tha ha ha 


Literal translation: Ehe, I say; the, this; he, vowel prolongation of 
preceding word; gthito^bi, preparing what is theirs; tha, a punctua- 
tion word indicating the end of the sentence, used in oratory and 
dignified speech; ha, vowel prolongation of preceding word. 

Free trainslation 

I here declare our work to be completed, 

Done our task! 
I here declare that all our work is now completed. 

Done our task! 
I here declare that all our work is now completed, 

Fully completed! 

On the following day the culminating rites of the ceremony took 
place. In these the wife of the officiating priest had a share. lie 
was clothed in his gala shirt and leggings, and red hands were painted 
across his cheeks from the mouth to the ear. The woman wore over 
her gala costume a buffalo robe girded about her waist, the skin side 
out, which was painted red. Across her cheeks and her glossy black 
hair red bands were painted and to the heel of each moccasin was 
attached a strip of buft'alo hair like a tail. 

Early in the morning the following song was sung as the wicker- 
work object containmg the down of the crane, which bore the name 




a'xo"(lepa (wrist shield) was fully opened, to be leadv for the core- 
monies of the day: 

Third Sonc 


-t^— t^ 

-I y — w — s*- 

A - .\o''-de - pa ha ha wi" the tho" A - xo°-de - pa ha 

A-xo°-de-pa ha ha wi°thetho'' A-xo^-de-pa ha ha wi° the tho" 

Axo"depa ha ha! wi" the tho" 
Axo"depa ha ha! wi" the tho" 
Axo'Hlepa ha ha! wi" the tho" 
Axo"depa ha ha! wi" the tho" 
Axo"depa ha ha! wi" the tho" 

Literal translation : Axo^depa, the wrist shield worn on the left wrist 
of a man to prevent it being cut by the bowstring when the latter 
rebounds from being drawn; ha ha, exclamation, behold'; wi", one; 
the, here this; rto", round, referring to the shape of the wrist shield. 

The reiteration of the words makes it difficult to present a trans- 
lation of the song literally, for to the Indian mind the repeated 
words brought up the varied aspects of the Pole. It represented the 
unity of the tribe; the unity of the Council of Seven Chiefs, which 
made them "as one heart, as one voice;" the authority of the Thun- 
der. It was a being — a man; it was a bow, the weapon of a man 
which was used for the defense of life and to secure the game that 
gave food, shelter, and clothing. As this song (which referred to the 
shield — the article that protected the wrist of the man when he 
pulled the bow string) was sung, the wickerwork containing the down 
was fully opened, preparatory to the ceremonies in which it had a 
part. The full meaning of the lines of the song does not appear from 
the literal words, but must be found in the symbolism of the cere- 
monial acts connected with this "round object." 

The fourth song was sung as the officiating priest arranged on the 
ground in front of the Pole, side by side, four of the best tezhu' 
pieces of buffalo meat. These represented four buffaloes, also the four 
hunts and the four ceremonial offerings of hearts and tongues which 
had preceded this ceremony. The other pieces were laid along the 
front of the communal tent. Sometimes there were four parallel 


rows of this meat. From these offerings tlie officiating priest was 
later to cut cerenioiiitiily the fat that was to be mixed with the paint 
and used to anoint the Pole. As this action was a preparatory one, 
it was accompanied by the same song as when the Sacred Pole was 
put in place and ])ri'|)ared for the ceremony. The song was repeated 
eight times. 

Foi RTH Song — S.\me as the First 

Wlien the meat was finally arranged, the completion of the task 
was announced by again singing the second ritual song. 

Fifth Song — Same as the Second 

The next song embodied the command of the Ho°'ga in charge of 
these ceremonies to the officiating priest, bidding him to advance 
toward the meat with his knife and hold the latter aloft preparatory 
to the movements which accompanied the ceremonial cutting of the 

Sixth Song 

(Sung in octaves) ^^'^^ 

rvP"" 4 — ^^ — * — *' — *^* ~ ^~'*^ ^T *~* ~' ~'*~" 3 — — 9—*-'—^—*-i- \ 

Tlii-shti ba- lia- lia no° zlii" - ga Thi-shti ba- ba- ha no'-zbi" ga-ha 

r- ft— ^ — ^ • — * S * Jit — »-i- — r 



Thi-sliti ba - ha-, ha no° zlii° - ga Thi-shti ba -ha- ha 

■i^^^ :^^m^/^^^==^ ^^=^ 

no°-zlil'' ga-ha a- ha Thi-shti ba - lia- ha no" zlii° - ga 

Thi-shti ba -ha - ha no''-zhi°- ga- ha Thi-shti ba - ha - ha no°-zhi° - ga 


a a^ » — » m — = m — w- — m — m- ^ — '-t — ; — 


Thi-shti ba-ha-ha no°-zhi° ga-ha a- ha Thi-shti ba-ha-ha no°-zhi°-ga 

Thishti bahaha n()°zhi"ga 

These words were repeated nine times. 

Literal translation: Thishti, thou, too — addressed to the officiating 
priest : hahnha, to show, meaning that the priest shall grasp the knife 
with which he is to cut the fat and hold it up to view; no^zhl", to 
stand; ga, word of command. "Do thou show thy knife, standing 


Seventh Song 

[ETH. ANN. 27 


A - ba - ha ki - the a - ba - ha 

ki - the 

he - he 


-f— I- 

ba-ha ki-the a- ba- ha - ki-the he - he A-ba-ha ki-the ki-Ihe 


-?-- N- 


— _ _ - -a 1 ' 

* ^ ' - ^ ^ 

ba - ba ki-the a-ba-ha ki-the he be 

he be the 

Abaha kitlie, abaha kithe hehe 

These words were repeated four times. 

Literal translation: Abaha, to hold toward or over; hithe. I make 
him (the Ho°'ga, who have charge of the rites speak, authorizing 
the action of the priest, who is their representative); liel\e, vocables 
used as vowel prolongations. At the conclusion of the fourth repe- 
tition of the words the priest lowered the knife preparatory to the 
act authorized in the second stanza, and then sang: 

Ma'xo" akithe, Ma'xo" akithe, hehe 

These words also were repeated four times. 

Literal translation: Jfa'jo", to cut; aliihe, I make or autliorize 

During the singing of the second stanza the priest cut the fat from 
the four tezhu' lying in front of the Pole, and dropped it into a 
wooden bowl held by his wife for its reception. The fat cut from 
the meat offerings was pounded to a sort of paste and mixed 
with red paint. Wliile this was being done the pipe belonging to 
the Pole was ceremonially smoked by the chiefs and leading men 
gathered in the communal tent. The act of smoking was a prayer 
of consecration and the asking of a blessing on the anointing of the 
Pole about to take place. When the ceremony of smoking was 
completed and the fat and paint were made reaily, the eighth ritual 
song was sung. 


Eighth SoNf; 


he the 

ba - he he the A - ba - he he 


Abahe he the abahe he the 

Te ehe the 
Abahe he the abahe he the 

Literal translation: Abahe, to hold toward; he, vowel ])rolongation ; 
the, this; te, buffalo; ehe, I say; the, this. 

During the singing of this song the priest took the brush (see p. 228) 
with which he was to anoint the Pole and made a ceremonial ap- 
proach toward the Pole, holding the brush near it, while the woman 
at the same time presented the bowl. Fat was the emblem of 
abundance; red, the color of life. The mixture therefore symbol- 
ized abundant life. The line Te ehe the was explained to mean that 
the buffalo was here declared to be a life-giving gift from Wa- 
ko°'da, and that the buffalo yielded itself to man for his abundant 
food and also to provide him with shelter and clothing. The cere- 
mony of anointing was one of recognition of the gift by Wako^'da 
of the buffalo and of thanksgiving for it. 

The second stanza of this song was now sung. The words are: 

Ite he ehe the ite he ehe the 

Te ehe the 
Ite he ehe the ite he ehe! 

Literal translation : 7<p, to touch; Ae, vowel prolongation; e7(r,Isay; 
the, this; te, buffalo; ehe, I say; the, this. 

The brush, on which was some of the sacred paint, was then brought 
close to the Pole and permitted to touch it. As all of the move- 
ments related to the care of Wako"'da for man, they were religious 
in character and consequently were very deliberate. The brush 
ceremonially touched the Pole and four lines were made down its 
length. The anointing followed as the next song was sung. 

240 THE OMAHA TKIliE [irni anx. 27 

Ninth Song 
(Sunt; in octaves) Harmonizcfl by John C. Fillmore fur interprclalinii cm the piano 
Solemnly Moderalo J = 60 

-* — • > — j — *" 



tlia - ha ki - the 


a - tha - ha ki - the he 

I , , 




Tiem. 4 ■^- 



Con Peel 

tha - lia ki - the 

tha - hi 

ki - the he 

m m m w ~ m ^_ 

I • ■ » I » i m f. — 



-? — t- 

A - 


ki - the ki - the 







-« ? — s- 





-4— 4— 4— -*— :j— ^- 



^? ^-^ ^_ 



Athaha kithe, athaha kithe he he 

These words were repeated four times. 

Translation : Athaha, to adhere ; Tcithe, I make or cause ; he he, vowel 
prolongation. "I cause [the paint] to adhere." 

More than one application of the paint was made. As the Pole 
began to assume a ruddy hue the second stanza was sung. 

Zhide akithe, zhide akithe he he 

These words were repeated four times. 

Translation: Zhide, red; akithe, I make or cause it; he he, vowel 
prolongation. "I make it to be red." 

By the end of the fourth repetition of the second stanza the anoint- 
ing was completed. Then the third stanza was sung. 

Ko^pi akithe, Ko" akithe he he 

Translation : Ko^pi, an abbreviation of uthulco'^pi, comely or hand- 
some to look upon ; akithe, I cause or make it ; he he, vowel prolonga- 
tion. "I make it beautiful." The word hd^pi, it was explained, 
here refers to man, the most comely of all creatures endowed with 
life, to whom Wako°'da has given the promise of abundance. The 
people, who had gathered from their tents and were watching the 
ceremony and listening to these sacred songs, as this stanza was sung 
nudged one another and laughed, enjoying the complimentary refer- 
ence to themselves and the promise given. 

When the anointing was completed that part of the ceremony 
began in which the woman officiated. 

In this portion of the ceremonial the Pole lost something of its 
poHtical significance and became the representative of man as the 
protector and provider of the family. The figure cut in the ground 
in front of the Pole then had a share in the rites. This figure (see 
p. 234) was called uzhi^'eti {uzhi^, the wistfulness of a child, as when it 
stands before its parent waiting to share in some good thing ; ti, house) . 
The design was said to signify the wistfid attitude of the people, look- 
ing for the good that Wako°'da was to send to them in the house, 
the dwelling of the family, and in a larger sense, the hu'thuga, 
the dwelling of the tribe; it also brought to mind the fathers who 
established these ceremonies that opened the way for the recep- 
tion of good gifts from Wako°'da. An old man said, "As I stand 
before the uzhi^'eti I seem to be listening for the words of the ven- 
erable ones who gave us these rites." It was a prayer symbol. In 
the center of this symbolic figure, where the fireplace would be in the 

83993"— 27 eth— 11 16 

242 THE OMAHA TRIBE [bth. ann. 27 

lodge, a buffalo chip was placed; when it was kindled, sweet grass used 
in ])eaceful ceremonies and sprays of cedar sacred to thunder were 
laid on it and through the aromatic smoke arising therefrom the 
seven arrows were passed. These represented the Seven Chiefs, who 
held the tribe together in peacefid unity, and also the means by 
which man secured for his family Wako"'da's gift of the buffalo, 
whence came food and clothing. The woman stood for the mother 
of the race and her share in the rites was a prayer for its continuance 
and prosperity. 

As the woman, in her representative capacity, held the arrows over 
the consecrating smoke which arose from the burning of fragrant 
offerings sacred to war and to peace, the following song was sung: 

Tenth Song 

Music the same as for the eighth song (p. 239) and the words the 
same as those of the first stanza of the song. 

After consecrating the arrows by passing them through the smoke, 
the woman advanced toward the Pole and stood holding an arrow 
aloft while the following song was sung: 

Eleventh Song 

The same as the sixth song (p. 237). The words of the song were 
repeated nine times. A number multiplied by itself, as 3 times 3 or 
4 times 4, as not infrequently occurs m ceremonials, indicates com- 
pleted action. 

Twelfth Song 

The music of the twelfth song, which accompanied the shooting 
by the woman of the arrows through the basketwork, is the same as 
that of the ninth ritual song (p. 240), sung when the Pole was 
painted; the words are as follows: 

Baxo° akithe, baxo" akithe, he he 

Literal translation: Baxo", to thrust; (iJcithe, I cause it. 

These words were I'epeated four times to fill out the measure of the 
song that was sung seven times, once to each of the arrows. 

In this act the Pole became the bow, and the basketwork the wrist 
shield on the arm of the man who grasped the bow. The woman 
shot the arrow along the bow, simulating the shooting of the buffalo, 
to secure the gift of abundance. When the arrow was not checked 
by the wickerwork or down, but passed clear through the bimdle with 
sufficient force to stand in the ground on the other side, a shout of joy 
arose from the people, for this was an auguiy of victory over enemies 
and of success in hunting. After this divination ceremony with the 
arrows the wickerwork on the Pole was folded together and tied in 
its skin covering until the next year, when the ceremony would be 

tletcher-la fleschb] the sacred pole 243 

Ceremony of the Sacred Pole — Conclusion 

It will be noted that the ceremony of the Sacred Pole is divided 
into two parts and that the significance of the Pole is twofold. In 
the first part the Pole stands for the authority that governetl the 
tribe, an authority granted and guarded by the supernatural powers; 
in the second part the Pole stands for the men of the tribe, the 
defenders and the providers of the home. The same songs are used 
for both parts, but in the first part the ceremonial acts are per- 
formed by a man; in the second part the ceremonial acts are per- 
formed by a woman. In this two-part ceremony and its performance 
are reflected the fundamental ideas on which the tribal organization 
is based, the union of the masculine and the feminine. 

All the buffalo meat laid before the Pole was now gathered up and 
laid away and four images made of grass and hair were set up before 
the Pole. These represented enemies of the tribe. The tribal herald 
then went forth and shouted: "Pity me [an expression of courtesy], 
my young men, and let me [he speaks for the keepers of the Pole] 
complete my ceremonies!" In response to this summons all those 
men who had won honors in defensive warfare put on the regalia that 
represented those honors and made ready to act their part in the 
drama about to be performed; for only men whose honors had been 
gained in defensive warfare could have a share in this drama. Mean- 
while all the young men of the tribe mounted their horses and rode 
off outside the camp. Suddenly some one of them turned, and ciy- 
ing, "They have come ! they have come ! " the whole company charged 
on the camp. (This was once done in so realistic a manner as to 
deceive the people into the belief of an actual onslaught of an enemy, 
to the temporary confusion of the whole tribe.) After this charge 
the young men dismounted, turned loose their horses, and mingled 
with the spectators, who gathered at both ends of the communal 
tent as a vantage point whence to view the spectacle. The warriors 
acted out their warlike experiences in defending the tribe and 
charged on the grass images, while the chiefs and leaders remained 
in the "holy" tent, in front of wliich stood the Pole. In later days 
guns were shot off, adding to the noise and commotion. Those who 
had been wounded in defensive battles rolled about as if struck; 
those who had speared or scalped enemies thrust their spears into 
an image or scalped it. Four of these charges were made on the 
images, which were finally captured and treated as if conquered, 
and this ended the scene called "shooting the Pole," an act intended 
to do public honor to the defenders of the home and the tribe. 

On the day following, preparations for the He'dewachi ceremony 
(see p. 251) began, at the close of whicli the ceremonial camp broke 
up and each family followed its own inclination, either to i-eturn to 

244 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

the village or to continue to hunt. All rules and regulations as to 
hunting the buffalo were now at an end for the season. 

The visitor to the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, will notice 
upon the upper portion of the Pole an encrustation resembling 
pieces of thick bark; this is the dried paint that remains from the 
numerous anointings of the Pole. (Fig. 51.) The old chief told the 
writers in 1S88 that long ago, beyond the memory of the eldest, it 
was the custom to anoint the Pole twice a year — after the summer 
hunt and after the winter hunt; but within his own memory and that 
of his father the anointing had taken place only in the summer. 

The rapid destruction of the herds of buffalo in the decade follow- 
ing 1.S70 caused the Indian not only sore physical discomfort but also 
great mental distress. His religious ceremonies needed the buffalo 
for their observance, and its disappearance, which in its suddenness 
seemed to him supernatural, had done much to demoralize him mor- 
ally as well as socially. 

After several unsuccessful buffalo hunts poverty took the place of 
former plenty and in distress of mind and of body, seeing no other 
way of relief, the people urged on the Ho°'ga the performance of 
the ceremony of Anointing the Pole, although misfortune in himting 
through the diminution of tlie buffalo made it impossible to perform 
this act in its integrity. A plan was suggested by which the cere- 
mony could he accomplished and, as they fondty hoped, the blessing 
of plenty be restored to tlie people. The tribe had certain moneys 
due from the United States in payment for ceded lands, and through 
their Agent they asked that such a sum as was needful to purchase 
30 head of cattle should be paid them. Little understanding the 
trouble of mind among the Indians under his charge or the motive of 
their request, the Agent wrote to the Interior Department, at Wash- 
ington, that "The Omahas have a tradition that when they do not 
'go on the buffalo hunt they should at least once a year take the lives 
of some cattle and make a feast." This interpretation of the Indian's 
desire to spend his money for the purchase of the means by which 
he hoped to perform rites that' might bring back the buffalo and 
save him from an unknown and dreaded future is a significant gauge 
of the extent to which the Indian's real life had been comprehended 
by those appointed to lead him along new lines of living and thinking. 
The cattle were bought at a cost of about a thousanil dollars. The 
ceremony took place; but, alas! conditions did not change. A second 
and third time the tribe spent its money, but to no avail. New 
influences and interests grew stronger every year. The old customs 
could not be made to bend to the new ways forced on the people. 
Opposition to further outlay for cattle to hold the old ceremony 
arose from the Government and also from some of the tribe; so years 


passed while the Pole stood untouched in its tent, dreaded as a 
thing that was powerful for harm but seeminglj- powerless to bring 
back the old-time prosperity to the people. 

The following is the boy memory of these ancient ceremonies of 
the Sacred Pole, now forever gone, by one of the present writers, the 
only living witness who is able to picture in English those far-away 
scenes : 

One bright summtT afternoon the Omahas were traveling along the valley of one of 
the Btreams of western Kansas on their annual buffalo hunt. The mass of moving 
people and horses extended for nearly half a mile in width and some 2 miles in length. 
There was an old man walking in a space in the midst of this mo\-ing host. The day 
was sultry and everybody around me was in the lightest clothing possible; but the 
solitary old man wore a heavy buffalo robe wrapped about his body. Around his 
shoulders was a leather strap the width of my hand, to the ends of which was attached 
a dark object that looked like a long black pole. From one end hung a thing resem- 
bling a scalp with long hair. One of my playmates was with me, and we talked in low 
tones about the old man and the curious burden on his back. He looked weary, and 
the perspiration dropped in profusion from his face, as with measured steps he kept 
apace with the cavalcade. 

The horses that I was driving stopped to nibble the grass, when, partly from impa- 
tience and partly out of mischief, I jerked the lariat I was dragging with all the force 
I could muster in the direction of the horses, and the end of it came with a resounding 
whack against the sleek side of the gray. Startled at the sound, all of the five horses 
broke into a swift gallop through the open space, and the gray and the black, one after 
the other, ran against the old man, nearly knocking him over. My friend turned pale; 
suddenly he became anxious to leave me, but I finally persuaded him to remain with 
me until camp was pitched. He stayed to help me to water the horses and drive them 
to pasture and I invited him to dinner, which he seemed to expect. 

UTiile we were eating, the boy asked me if he should tell my father of the incident. 
I consented, for I thought that would relieve him from any fears of the consequences. 
As he was telling of what happened I watched the expression of my father's face with 
some trepidation, and felt greatly relieved when he smiled. We finished our dinner, 
but as we started to go out my father stopped us and said: "Now, boys, you must go 
to the Sacred Tent. Take both horses with you, the gray and the black, and this 
piece of scarlet cloth; when you reach the entrance you must say, 'Venerable mant 
we have, without any intention of disrespect, touched you and we have come to ask 
to be cleansed from the wrong that we have done.' " 

We did as we were instructed and appeared before the Sacred Tent in which was 
kept the "Venerable Man," as the Sacred Pole was called, and repeated our prayer. 
The old man who had been so rudely jostled by our horses came out in response to our 
entreaty. He took from me the scarlet cloth, said a few words of thanks, and reentered 
the tent; soon he returned carrying in his hand a wooden bowl filled with warm water. 
He lifted his right hand to the sky and wept, then sprinkled us and the horses with the 
water, using a spray of artemisia. This act washed away the anger of the "Venerable 
Man," which we had brought down upon ourselves. 

A few weeks later we were moving from the high hills down to the valley of the 
Platte river, returning from the hunt, our horses heavily laden with buffalo skins and 
dried meat. A beautiful spot was selected for our camp, and the crier gave in a loud 
voice the order of the chiefs that the camp be pitched in ceremonial form. This was 

246 THE OMAHA TRTBE [eth. ann. 27 

III the evening my playmate rame and wo ate fried bread and drank black coffee 
together. When we had finished tiie little boy snapped his black eyes at me and said: 
"Friend, let us go and play in the Holy (communal) Tent; the boys will be there and 
we will have fun." We went, and there was the Holy Tent, 60 or 70 feet in length. 
The two Sacred Tents of the Ho"'ga gens had been united and a dozen or more other 
skin tents were added to them on either side, making a tent that could easily hold 
two or three hundred peojile. No grown peojile were there, so we youngsters had no 
end of fun playing hide and seek in the folds of the great tent, while the serious sages 
were taking the census of the peo])le elsewhere, using small sticks to count with, pre- 
paratory to calling upon each family to contribute to the coming ceremony. 

The next night we youngsters had again our fun in the Holy Tent. On the third 
night, when we went to play as usual, we found at the Tent two officers with whips, who 
told us that boys would not be permitted to play in the Tent that night. Still we lin- 
gered around and saw that even older persons were not allowed to come near, but 
were told to make a wide detour in passing, so as not to disturb the fresh grass in front 
of the Tent. Dogs were fired at with shotguns if they approached too near. The cere- 
mony was to begin the next day, so the chiefs and priests, through the crier, requested 
the people to conduct themselves in such manner as the dignity of the occasion re- 

Early in the morning I was wakened by my mother and told to sit up and listen. I 
did so and soon heard the voice of an old man calling the names of boys. Most of 
them I recognized as my playmates. Suddenly I heard my own name distinctly 
called. I arose to make answer but was held back by my mother, who put in my 
arms a large piece of meat, with no wrapping whatever, regardless of my clean calico 
shirt, while she bade me go to where I was called. When I emerged from the tent 
with my burden the crier stopped calling my name, and called the boy in the next 
tent. As I neared the Holy Tent to which I had been summoned, an old man, wearing 
a band of buffalo skin around his head and a buffalo robe about his body, came for- 
ward to meet me. He put both his hands on my head and passed them down my 
sides; then he took from me the meat and laid it down on the grass in front of a dark 
pole standing aslant in the middle of the Holy Tent, a scalp dangling on the end of it. 
1 recopiized this pole as the one that was carried by the old man whom my horses ran 
against only a few weeks before. The calling of the names still went on: a man 
sat immediately back of the pole with two piles of small sticks before him: he would 
pick up a stick from one pile and give a name to the crier, who. leaning on a staff, 
called it out at the top of his voice: when this was done the stick was placed on the 
other pile. 

When every family in the tribe excepting those of the Ho"'ga gens had thus been 
called upon to make an offering, the priests began to sing the songs pertaining to this 
peculiar ceremony. I was now very much interested and watched every mo\-ement 
of the men who officiated. Four of the fattest pieces of meat were selected and placed 
just at the foot of the Sacred Pole. A song was sung and a man stood ready with a 
knife near the meat: when the last note died out the man made a feint at cutting and 
then resumed his position. Three times the song was repeated with its accompanying 
act, when on the fourth time the man in great haste carved out all of the fat from the 
four pieces of choice meat and put it in a wooden bowl. After the fat had been mixed 
with burnt red clay and kneaded into a paste, another song was sung, and the same 
priest stood ready with bowl and brush in hand beside the Pole. .\t the close of the 
song he made a feint at the Pole with the brush and resumed his former position. 
Four times this song was sung, each time followed by a feint. Then a new stanza 
was sung, at the end of which the priest touched the Pole lightly with his brush 
the entire length. This song and act were repeated four times. Then a different 
song was sung, the words of which I can remember even to this day: '" I make him 


beautiful! I make him beautiful!" Then the priest with great haste dipped his 
brush into the bowl and daubed the Pole with the paste while the singing was going 
on. Four times the song was sung, the anointing was finished, and the Pole stood 
shining in fresh paint. Then many of the people cried: " Oh! how beautiful he is!" 
and then laughed, but the priests never for au instant changed the expression of 
their faces. I did not know whether to join in the merriment or to imitate the priests 
and maintain a serious countenance; but while I stood thus puzzled the ceremony 
went on. 

A woman dressed in a peculiar fashion took the place of the priest who had painted 
the Pole. She wore on her head a baud of buffalo skin and the down of the eagle, 
around her body a buffalo robe with the fur outside and to her ankles were tied 
strips of buffalo skin with the hair on. In her left hand she held six arrows and 
stood ready with one poised in her right. A song was sung and at the close she made 
a feint with the arrow at the bundle of feathers in the middle of the Pole. Four 
times this was done; then other songs were sung and at the close of each song, with 
a quick movement the woman thrust an arrow through the bundle containmg down 
tied to the middle of the Pole with such force that it passed entirely through and 
as it dropped stuck in the ground, and the people shouted as with great joy. I 
joined in the shouting, although at the time I did not know why the people cheered. 
There were seven arrows in all; on this occasion every one of the arrows went suc- 
cessfully through the downy bundle. It is said that if an arrow failed to go through 
and bounded back, the gens which it represented would meet with misfortune; 
some member would be slain by the enemy. 

After the singing of the songs and the anointing of the Pole, the meat was distrib- 
uted among the families of the Ho"'gagens, the keepers of the Sacred Pole. The 
moment that this was done a man was seen coming over the hill running at full speed, 
waving his blanket in the air in an excited manner, and shouting the cry of alarm: 
"The enemy are upon us!" The horses were familiar with this cry and the moment 
they heard it they stampeded into the camp circle, making a noise like thunder. 
Men rushed to their tents for their bows and arrows and guns and were soon mounted 
on their best horses. Warriors sang the death song, and women sang songs to give 
the men courage. The excitement in camp was at its height, but the singing of 
the priests in the Holy Tent went on. Instead of going out to meet the enemy, 
the warriors gathered at one side of the camp circle opposite the Holy Tent and 
at the firing of a gun came charging toward it. It was a grand sight— four or five 
hundred warriors rushing on us at full speed. There was no enemy; the man who 
gave the alarm was only acting his part of a great drama to be performed before the 
Sacred Pole. The warriors fired their guns and shot their arrows at a number of 
figures made of bundles of tall grass and arranged before the Holy Tent. Shouts 
of defiance went from the tent and were returned by the charging warriors. This 
play of battles lasted nearly the whole day. 

Years passed, and with them passed many of the brave men who told the tale 
of their battles before the Sacred Pole. So also passed the buffalo, the game upon 
which the life of this and other tribes depended. During these years I was jjlaced 
in school, where I learned to speak the English language and to read and write. 

Through a curious chain of circumstances, which I need not here relate, I found 
myself employed in the Indian Bureau at Washington. The Omaha had given 
up the chase and were putting all their energies into agriculture. They had aban- 
doned their villages and were scattered over their reservation upon separate farms, 
knowing that their former mode of living was a thing of the past and that hence- 
forth their livelihood must come from the tilling of the soil. To secure themselves 
in the individual o^Ynership of the farms they had opened, the people petitioned 
the Government to survey their reservation and to allot the land to them in sev- 

248 THE OMAHA TRIBE [bth. ann, 27 

erally. Their petition was granted by an act of Cbngress and the work of appor- 
tioning the lands was assigned to a lady who is now kiiown among the scientists of 
this and other countries. I was detailed to assist her in this work, and together 
we went to the reservation to complete the task. 

While driving over the reservation one day we came to a small frame house with 
a porch in front. Around this dwelling were patches of corn and other vegetables 
and near by was an orchard of apple trees with ripening fruit. In strange contrast 
with all this there stood in the back yard an Indian tent, carefully pitched, and 
the ground around it scrupulously clean. My companion asked, "What is that?" 
"It is the Holy Tent of the Omahas," I replied. "What is inside of it?" "The 
Sacred Pole," I answered. "I want to see it." "You can not enter the Tent unless 
you get permission from the Keeper." The Keeper was not at home, but his wife 
kindly conducted us to the entrance of the Tent, and we entered. There in the 
place of honor stood my friend, the "Venerable Man," leaning aslant as I saw him 
years before when I carried to him the large offering of choice meat. He had served 
a great purpose; although lacking the power of speech, or any of the faculties with 
which man is gifted, he had kept closely cemented the Seven Chiefs and the gentes 
of the tribe for hundreds of years. He was the object of reverence of young and 
old. A\1ien the United States Government became indebted to the tribe for lands 
sold, he, too, was accounted as one of the creditors and was paid the same as a man 
of flesh and blood. He now stood before us, abandoned by all save his last Keeper, 
who was now bowed with age. The Keeper seemed even to be a part of him, bearing 
the name "Smoked Yellow," a name referring both to the age and to the accumu- 
lation of smoke upon the Pole. Silently we stood gazing upon him, we three, the 
white woman in the middle. Almost in a whisper, and with a sigh, the Keeper's 
wife said, "I am the only one now who takes care of him. When it rains I come 
to close the flaps of the Tent, at all hours of the night. Many were the offerings once 
brought to him, but now he is left all alone. The end has come!" [For portrait 
of the wife of the keeper of the Pole, see pi. 26.] 

A few years later I went to the house of Smoked Yellow and was hospitably enter- 
tained by him and his kind wife. After dinner, as we sat smoking in the shade of the 
trees, we spoke of the past life of the tribe and from time to time in our conversation 
1 pleasantly reminded him of important events within my own knowledge, and of 
others of which I had heard, where his knowledge guided the actions of the people. 
This seemed to please him very much and he spoke more freely of the peculiar cus- 
toms of the Omaha. He was an important man in his younger days and quite an 
orator. I have heard him deliver an address on the spur of the moment that would 
have done credit to almost any speaker in either branch of our Congress. He was one 
of the signers of the treaty entered into between the Omaha and the United States. 

As my visit was drawing to a close, without any remarks leading thereto, I suddenly 
swooped down upon the old chief with the audacious question: "Why don't you send 
the ' Venerable Man ' to some eastern city where he could dwell in a great brick house 
instead of a ragged tent?" A smile crept over the face of the chieftain as he softly 
whistled a tune and tapped the ground with his pipe stick before he replied, while I 
sat breathlessly awaiting the answer, for I greatly desired the jireservation of this 
ancient and unique relic. The pipe had cooled and he proceeded to clean it. He 
blew through it now and then as he gave me this answer: "My son, I have thought 
about this myself but no one whom I could trust has hitherto approached me upon 
this subject. I shall think about it, and will give you a definite answer when I see 
you again." 

The next time I was at his house he conducted me to the Sacred Tent and delivered 
to me the Pole and its belongings. [See tig. 50 for portrait of the last keeper of the 
Sacred Pole .] This was the first time that it was purposely touched by anyone outside 


of its hereditary Keepers. It had always been regarded with superstitious awe and 
anyone touching even its Tent must at once be cleansed by the priest. Even little 
children shared in this feeling and left unclaimed a ball or other plaything that 
chanced to touch the Tent made sacred by its presence. 

Thus it was that the Sacred Pole of the Omaha found its way into the Peabody 
Mu.seum in 1888 but leaving its ritual songs behind. During these years I have 
searched for men in the Ho"'ga gens who would be likely to know these songs but 
without success. The old priest, Tenu'ga, whose office it was to sing them, died 
before I came in touch with him. 

By the use of the graphophoue I was enabled in 1897 to secure the ritual songs of the 
Sacred ^^'hite Buffalo from \Vako"'mo"thi", the last keeper; and when the record was 
finished I said to him: "Grandfather, years ago I saw you officiating at the ceremonies 
of the Sacred Pole and from this I judge that you are familiar with its songs. May I 
ask if you would be willing to sing them for me? " The old priest shook his head and 
replied: "Eldest son, I am forced to deny your request. These songs belong to the 
opposite side of the house and are not mine to give. You are right as to my knowledge 
of them and you did see me officiating at the ceremony you referred to; but I was 
acting as a substitute. The man whose place I took was newly inducted into his 
office and was not familiar with its various forms; he feared the results of any mi.stakes 
he might make, on account of his children, for it meant the loss of one of them by 
death should an error occur. You must consult the keepers of the Pole.'" 

Knowing that it would be useless even with bribes to attempt to persuade the priest 
to become a plagiarist, I refrained from pushing the matter further, trusting that cir- 
cumstances in the future might take such a turn as to relieve him from his obligations 
to recognize any individual's ownership in the ritual songs. 

In the latter part of June, 1898. 1 happened to be on the Omaha reservation, and while 
there I drove over to \Vako"'mo"thi"'s house. (Figs. 60, 61.) He was at home and 
after the exchange of greetings I addressed him as follows: 

"Grandfather, last summer, after you had taught me the songs connected with the 
ceremony of the Sacred Buffalo, I asked you to teach me the songs of the Sacred 
Pole. You replied that you knew the songs, but could not sing them for me, because 
they belonged to the other side of .the house and were not yours to give. I respected 
your purpose to keep inviolate your obligations to maintain the respective rights 
and offices of the two houses that were so closely allied in the preservation of order 
among our people, so I did not press my quest for the knowledge of the songs at that 
time, believing that you would soon see that the object for which that Sacred Tree 
and its accompanying rites were instituted had vanished, never to return. Our 
people no longer flock to these sacred houses as in times, bringing their children 
laden with offerings that they might receive a blessing from hallowed hands; new 
conditions have arisen, and from force of circumstances they have had to accede 
to them and to abandon the old. I have been here and there among the members 
of the opposite side of the house, to which you referred, to find .some one who knew 
the songs of the Sacred Pole, so that I might preserve them before they were utterly 
lost; but to my inquiries the invariable answer was: 'I do not know them. \\'ako'"- 
mo^thi" Is the only man who has a full knowledge of them.' Therefore I have made 
bold to come to you again." 

After holding the pipe he had been filling during my speech, up to the sky, and 
muttering a few words of prayer, the old man lit the pipe and smoked in silence for 
a timd, then passed the pipe to me and made his reply, speaking in low tones: 

"My eldest son, all the words that you have just spoken are true. Customs that 
governed and suited the life of our people have undergone a radical change and 
the new generation has entered a new life utterly unlike the old. The men with 
whom 1 have associated in the keeping and teaching of the two sacred houses'have 




turiu'il into spirits and have doparlefl, Ipavinp; me to dwell in solitude the rest of 
my life. All that gave me comfort in this lonely travel was the possession and care 
of the Sar-red Huffalo, one of the consecrated objects that once kept our people firmly 

Fii: fi I \\';i\u ' lu )i>.hi" 

united; but, as thuuijh to add to my sadness, rude hands have taken from me, by 
stealth, this one solace, and I now sit empty handed, awaiting the call of those who 
have gone before me. For a while 1 wept for this loss, morning and evening, as 
though for the death of a relati\e dear to me, but as time passed by tears ceased to 
flow and I can now speak of it with some composure," 


At this point I passed the pipe back to the priest and he smoked, keepinp; his 
eyes fixed upon the crround as if in deep meditation. \\Taen he had finished smoking, 
he resumed his address, cleaning the pipe as he spoke: 

"I have been thinking of the change that has come over our people and their 
departure from the time-honored customs, and have abandoned all hope of their 
ever returning to the two sacred houses. No one can now with reason take offense 
at my giving you the songs of the Sacred Pole, and I am prepared to give them to 
you. As I sit speaking with you, my eldest son, it seems as though the spirits of 
the old men have returned and are hovering about me. I feel their courage and 
strength in me, and the memory of the songs revives. Make ready, and I shall once 
more sing the songs of my fathers." 

It took but a few moments to adjust the graphophone to record the songs for which 
I had waited so long. As I listened to the old priest his voice seemed as full and 
resonant as when I heard him years ago, in the days when the singing of these very 
Bongs in the Holy Tent meant so much to each gens and to every man, woman, and 
child in the tribe. Now, the old man sang with his eyes closed and watching him 
there was like watching the last embers of the religious rites of a vanishing people. 

The He'dewachi 

In speaking of the development of political unity, attention has 
been called to the dangers arising from groups parting company 
when the people were hunting and the enfeebled separated bands 
becoming a prey to active enemies. These dangers were sometimes 
fomented by the rivalry of ambitious leaders. To quote from the old 
Sacred Legend : ' ' The wise old men thought how they might devise 
some plans by which all might live and move together and there be no 
danger of quarrels." It seems probable that the He'dewachi cere- 
mony may have grown out of such experiences and was one of the 
plans of the "wise old men" by which they sought to avert these 
dangers and to hold the tribe together. There are indications that 
the He'dewachi ceremony is older than the Sacred Pole; it is said to 
have been instituted at a time when the people depended on the 
maize for their food supply and were not dominated by ideas defi- 
nitely connected with hunting the buffalo. It may be significant to 
this contention that this ceremony was the on\j rite in which the 
two Sacred Tribal Pipes appeared as leader; these pipes were ante- 
cedent in authority to the Sacred Pole, and, on the occasion of the 
He'dewachi, they led the people in their rhytlunic advance by gentes 
toward the central symbohc tree or pole. 

The He'dewachi took place in the summer, "when the plum and 
cherry trees were full of fruit" and "all creatures were awake and 
out." Abundant life and food to sustain that life were typified in 
the season. The choice of the tree from which the pole, the central 
object of the ceremony, was cut, was significant and allied to the 
same thought. It was either the cotton wood or the willow, both 
of which are remarkably tenacious of life. It is said that this cere- 
mony "grew up with the com." It was under the charge of the 

252 THE OMAHA TRIBE [kth. ann. 27 

subgens of the I"ke'<?abe gens that had as tabu the red ear of com. 
This fact and the symboHsm of the ceremony indicate that the 
He'dewachi was connected with the cultivation of com and that the 
influence of the care of the fields tended to develop an appreciation 
of peace and tribal unity. The duties of this I''ke'pabe subgens in 
reference to the distribution of the sacred corn to the tribe have already 
been mentioned (p. 147). In later days the He'dewachi took place 
at the conclusion of the ceremony of Anointing the Sacred Pole but 
was distinct from it in every respect except that permission for its 
performance had to be obtained from the Ho^'ga gens as a matter 
of courtesy. 

The He'dewachi was related to the cosmic forces, as revealed 
in the succession of night and day and the life and growth of living 
things. When the time came for the ceremony, some man, ambitious 
to have the honor and to ''count'' it, went to the hereditary keepers 
of this rite in the Nini'bato" subgens of the I"ke'9abe, and said: 
"Let the people waken themselves by dancing." This form of speech 
used when malcing the request for the performance of the ceremony 
referred to the passing of night into day. On receiving this formal 
request, which was accompanied by a gift, the keepers retumed 
their thanks. That night those who had hereditary charge of the 
He'dewachi held a council and chose a man of their gens who had 
won many war honors to go and select a tree to be cut for the cere- 
mony. Early the next morning he went forth, picked out a tall, 
straight cottonwood tree and then came back, retuming as would a 
victorious warrior. If he represented one who had secured booty, 
he dragged a rope, and cairied a long stick with which he ran from 
side to side as though he were driving horses; or he carried a 
pole having a bunch of grass tied at the top, to picture a return with 
the scalp of an enemy. On entering the hu'thuga he went at once 
to the lodge in which the hereditarj' keepers sat awaiting him. At 
the door he thnist his stick into the ground, and said, "I have 
found the enemy." The keepers then arose, put on their robes in 
the ceremonial manner — the hair outside — and prepared to make 
their ceremonial thanks to the people and to indicate to the tribe 
that the ceremony would take place in two days. They were 
accompanied by a woman, who had to be of the I^ke'pabe gens and 
who bore on her the tattooed "mark of honor." She also wore her 
robe with the hair side out, carried an ax and a burden strap, and 
followed the men as they passed around the hu'thuga and publicly 
proclaimed their thanks for tlie request to have the ceremony take 

Meanwhile the warrior who had selected the tree gathered the men 
of the gens together to await the return of the hereditary keepers. 


At this time those, women of the gens who hud recently U)st children 
or other dear ones wailed, bemg reminded of their loss by the contrast 
afforded by this ceremony, which was typical of abounding life. 
Other Avomen brought forth gifts, which were to benefit their hus- 
bands or brothers by adding to their "count." All gifts made 
during this ceremony could be " counted " by a man who was seeking 
eligibility to membership in the Ho'^'hewachi. The words of one 
of the songs sung at the clance refer to these gifts, which were not 
only exchanged between members of the tribe but were bestowed on 
the keepers of the ceremony — a custom resulting in a common feeling 
of pleasure. Moreover, these acts, being remembered and "counted" 
as steps toward a man's attaining tribal honors, tended to foster in 
the minds of the people the value of tribal imity. The symbolism 
of the ceremony was illustrative of this idea. Four young men were 
chosen to cut willow wands, strip them of all leaves except a bunch 
at the end, and paint the stem red. These wands were distributed 
to the leading men of each gens in the tribe. After the wands had 
been received, the men and boys of each gens went out to cut sim- 
ilar wands, for at the coming ceremony every man, woman, and 
child must carry one of these painted wands, which symbolized the 
people of the tribe. 

After making the round of the Jiu'thuga the keepers and the 
"honor" woman entered their tent, in which was smoked the pipe 
belonging to the ceremony. It was passed around four times. 
At the close of the smoking they arose as before and, led ])y the 
warrior who had selected the tree, went to the place where the tree 
stood. Meanwhile young men had been dispatched to simulate 
scouts, guarding against the danger of a surprise. "VMien the tree 
was in sight the warriors charged on it and struck it as an enemy. 
Then the men counted their war honors, standing before the tree, 
while the keepers sat in a circle around it and smoked, passing the 
pipe four times. Then the woman bearing the "mark of honor," 
taking her ax, made four feints, one on each side of the tree toward 
one of the four directions, after which she gave four strokes, one 
on each of the four sides of the tree. Then the young men cut it 
down. As it was about to fall it was caught and held so that it 
would incline and fall toward the east. 

In this ceremony in which war was so simulated the recognition 
of the authority of Thunder was manifest, for no man could become 
a warrior or count his honors except through his consecration to 
Thunder and the approval of his acts l)y that god of war. More- 
over, it was believed that no man fell in battle through human 
agency alone; he fell because Thunder had designated him to fall, 
as is shown in the ritual songs of cutting the hair and in the songs 



[ETII. ANN. 27 

of the warrior societies. So the tree that had been struck as a war- 
rior foe fell because Thunder had so decreed. 

The leader now approaciied the fallen tree and said: "I liave 
come for you that you may see the people, who are beautiful to 
behold!" The youn^; men cut the branches from the trees, leaving 
a tuft of twigs and leaves at the top, stripped off the bark, then 
tied the tuft at the toj) together with a black covering. Latterly 
a black silk handkerchief was used, but formerly a piece of soft 

dressed skin, dyed black, was employed. 
All the branches, bark, and chips were 
made into a pile and deposited at the 
stump of the tree. 

In early days it was the duty of the 
woman to cari'y the pole; but in recent 
times she walked, with her burden strap, 
beside the young men, who bore it on 
their left shoulders, care being taken 
to choose men of equal height so that 
the pole would be carried in a level 
position. Four halts were made on the 
way to the hu'thuga. On reaching the 
camp, the pole was taken to the tent 
of the leader and the butt end was 
thi'ust in the door until it reached the 

Two men from the No°xtiie'bitube 
subdivision now performed their heredi- 
tary duty of niixmg the red and black 
paint with which they were to tlecorate 
the pole. This group had, besides the 
red corn, a tabu of charcoal, as this sub- 
stance was used in making the black 
paint. The painting was done in bands 
of red and Idack; one man painted the 
black bands, the other the red. (Fig. 
6"2.) These bands signified night and day; they also referred to 
thunder and death and to the earth and sky, the vivifying and con- 
serving powers. 

Young men dug the hole for the pole, wliicli had to be in the center 
of a level place. Sometimes the hole was made in the center of tlie 
hu'thuga; at other times it was outside the camp. The dirt taken 
horn the excavation was heaped at the east, and between this heap 
and the hole the symbolic figure (_uzhi"'eti; see fig. 59) was incised on 
the earth. 

Fig. 62. 

He'tlewachi pole oialivt.- 


The keepers sat in a circle around the hole and again smoked 
the pipe, ])assing it four times. Down of swan, a water bird (the 
significance of water as connecting the Above and the Below has 
been given), and tobacco, the oflering to Wako'''da, were sprinkled 
in the liole, which was tluis made read}' to receive tlie symbolically 
decorated pole. The leader said, "It is finished; raise him, that 
your grandfather may see him!" Antl the pole was set in the hole 
and made steady by tamping tlie earth about it. 

These preparatory ceremonies occupied three days. The dance 
and public festival took place on the fourth day. 

The pole simulated a man; the black covering on the top, his 
head. Tlie decorations referred to the cosmic forces which gave and 
maintained life. As a tree it symliolized the tribe; the wands of the 
peojile were its branches, parts of the whole. Thus was the idea of 
unity symbolically set forth. 

It was explained that seven kinds of wood were sacred to this 
ceremony — the liard and the soft willow, the birch, the box elder, 
the ironwood, the ash, and the cottonwood. Of these the cotton- 
wood furnished the pole; the elder, the charcoal for the black paint; 
the ash, the stem of the pipe; the seeds of the ironwood were used 
for the rattles; and the willow for the wands distributed to the 
people. The birch seems to have droi)pe(I out, though its former use 
survives in a personal name belonging to the subgens having the 
rite in cliarge. The significance of this lies in the fact that male 
personal names always referred to rites and their paraphernalia. 
The omission of the birch may refer to a cliange in environment. 
It will be recalled that the Sacred Legend states that the Omaha 
once used birch-bark canoes. 

On the day of the ceremony the people were astir earh'. The 
women put on their gala costume; the men were barefoot and naked 
exce])t for the breechcloth. They wore the decoration of their war 
honors, an;! depicted their war experiences by the manner of ])ainting 
their faces and bodies. The place of a wound was painted red ; if a man 
had been struck a hand ^\as painted on his boily or face (fig. 63). 
Some ])ainted black liands on their arms and legs, indicating that 
they had been in danger of death; others bore white spots scattered 
over their bodies, to show that tliey had been where the birds of 
prey dropped tlieir excrement on the bodies of the slain enemies. 
The man who hatl cut the neck of an enemy drew an inflated bladiler 
by a string, to set forth his act. Those warriors who had taken 
scalps tied to the wands they carried in the dance bits of buffalo 
hide witli the Jiair on. 

Meanwhile, tlie keepers of the ceremony selected from their gens 
the young men who were to sing. These men received ])ay for tlieir 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

services. Four rattles, struck on jiillows, and two drums were used 
to accompany the singers, who took their places at the foot of the jiole. 
The men who were goin^ to give away horses were the only rjders. 
They dashed about among the people, wlio became more and more 

Fig. tl3. Painting on warrior's face, 

impatient waiting for the signal — four strokes on the drums — to 
announce the beginning of the ceremony. After the four drum 
beats had been given, the following "call" was sung:" 

oTheupper music staff gives simply the aria; the two lower staves translate the same aria for the 
piano by hannonization, Riving the tremolo of the drum, the eclioing cadences, the dying away of the 
voices of the singers, and their rising again with the call to " Rejoice." 





(Aria as sung) Har moni zed by John C. Fillmore for interpretation on the piano 

Zhawa iba iba ha ehe 
Zhawa iba iba ha ehe 

ig • J s* ' eJ ' eJ-r- 

Translation : Zhawa, from uzhawa, to rejoice; iba, to come; lia, 
musical prolongation of the vowel; ehe, I bid or command. "I bid 
ye come, and rejoice!" 

The people of each gens gathered, standing before their tents, 
the men and boys in front, each holding his wand; behind them the 
women and girls, with their wands. Two men from the Nini'bato" 
subdivision" then stepped forth and took their place in front of the 
rest of the Pke'^abe gens, and held aloft the Sacred Tribal Pipes 
as the singers at the foot of the pole sang the following: 
M.M. J =76 

a There is a personal name in the Nlni'bato» which refers to the bearers of the two Pipes in this cere- 
mony — To^t'thinnonba, " the two who run." 

83993°— 27 eth— 11 17 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

There are no words to this song — only vocables. The song is a 
prayer expressed not by words but in musical phrases. The tribe 
presented a spectacle that must have been impressive — the great 
circle of people, with their branches, standing like a living grove on 
the prairie, as the singers voiced their prayer to Wako"'da. 

At the conclusion of the song the warriors who had charged the 
tree sounded the war cry, and all the people standing in their j)laces, 
gave an answering shout and waved their branches in the air. Then 
the two bearers of the Sacred Tribal Pipes moved forward rapidly a 
few steps toward the pole and the people by gentes moved forward 
in the same way while the song given below was sung. At its con- 
clusion a halt was made. Four times there was a forward movement 
as the song was sung and a halt made at its close. 


1 — 1 1 — 

1 * i» » - « «i 

— #— #-^ 

~f — g~' i» • r r- 1 — 

— * 1 

— 1 

[i^^ * 

2 1 

btJrr^^-'J ^^ 


Ya du- da e - a ha e- lie he! 


^^— ?- 

-»-^-0 !f f 0- 


j:^— x^-^^^-*-^ 


-0-^0—^—^—0-^0- ^ 



Ya duda ea ha ehe tha ehe he 
Shethi" duda a ea ha ehe tha 
Ehe he ehe he tha ea ha ehe tha 
Ehe he ehe he tha ea ha ehe tha 

Literal translation: Ya, come; duda, hither; ea, come; ha, vowel 
prolongation; ehe, I bid; shethi", ye walking yonder; duda, hither; 
a, vowel prolongation; ea, come; e, vocable; ehe, I bid; he, vocable; 
tha, end of sentence. 

Free translation 

Come hither, I bid you! 

Ye who walk yonder, come hither! 

I bid you, I bid you to come! 

I bid you, I bid you, come hither! 

At the conclusion of the fourth repetition the people had moved 
up toward the pole, the men being the nearer and the women behind. 
There they all halted for the fourth and last time. 

As the singers struck up the next song (the fourth) the two pipe 
bearers turned to the left, having their right side to the pole, and all 
the men of the different gentes turned also; the I^ke'^abe followed 
the pipe bearers, next came the We'zhi^shte, then the T'shta'^uMa, 




and so on, around to the Ho"'<;a, who were last, and all hegan to 
dance around the pole. The women also turned, but to the right, 
their left side being next to the circle of men and the pole, and danced 
in the opposite direction from the men. The tribe thus divided 
into two concentric circles, revolved in opposite directions about the 
pole while the choir at its foot sang the following song: 


she wie he he w;i-no' 

he wa- no° - she 

he wa-no° - she 

Wie he he wano^she a he 
Wano"she a he wano°she 
Wie he he wano"she a he 
Wano''she a he wano''she 

Literal translation: IFif, I; he 7;?, vocables; wano^slie, take from 
them. The meaning of this song can not be gathered from a literal 
translation of the few words used. It has been explained to mean 
that the pole here speaks as embodying the meaning and spirit of the 
ceremony and refers to the gifts made, wliich are an important part 
of the ceremony. They not only contribute to happiness and good 
feeling in the tribe but the}^ redound to the credit of the giver. It 
was during this song that the people danced in the two concentric 
circles around the pole, everyone carrying his branch, with its leaves. 
When at any time a person made a gift the dancers halted while the 
gift was proclaimed. At each halt, if anj' of the gentes became mixed 
up, the person out of place returned to his proper gens before the 
dance was resumed. The song was repeated four times, or four 
times four. 

Finally, the last song was given. During the singing of this rapid 
song the people continued to dance in the two circles. The young 
people made merr}^ as they danced and the warrior acted out dra- 
matic scenes in his career. It was a hilarious time for all. 

s g—*--'^ ] 

Hie de hie de e e de 

hie de hie de hie de e e de 


260 THE OMAHA TRIBE [etti. ann, 27 

There are no words to this song, only vocables. The song was 
repeated an indefinite number of times. At the conclusion of this 
song everyone threw his branch at the foot of the tree, as though 
it were returned to the parent stem from which it had been broken. 
The small boy, however, sometimes amused himself by aiming liis 
wand at the singers rather than at the tree. These pranks were all 
taken in good part. The branches carried by the people were tied 
to the pole and left for the sun and wind to dispose of. 

The manner in which the tree was cut and also the approach to 
the pole by the people in their tribal order, with war cry and charge, 
were in recognition of the victories gained by the favor of the war 
sod, Thunder. The ceremony was a dramatic teaching of the vital 
force in union not only for defense but for the maintenance of internal 
peace and order. The He'dewachi" was a festival of joy consonant 
with the words of the opening song, "Come and rejoice." The 
whole scene vibrated with color and cheer around the Thunder- 
selected tree as a symbol of life and tribal unity. 

aYears ago the Osage had a somewhat similar ceremony long since abandoned. 



The Ritual of the ^Iaize 

The various environments in wliieli the Omaha people lingered as 
they moved westward left their impress on the ceremonials of the 
tribe. Some of these, as has been shown, were lost and the relation 
of others to the welfare of the people suffered change. Among the 
latter were the ceremonies connected with the maize. 

The facts that the tabu of the subgens of the P'Re'^abe, which had 
charge of the two Sacred Tribal Pipes, was the red ear of corn and 
that it was the duty of this subgens to provide the sacred corn for 
distribution at the time of planting, indicate that the rites of the 
maize and those of the Pipes were once closely connected. In the 
political development of the tribe the Pipes, through their signifi- 
cance, kept an important place; while, owing to the environment of 
the people, the maize, as the sustainer of life, became subordinated 
to the buffalo, which j-ielded not only footl but also raiment. Never- 
theless, it is noteworthy that the maize did not wholly lose prestige 
but continued to be treated ceremonially. 

The ancient Sacred Legend already cited, besides speaking of the 
discovery of maize, adds later on, evidently referring to the ceremony 
and ritual observed when distributing the grain for planting: 

The maize being one of the greatest of means to give us life, in honor of it we sing. 
We sing even of the growth of its roots, of its clinging to the earth, of its shooting forth 
from the ground, of its springing from joint to joint, of its sending forth the ear, of its 
putting a covering on its head, of its ornamenting its head with a feather, of its invi- 
tation to men to come and feel of it, to open and see its fruit, of its invitation to man 
to taste of the fruit. 

WTien maize was discovered the grain was distributed among the people that they 
might plant and eat of the fruit of their labor, and from that time on it has been the 
custom to sing the song of the maize and to repeat the distribution of the corn every 
year at the time of planting. 

The songs [stanzas] are many. They begin with the gathering of the kernels. 
The people talk of where they shall plant. Then the men select the land and wher- 
ever each man selects he thrusts a pole in the ground to show that now the corn shall 
be planted. 

The stanzas last referred to have been lost, as well as the ceremony 
of selecting the planting plot and the thrusting of the pole into the 
ground. It is also impossible to give an accurate account of the 
ceremonies attending the distribution of the sacred corn for plant- 




[ETII. ANN. 27 

ing. The rites have long boon disused, then- abandonment being 
largely due to the influence of the Government. It is said that 
formerly when spring came the Ho"'ga subgens, whose dut}' it was 
to keep the sacred ears of red corn, met with the subgens of the 
I"ke'(,'abe, whose right it was to provide them, antl after the prescribed 
rites had been i)erformed and the ritual sung, the T'ke'vabe men acted 
as servers to the Ho"'ga and distributed four kernels to each family. 
The women received the sacred corn and mixed it with their seed 
corn, which they preservetl from year to year. It was believed that 
the sacred corn was able to vivify the seed and cause it to fructify 
and yield a good harvest. Only the red corn was used for this sacred 
purpose. Its color was indicative of its office. 

Even after the discontinuance of these rites of distributing the 
maize its ritual was still sung just before the ritual of the Wliite 
BufFalo Hide was given in connection ^^^th the hunting ceremonies. 
(See p. 286.) 










Yo ko ho the he he 

-tSi * a = a 

- ilo° 









du - ba ha - iio''-zhi° hi, 

do" - ba 



1 Yo ko ho the he lif 

2 Wi a^do^ba ga 

3 Ko" duba ha no"zhi'' hi 

4 Wia"do"baga 



Yo ko ho the he he 


Wi a'^lo^ba ga 


Abe he wii'axchi ha no^zhi" hi 


Wi a"do"ba ga 



Yo ko ho the he he 


Wi a"(lo"ba ga 


.\lie he iio"'ba ha iio"zhi° hi 


Wi a"do"ba ga 



Yo ko ho the he hi' 


Wi a"do"ba ga 


Abe he tha'bthi" ha no"zhi" hi 


Wi a"do"ba ga 



17 Yo ko ho the he he 

18 Wi aMo-ba ga 

19 Abe he duba ha uo^'zhi'' hi 

20 Wi a"do°ba ga 

21 Yo ko ho the he he 

22 Wi a"do°ba ga 

23 Abe he fa'to" ha no"zhi" hi 

24 Wia"do°baga 

25 Yo ko ho the he he 

26 Wi a"do°ba ga 

27 Abe he sha'pe ha no"zhi'' hi 

28 Wi a''do°ba ga 


29 Yo ko ho the he he 

30 Wi aMo-ba ga 

31 Abe he pe'tho^ba ha no^zhi" hi 

32 Wia''do"baga 


33 Yo ko ho the he he 

34 Wi a°do"ba ga 

35 'Kite he wi°axchi ha no^zhi" hi . 

36 Wi a"do°ba ga 


37 Yo ko ho the he he 

38 Wi a"do"ba ga 

39 'Kite he no"'ba ha no^zhi" hi 

40 Wi a"do"ba ga 


41 Yo ko ho the he he 

42 Wi a"do"ba ga 

43 'Kite he tha'bthi" ha no"zhi" hi 

44 Wi a''do"ba ga 


45 Yo ko ho the he he 

46 Wi a"do"ba ga 

47 'Kite he duba ha no"zhi'' hi 

48 Wi a"do"ba ga 


49 Yo ko ho the he he 

50 Wi a"do"ba ga 

51 'Kite he ga'to" ha no-'zhi" hi 

52 Wia^dCbaga 

264 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. axn. 27 


53 Yo ko ho the he he 

54 Wi a"do"ba ga 

55 'Kite he shape ha no"zhi" hi 

56 Wi a"do"ba ga 


57 Yo ko ho the he he 

58 Wi a"do°ba ga 

59 'Kite he pe'tho"ba ha no"zhi" hi 

60 Wi a"do"ba ga 


61 Yo ko ho the he he 

62 Wi a'-do'-ba ga 

63 Hatha he to° ha no^zhi" hi 

64 Wi a''do"ba ga 


65 Y'o ko ho the he he 

66 Wi a°do"ba ga 

67 Pahihi kugthi ha no"zhi'' hi 

68 Wi a'>do"ba ga 


69 Y^o ko ho the he he 

70 Wi aMo^ba ga 

71 Pahi hi zi ha no"zhi" hi 

72 Wi a"do"ba ga 


73 Yo ko ho the he he 

74 Wi a"do°ba ga 

75 Pahi hi shabe ha no"zhi" hi 

76 Wi a"do''ba ga 


77 Yo ko ho the he he 

78 Wi a°do"ba ga 

79 Xtha kugthi ha no"zhi" hi 

80 Wi a"do°ba ga 


81 Y'o ko ho the he he 

82 Wia'-do'-baga 

83 Xtha eka ha no"zhi° hi 
. 84 W ia"do°ba ga 

85 Y''o ko ho the he he 

86 Wia"do''baga 

87 Xtha ziha no^zhi" hi 

88 Wi a°do°ba ga 




Yo ko ho the he he 


Wi a°do"l)a ga 




Wi aMo^ba ga 



Yo ko ho the he he 


Wi a^thi^po" a 


Zhu 'to"ha no"zhi° hi 


Wi a°thizha 



Yo ko ho the he he 


Wi a°ba5no° a 


Zhu 'to^ha no^zhi" hi 


Wi a^baf'no" a 


101 Yo ko ho the he he 

102 Wi ai^thigtha 

103 Zhu 'to°ha no^zhi" hi 

104 Wi a"thata 

Literal translation 

First stanza. 1. yo Tco ho the he he is probably a corruption of 
ihikuthe , meaning "to hasten." The process of change in singing 
the word was from thikuthe to theJcothe, and then on to yolcothe, the 
first syllable being dropped to give the free vowel sound of the o in 
beginning the song. In view of this probable change the line would 
read: 'yoTcohothe he he, yoJcoho representing the vowel sound of the 
second syllable of the word theJcuthe, and the syllables he he the 
vowel prolongation of the last syllable, the. The line would thus 
mean "Hasten!" 

2. m, I. In this song it is the Maize that speaks, a'^do^ha, 
behold me (a", me; do^ha, see or behold) ; ga, the sign of a command. 
3. to", root; duha, four; ha no'^zhi", I stand (the "h" is added to 
the a in singing) ; hi, vowel prolongation. 

Second stanza. 7. dbe, leaves — a general term; he, vowel con- 
tinued; ivi^axchi, one. 

Third stanza. 11. no^ha, two. 

Fourth stanza. 15. tha'btJii^, three. 

Fifth stanza. 19. du'ha, four. 

Sixth stanza. S3, fa' to", five. 

Seventh stanza. 27. sha'pe, six. 

Eighth stanza. 31. pe'tho^ba, seven. 

Ninth stanza. 35. 'Icite, u'Mte, the joint of the stalk, the node — 
a general term for joint, in an animal or vegetable growth; he, vowel 

266 THE OMAHA TRIBE fETH. ann. 27 

Sixteenth stanza. 63. hathe, clothing — a general term (the word 
here refers to the husk around the ear of the maize) : 'to'", otn'^, I have, 
or possess. 

Seventeenth stanza. 67. 'paid, hair {'pa, head; hi, iiuir) ; hi, vowel 
continued; l-ugthi, light, shining. 

Eighteenth sta/iiza. 71. zi, yellow. 

Nineteenth stanza. 75. sha'ha, sha'he, dark colored. 

Twentieth stanza. 79. xtha, the tassel of the maize. 

Twenty-first stanza. 83. fka, white. 

Twenty-third stanza. 91. zhu, flesh, as of fruit; to", to possess. 

Twenty-fourth stanza. 94. aHhifpo'", feels me (a", me; thifpo", to 
feel of); a, ha, the end of the sentence. 96. aHhizha, to pull or push 
apart, to pluck, as the ear from the stalk. 

Twenty-fifth stanza. 98. a'"bafno'", roasts (a", me; bapno^, to 
thrust on a stick and roast before the fire). 

Twenty-sixth stanza. 102. aHhigtha, aHhi gtha, to push oti' with a 
stick, to shell. 104. aHhata (ihata, to eat; a", me). 



O hasten! 

With four roots I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten! 

With one leaf I stand. 

Behold me! 


O hasten! 

With two leaves 1 stand. 

Behold me! 


O hasten! 

With three leaves 1 stand. 

Behold me! 


O hasten! 

With four leaves I stand. 

Behold me! 


O hasten! 

With five leaves I staad. 

Behold me! 



With six leaves I stand. 

Behold me! 


With seven leaves I stand. 

Behold me! ' 

O hasten! 

With one joint I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten! 

With two joint.s I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten! 

With three joints I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten! 

With four joints I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten! 

With five joints I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten ! 

With six joints I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten! 

With seven joints I stand. 

Behold me! 



With clothing I stand. 

Behold me! 

268 THE OMAHA TRIBE [etii. ann. 27 

O hasten! 

With light, glossy hair I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten ! 

With yellow hair I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten! 

With dark hair I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten ! 

With light, glossy tassel I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten! 

With pale tassel I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten! 

With yellow tassel I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten! 

With fruit possessed I stand. 

Behold me! 

O hasten! 

Grasp ye. 
My fruit as I stand. 

Pluck me! 

O hasten! 

Roast by a fire 

My fruit as I stand. 

Even roast me! 

O hasten! 

Rip from its cob 
My fruit as I stand, 

And eat me! 


In this ritual the maize is anthropomorphized and is conscious of 
its mission. The poetic feeling of the ritual lies in the call of the 
maize to man to behold its up-springing life, its increasing growth, 
and its fruitage. Its final abnegation is almost hidden under the 
rather matter-of-fact directions of the last stanzas. Still, it is there. 

Cultivation of Maize 

Garden patches were located on the borders of streams. Occu- 
pancy constituted ownership and as long as a tract was cultivated 
by a family no one molested the crops or intruded on the ground; 
but if a garden patch was abandoned for a season then the ground 
was considered free for anyone to utilize. Men and women worked 
together on the garden plots, which ranged from half an acre to two 
or three acres in extent. Occasionally a good worker had even a 
larger tract under cultivation. These gardens were mounded in a 
pecuUar manner: The earth was heaped into oblong mounds, their 
tops flat, about 18 by 24 inches, and so arranged as to slant toward 
the south. The height on the north side was about 18 inches; on the 
south the plot was level with the surface of the ground. These mounds 
were 2 or 3 feet apart on all sides. In one mound seven kernels of 
com were scattered; in the next mound squash seeds were placed, and 
so on alternately. If the family had under cultivation a large garden 
tract the beans were put into mounds by themselves and willow poles 
were provided for the vines to chmb upon ; but if ground space was 
limited the beans were planted with the corn, the stalk serving the 
same purpose as poles. Squash and corn were not planted together, 
nor were corn, beans, and squash grown in the same mound. After 
the planting the ground was kept free of weeds and when the corn was 
well sprouted it was hoed with an implement made from the slioulder 
blade of the elk. The second hoeing took place when the, corn was a 
foot or more liigh. Up to this time the mounds were carefully weeded 
by hand and the earth was kept free and loose. After the second 
hoeing the corn was left to grow and ripen without further cultivation. 
The mounds containing the squash and those in which the melons 
were planted were weeded and cared for until the second hoeing of the 
corn, when they, too, were left, as about this time the tribe started 
out on the annual buffalo hunt. 

Names of Parts and of Preparations of Maize 

The following names refer to the maize or corn and the preparations 
made of it: 

Wato^'zi: com growing in the field; also shelled coru. 
Watan'zihi: corn stalk or stalks. 
Waha'ba: an ear of corn . 
Waha'baki: a corn cob or cobs. 

270 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. L'T 

Wa'xa^ha: corn husk. 

Hatu: the green husk. 

Waihi'i^ge: braided corn. The husks were braided, leaving the ear hanging. 

Wami'de: seed corn. This word is applied to any seed used for reproduction. 
Other seed, such aa apple seeds, are called (i. 

Washon'ge: pounded corn. A stick, no^xpe, was thrust into the cob and the corn 
roasted before a fire; then it was shelled and the chaff blown off; finally it was pounded 
in a mortar (ithe) with a pestle (welie). 

Wa'fkc: pounded corn mixed with honey and buffalo marrow. 

Wani'de: mush or gruel — pounded corn mixed with water. 

Vm'hagthe: com boiled with beans, set over night to cool and harden, then served 
cut in slices. Considered a delicacy. 

Wana'xe: jiarched corn — used by travelers, and carried in skin bags. 

Wabi'shnude: corn boiled wath ashes and hulled — a sort of coarse hominy. 

Wahthu'ga: wabi'shnude boiled with meat. 

Wato'^zi(;hithe: sweet com roasted in the milk, cut off the cob, and dried. 


There were various ways of going hunting, each of wliich had its 
distinctive name: 

Eshnon' moithi", "walking alone," was used to indicate that a single family had 
gone hunting or trapping. 

A'bae, an old, untranslatable term, meaning that a single man, or a man accompanied 
by a few male companions, leaving their families in camp, had started out on foot in 
search of game. This word was applied to this form of hunting even after horses had 
come into use. 

U'zhon, "to sleep with them," referring to the game. This term was applied only 
to the hunting of deer by a small party of men, or to a single person going out and 
bivouacking among the game. 

Shko^'the, "to make to move." The word refers to starting up the game. It was 
applied to a party of men going to a given locality to hunt deer. Young brothers 
and sons of the hunters formed this kind of hunting party. The hunters scattered 
out and advanced abreast, while the lads rushed into the woods, started up the game, 
and, if they could, secured a shot on their own account. 

Tathie'une-da, a part of taa7i', "deer; " tliie, a peculiar cut of the deer meat; tine, "to 
seek"). A man who was not a good hunter frequently joined a sltl-o"'Ote party and 
strove to be the first to reach the slain deer and so secure the right to be the first 
butcher. For his services he was entitled to the cut called tathie. 

The eshno"' moHhi'^, the a'bae, and the shlco'^'tJie hunting partieswent 
out only in the fall and winter; these were the only parties that were 
not organized and uniler the directirtn of a leader. The buifalo and 
the elk moved in herds and were hunted different!}^ from the deer, 
antelope, and bear. The latter were sought for by indi^^duals or by 
small j)arties, as already described. 

Diu-ing the simimer months the annual tribal bufl'alo hmit took 
place. At tiiis time the main supply of meat was secured. Tliis 
hunt was attended with much ceremony and was participated in by 
the entire tribe; it was called te'urie (from te, "buffalo," and une, 
■'to seek"). The summer buffalo hunt was more generally spoken 
of as wae'gaxtho" {wae, "cultivating the soil;" gaxtho"' , "moving 


after" — "going on the hunt after the cultivation of the corn is clone ") 
or nuge'teune (nuge, "summer;"^ te, "buffalo;" une, "to seek"). 
Ma'tJieteune was the name of the winter bufi'alo hunt {ma'the, 
"winter;" te'une, "buffalo hunt"). The buffalo was hunted in 
winter for pelts. When the herd was found, the act of chasing it 
was called wano^^'fe, the literal meaning of the word being "to inter- 
cept." In surrounding a herd the animals were intercepted by the 
hunters at every turn ; tlris was the usual mode of attacking a heni of 
any Idntl. If among a party going out to hunt the buffalo in winter 
there was a man from the I^ke'pabe gens, the right to be the leader 
of the company was his by virtue of his gens, and Ms authority was 
obeyed by all the hunters of the party. The leadership accorded to 
this gens applied only to chasing the buffalo. The life of the people 
depended on this animal, as it afforded the principal suj^ply of meat 
and pelts; therefore the buffalo hunt was inaugurated and con- 
ducted with religious rites, which not only recognized a dependence 
on Wako°'da, but enforced the observance by the people of certain 
formalities which secured to each member of the tribe an opportunity 
to obtain a share in the game. 

As neither the elk nor the deer stood in a similar vital relation to 
the people, hunting these animals was attended with less ceremony. 
A party gomg to find elk was spoken of as o^'po"' ano^ge (umpo", 
"elk;" ano^fe has the same meaning as wano^'ce). In such a party 
an I°ke'vabe enjoj^ed no special privileges but was on the same 
footing as all the other hunters. There was a leader, however, gen- 
erally the man who initiated the hunting party. Winter was the 
season for elk hunting. Deer also were hunted m the winter, as 
during that season the animals were fat and m good condition. 
When a man went alone for still hunting he used a whistle that 
simulated the cry of the fawn, and thus attracted the male and female 
deer. When a party went out they camped near a place where deer 
were plentiful; the hunters then went off and returned to the camp. 
On such expeditions boys were sometimes sent into the brush to beat 
up the game for the lumters. 

While the animals were ahve, and in connection with the hunt, 
each had its distinctive name, but when they were butchered their 
flesh bore the common name of to. If the meat was fresh it was 
spoken of as tanvJca, "wet meat;" when dried it was simply to. observed in butchering 

The follo\ving customs were observed m cutting up the carcasses 
of the deer, antelope, elk, and bufi'alo: 

After a chase anyone could help in butchering the game. The first 
person to arrive had to set to work at once in order to secure the rights 
of the first helper. Every animal was cut up into certain portions. 

272 THE OMAHA TRIBE [bth. ANN. 27 

Tliose were graded and assigned by custom to the helpers in the order 
of their beginning work on the carcass. The man wlio shot the animal 
might fmd, on reaching it, men already engaged in cutting it up. In 
that case he would go to work on some other man's game. He did not, 
however, lose liis rights in the animal he had shot. As every man's 
arrows bore the owner's peculiar mark, there could be no dispute as 
to who fired the fatal shot and so owned the killer's share. 

All animals were made ready for butchering by being rolled on the 
back with the head pulled aroimd backward by the beard until the 
face lay on the ground; next, the head was pushed under the edge 
of the side to serve as a support to the body as it lay on its back with 
feet upward. First, the skin was removed in this way: An incision 
was made at the lower end of the dewlap and the knife run up to the 
middle of the underlip; the knife was then again inserted at the 
starting point and a straight cut was made down to the vent; again the 
knife was inserted at the starting point and a straight cut made down 
the inside of each fore leg to the ankle. A straight cut was made 
dowTi the inner side of each hind leg to the ankle. A cut was then 
made around the mouth and up the line of the nose to the base of the 
horns and around the horns, leaving the hide, when taken from the 
deer, antelope, elk, or bulTalo, in one piece. The liide was called 
Tia; this belonged to the man who killed the animal. The summer 
hide of the bufl'alo was called tesJina'ha, meaning "hide without 
hair." From the teshna'Tia clothing, moccasms, and tent covers 
were made, as these hides were easily tanned on both sides. The 
hides taken in winter were called m.eJia; these were used for robes 
and bedding and were tanned on one side only. The hide of an 
old bull was preferred for bedding. In flaying the animal for this 
purpose the usual incisions were made on the breast ; after this was 
flayed it was turned thereon, the hind legs were stretched out back- 
ward, the fore legs doubled luider the body, and a straight cut was 
made downi the back; then the skin was drawn off on each side. 
Skill was required to make straight cuts and was the resu|t of much 
practice. One of the most difficult cuts to make was to follow the 
dewlap. A tme outline was the pride of the hunter and added to 
the value of a skin, as well as to its beauty, particularly when it was 
to be used as a robe. 

After flaying a bufl"alo, one of the hind legs was disjointed at the hip 
and cirt oii". The flesh of the leg was cut lengthwise, following the 
natural folds of the muscle, and the bone extracted; this portion 
was called tezhe'ga. The next act was to open the body sufficiently 
to remove the intestines. The large intestine, the stomach, and the 
bladder were removed and laid to one side. The fore leg was then 
unjointed and cut ofi' at the shoulder and the bone extracted; this 
portion was called tea'. The breast was next cut; this portion 


was called temo^'ge. The meat between the ends of ribs and the 
breast was called tezhu'. There were two portions of this cut, which 
were considered very choice. These were the pieces that were ofYered 
at the ceremony of Anointino; the Sacred Pole and were tabu to the 
Waxthe'xeto" subgens of the Ho°'ga, who had charge of these rites. 
Next, the ribs were severed from the backbone; the ribs from both 
sides made one portion, which was called tethi'ti. The tongue was 
last to be taken out; this was secured by making an incision hi the 
middle of the underjaw, pulling the tongue through the slit and then 
cutting it off at the roots. If it was late in the day, or the hunters 
were in haste, the tongue was left untouched. When one of the 
writera commented on the loss of so dainty a part, she was answered : 
"Men do not pay attention to these little delicacies but when their 
children ask for them, the men remember." 

The following are the portions of the buffalo and their graded 
values : 

1. Tezhu' — side meat; 2 portions. 

2. Tezhe'ga — hind quarters; 2 portions. 

3. Tethi'ti — ribs; 2 portions. 

4. U'gaxetha — includes the stomach, beef tallow, and intestines; 1 portion. 
o. Teno'''xahi — back; includes muscles and sinew; 1 portion. 

6. Temo''ge — the breast; 1 portion. 

7. Tea' — forequarters; 2 portions. 

To the man who killed the animal belonged the hide and one por- 
tion of tezhu' and the brains. Whether he had more or not depended on 
the number of men who were helping. If there were only three helpers, 
their portions were as follows: To the first helper to arrive, one of the 
tezhu' and a hind-quarter; to the second comer, the u'gaxetha; to the 
third, the ribs. The various portions were adjusted by the owner of 
the animal. Each helper received something for his services. It 
sometimes happened that eight or ten men helped, in which case all 
the cuts were required. If two or more men butchered an animal in 
the absence of the hunter, when they finished the work each man took 
his proper portions and left those belonging to the man who had killed 
the game. When, therefore, the hunter returned to the animal 
he had shot, he might fiTid it flayed and cut up and his portions 
lying on the hide awaiting him. Prominent men did not do the butch- 
ering. This work was performed by the poor or by young men, who 
thus secured food or choice bits. Should a chief or the son of a chief 
appear on the scene when butchering was in progress, he would be 
allowed the choice of any portion of the animal. 

The large intestine was disentangled by the men, stripped between 

the fingers, and its contents were thrown away. Then it was handed 

over to the women to be prepared for cooking. They turned it 

inside out, washed it, and turned it back, being careful not to disturb 

83993°— 27 eth— 11 18 

274 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

the fat that adhered to tlie outside. A narrow strip of tender meat 
from the side of the backbone was then cut; one end of the intestine 
healing fat on it was turned in and the strip of meat was inserted 
at this end. As tlie meat was pushed alono;, the intestine became 
reversed — the fatty outside became the insiile. After the meat was in, 
both ends of the intestine were securely tied; it was then boiled, or 
roasted on coals. This was called ta^^'he and was esteemed a great 
delicacy. The meat thus cooked was very tender and all the juice 
was preserved within its close covering. The stomach was turned 
inside out, carefully washed, and the inner coating removed and 
thrown away; the remainder was used for food. The heart and lungs 
were usually left in the carcass. The small intestmes of the sucking 
calf were braided and roasted over coals; these were regarded as a 
delicacy. Meat was generally boiled, the water, or soup, being taken 
after the meat had been eaten. 

The bones, used for their marrow after roasting, were : wazhi'he, "leg 
bones;" teno"'xa7ii. "backbone." The waha'pio", "shoulder blades," 
were valuable as implements, particularly those of the elk, used as 
hoes. The other bones were called: te'pa, "skull;" he, "horns;" 
u'gaxo^, "hip bone;" wazJii'heuto^'ga, "upper leg bone;" zhi'heupni, 
"lower leg bone;" fe sha'ge, "hoofs." 

The buffalo meat was brought into camp on ponies. Boys drove 
these animals out to the hunting field for the purpose of packing the 
meat on them. The running horses used in hunting were not permitted 
to cany burdens. Sometimes women went out to help in butchering, 
particularly widows or childless women, or they drove the pack ponies. 
It was the woman's part to cut the meat into thin sheets and hang it 
on the racks for drying. The rib meat was cut into strips, braided, 
and dried. 

The rules for butchering an elk and dividing the meat among the 
helpers were the same as for the buffalo. 

After being flayed a deer was cut in half, one side being cut close to 
the backbone; this half was called the tathie'. This cut became the 
property of the first man to reach the deer and to begin to butcher 
the game. Tlie other half of the doer, that to which the backbone 
and the neck adhered, was divided tlu-ough the ribs, making two por- 
tions. The hind part of this cut belonged to the second person who 
arrived on the scene and took part in the butchering. To the man 
who shot the deer belonged the skin and the portion to which the neck 
was attached. Sometimes a man was alone when he killed a deer. 
In that case, after he had flayed the animal he cut all the meat from 
tlie bones and left the skeleton. If after he had finished a person 
should come up, the hunter would say, Bthe'uthi shnude (hthc. "all;" 
uthishnude, "stripped"), that is, "the meat is stripped from the bones." 


making but one piece witliont divisions. Under such circumstances 
no portion woidd be ,e;iven to the newcomer nor would any be 
demanded. This manner of taking home the deer saved labor to the 
women, as the meat was nearly ready to hang on the wa'mo^^ shiha, 
or "rack." for jerking. 

The rules for butchering and dividing the flesh of the anteloi:)e and 
bear were the same as ol^serveil with the deer. 

te'une, or annual buffalo hunt 

Wlien the crops were well advanced and the corn, beans, and melons 
had been cultivated for the second time, the season was at hand for 
the tribe to start on its annual buft'alo hunt. Preparations for this 
great event occupied several weeks, as everyone — men, women, and 
children — moved out on what was often a journey of several hundred 
miles. Only the very old and the sick and the few who stayed to care 
for and protect these, remained in the otherwise deserted tillage. 
All articles not needetl were cached ami the entrances to these recep- 
tacles concealed for fear of marauding enemies. The earth lodges 
were left empt}", and tent covers and ])oles were taken along, as during 
the hunt these portable dwellingswere used exclusively. Foracentury 
ponies have superseded dogs as burden bearers. The tent poles were 
fastened to each side of the pony \>j one end; the other trailed on the 
ground. The parfleche cases containing clotliing, regalia, the food sup- 
plies, and the cooking utensils, were packed on the animal. Travoix 
were used, supporting a comfortable nest for the ciiildren, some of 
whom, however, often found places among the household goods on 
the pony's back. Men and women walked or rode according to the 
family suppl}" of horses. Between the trailmg tent poles, which were fast- 
ened to a steady old hoi-se, here and there rode a boy mounted on his 
own unbroken pony, for the first time given a chance to win liis j)lace 
as an independent ritler in the great cavalcade. Many were the droll 
experiences recounted by older men to their cliiklren of ath^entures 
when breaking in their pony colts as the tribe moved over the 
prairies on the hunt. Much bustling activity occupied the house- 
hokls in anticipation of the start. Meanwhile a very different kind 
of preparation had been going on for months in the thought and 
actions of the man who had determined to seek the office of watho"' , 
or director of the hunt. He had been gathering together the mate- 
rials to make the washa'he, or staff of that office. These consisted 
of an ash sapling, two eagles (one black, one golden), a crow, a swan 
skin, a dressed bufl'alo skin, two pieces of sinew, a shell disk, a copper 
kettle (formerly a pottery cooking vessel), and a pipestem. These 
articles were all more or less tlifficult to obtain, and represented a 
determined purpose and labor on the part of the man and liis family. 

276 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

The WathoN' 

The office of watho"', or director of the hunt, was one of grave 
responsibihty and high honor. The man who aspired to fill it needed 
to possess courage and abiUty to lead men and command their respect 
antl obedience. Dining the term of liis ofhce the entire tribe was 
placed under his direction and control; the Council of Seven Chiefs 
acted only as his counselors and, together with the people, obeyed 
his instructions. He directed the march of the tribe, selected its 
camping places, chose and dispatched the runners in search of buffalo 
herds, and tlirected the hunt when the game had been found. He 
became responsible for all occurrences, from the pursuit of the buffalo 
and the health and welfare of the people down to the quarreling of 
children and dogs. 

Wlien the time drew near for the tribe to go forth on the hunt, 
the aspirant to the office of watho"' took or sent the prescribed 
articles he had secured for making the wasJia'be, or ceremonial staff 
of the director, to the Washa'be subgens of the Ho°'ga gens, to which 
belonged the hereditary riglit to make the staff. It was a pole of 
ash more than 8 feet high, the end bent like a shepherd's crook. 
The buffalo skin furnished by the aspirant was cut and a case made 
from it for covering the pole. All the coarse feathers were removed 
from the swan skin, leaving only the down; the skin was cut in 
strips and wound about the staff, making it a white object. On one 
side of the staff was fastened a row of eagle feathers, and a cluster of 
golden eagle feathers hung at the entl of the crook. Crow feathers 
were arranged at the base about 10 inches from the end of the 
pole, which was sharpened. (For picture of the washa'be, see fig. 27.) 
To the pipestem which must accompany the wasTia'be was fastened a 
shell disk. Tliis stem was probably used when smoking the peculiar 
pipe belonging to the White Buffalo Hide. 

After the vMsha'be was made, the Ho°'ga subgens in charge of the 
White Buffalo Hide called a council composed of the governing 
tribal council (p. 208) and the Washa'be subgens, to which was invited 
the man who desired to be the watho"' . This action of the Ho°'ga 
subgens constituted the appointment of the man to the office of 
watho^'. This council had also to determine the direction in 
which the people were to go antl the day on which they were to 
start. This decision was Considered one of the most important 
acts in the welfare of the people; on it depended the food supply 
and also safety from enemies while securing it. The food eaten at 
this council was either dried buffalo meat or maize, which had 
to be cooked before sunrise. At this council the two Sacred Tribal 
Pipes were ceremonially filled while their ritual was chanted. 
This was done as the sun rose. Everyone present wore the buffalo 
robe with the hair outside, the head on the left arm and the tail 


on the right, aiitl sat with liead bowed and arms crossed on the 
breast so as to bring the robe around the head hke a hood. No 
feathers or ornaments or any articles pertaining to war could be 
worn or could be present in the Sacred Tent. The Pipes were smoked 
in the formal manner: the I^ke'fabe and Tha'tada servers pa.ssed 
them to the members. The smoking was in silence. After the Pipes 
had been cleaned by the officers appointed for this duty and returned 
to their keeper, one of the principal chiefs opened the proceedings by 
mentioning the terms of relationsliip between liimself and the others 
present. Each one responded as he was designated. The chief then 
spoke of the great importance of the subject before them and called 
on those present to express their opinions. If since the last similar 
council any chief or member present had given way to violence in 
word or act, he must not speak. So long as he took no part in these 
official proceedings the evil consecjuences of his words or actions 
remained with himself, but should he act officially the consequences 
of Ms misdeed would be transferred to the people. After all who 
could rightfully take part in the discussion had spoken with due 
deliberation, the newly chosen watho"' was called on. He generally 
summed up the views that were acceptable to the majority of those 
present. If there w'ere differences of opinion, then the men had to 
remain in council until they came to an agreement. At this council 
the general route the tribe was to take was laid out. In planning 
the route two necessary features were always considered — wood and 
a plentifid supply of water. It was also important to lead the 
people where they could gather the wild turnip in great quantities. 
These turnips were peeled, sliced, dried, and sewed up in skin bags 
for winter use. Only the general direction was determined at this 
council. The daily camps were selected by the watho"' as the people 
went along. These were usually from 10 to 15 miles apart, wood and 
water again being important factors in the choice of the camping 
place. If, owing to the lack of wood or water, the distance between 
two camping places was greater than could conveniently be made in 
one journey, thewatho^' directed the tribal herald to consult the women, 
on whom devolved much of the labor of the camp as well as the care 
of the children, and to ascertain their decision in the matter. The 
herald then reported the wishes of the majority and the watho"' 
issued his order accordingly. 

When, at the initial coimcil held by the Washa'be subgens, the 
governing tribal council, and the watho^', a decision was reached, 
the official herald was sent to proclaim to the people the day fixed 
for departure. Meanwliile the council sat in the bowed attitude 
and the sacred feast was served in seven wooden bowls. These were 
passed four times around the council, each person taking a mouthful 
from a black horn spoon. Tliis food could not be touched with the 

278 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

fingers or any other utensil. The sun must have set before the chiefs 
could lift their heads and the council break up, and the members 
return to their homes. The da}' for the start once fixed, no chano;e 
could be made, as that would be breaking faith with Wako^'da, in 
whose presence the decision had been reached. 

No prescribed order was observed in making the start. Those 
who were ready moved first, but all kept fairly well together. For 
four days prior to the start the man who was to act as watho"' 
fasted, and when all were departing he remained behind. After every- 
one had gone he took off his moccasins and, carrying no weapons, 
followed slowly with bare feet. He reached the camp after the peo- 
ple had eaten their supper, went to his own tent, and as he entered 
ever^yone withdrew and left him alone. The fast, the barefoot march, 
and the lonely vigil were explained to be "a prayer to Wako"'da to 
give courage to the man to direct wisely and to lead successfully the 
people as they went forth to seek for food and clothing." The old 
men went on to state that "during all the time the man is watho"' 
he must be abstemious, eat but little, and live apart from his family; 
he must continuall}' pray, for on him all the people are depending." 
This manner of life by the director was called no^'2hi''zho" — the same 
word that was applied to the fast observed by the 3'outh when he went 
alone to pray to Wako"'da. (See p. 12S.) The idea expressed in this 
word was explained to be that " the man stands oblivious to the nat- 
ural world and is in commimication only with the unseen and super- 
natural world which environs him and in which he receives power 
and direction from Wako°'da, the great unseen power." Every 
effort was made by the chiefs and leading men to prevent or to con- 
trol petty contentions, for if everyone was to secure a share in the 
products of the chase, there had to be harmony, obedience to author- 
ity, and good order throughout the tribe. If, however, disturbances 
frequently occurred, or if the winds continually blew toward the 
game, thus revealing the approach of the people and frightening awaj' 
the buffalo, such ill fortinie might necessitate the resignation of the 
watho^'. To avoid this necessity on the part of the director, a man 
was appointed by the chiefs who took the name watho"' and was to 
assume all the blame of quarrels and other mishaps. This official 
scapegoat took his office good-naturedly and in this humorous way 
served the tribal director. 

On the march the contents of the three Sacred Tents were in charge 
of tlieir keepers. In late years the Wliite Buftalo Hide was packed 
on a pony ; in early days it was carried on the back of its keeper. The 
washa'he (fig. 27) was carried by a virgin, and as it belonged to the 
White Buffalo Hideshe walked nearthat sacred article. When in camp 
this staff of office was kept in the Sacred Tent containing the Iliile. 
The vSacred Pole was carried by its keeper. When the camping place 


was reached, each woman knew exactly where to place her tent in the 
hu'fhuga, or tribal circle. The Sacred Tents were set up in their 
respective j)laces and the sacred articles put at once under cover. 
After the camp was made the daily life went on as tisual; the ponies 
were tethered or hobbled and put where they could feed; wood and 
water were secured, anil soon the smoke betra^-ed that preparations 
for the evening meal were going forward. 

The beauty of an Indian camp at night deserves a passing word. 
It can never be forgotten by one who has seen it and it caji hariUy 
be pictured to one who has not. The top of each conical tent, 
stained with smoke, was lost in shadow, but the lower part was aglow 
from the central fire and on it the moving life inside was pictured in 
silhouette, while the sound of rippling waters beside which the camp 
stood accentuated the silence of the overhanging stars. 

The signal to move in the morning was the dropping of the cover 
from the tent of the director. When the poles of his tent were visible 
ever}- woman began to unfasten her tent cover, and in a short time 
the camp was a memory and the people were once more on the march, 
stretched out as a motley colored mass over the green waste. 

As the buffalo country was reached — that is, when signs of game 
were discerned — then the chiefs, the watho"', and the Washa'be subgens 
of theHo°'ga gens met in council and appointed a number of men who 
were to act as "soldiers" or marshals. These men were chosen from 
among the bravest and most trusty warriors of the tribe, those who 
had won the right to wear "the Crow" (see p. 441). They were 
summoned to the Sacred Tent of the White Buffalo Hide, where they 
were informed of their duty. It is said that these officers were told : 
" You are to recognize no relations in performing your duty — neither 
fathers, brothers, nor sons." Their services began when the 
camp was within hearing distance of the herd selected for the coming 
surroimd. The marshals were to prevent noises, as loud calls and 
the barking of dogs, and to see that no one slipjjed away privately. 
Few, however, ever attempted to act independently, as it meant death 
to a man to stampede a herd by going out privately to secure game. 
During the surround the marshals heUl the himters back until the 
signal was given for the attack on the herd. It was in the exercise 
of this duty that the marshals were sometimes put to the test of keep- 
ing true to the obligations of their office. 

The iratho^'' chose some twenty young men to act as runners to 
search for a herd suitable for the tribe to surround. If the region 
was one in which there was danger of encountering enemies, the run- 
ners went out in groups; otherwise they might scatter and go singly 
in search of game. When the runners had been selected the tribal 
herald stood in front of the Sacred Tent containing the White Buffalo 
Hide, and intoned the following summons. First he called the name 


of a young man and then added: Mo^zho^ iHTiegapo^ga tea ia ihi^ ho! 
{mo"zho'^, "land;'' iHhegafo"(/a, "explore for me;" tea, "may;" ia, 
"come;" </«", "action;" lio, "calling attention") — "Come! that you 
may go and secure knowledge of the land for me." 

When the runners {the wado'^' be, "those who look") had found a suit- 
able herd, they made a speedy run back to where the tribe was 
camped; when they were near they paused on some prominent point 
where they could be seen and signaled their report by rimning from 
side to side; if there were two young men, both ran, one from right to 
left and the other from left to right, thus crossing each other as they 
ran. (See picture of I'shibazhi, pi. 39, a runner on the last tribal buf- 
falo hunt.) This signal was called waha'ha. As soon as they were 
seen, word was taken to the Sacred Tents and to the watho"'. The 
Sacred Pole and the pack containing the White Buffalo Hide were 
carried to the edge of the camp in the direction of the returning run- 
ners, followed by the Seven Chiefs. There a halt was made while the 
runners approached to deliver their message. The White Buffalo 
Hide was taken out and arranged over a frame so as to resemble some- 
what a buffalo lying down. The Sacred Pole was set up, leaning on its 
staff, the crotched stick. The chiefs, the keepers, and the herald were 
grouped in the rear of these sacred objects. The first runner ap- 
proached and in a low tone delivered his message, telling of the where- 
abouts and the size of the herd, being careful not to exaggerate its 
numliers. He was followed by the second I'unner, who repeated the 
same message. The herald was then dispatched b}- the chiefs to notify 
the people. He returned to the camp and shouted: "It is reported 
that smoke (dust) is rising from the earth as far as the eye can reach ! " 

Meanwhile, as soon as signs of the returning runners were seen the 
director went to his own tent and remained alone until he heard the 
voice of the herald shouting to the people. Then he went at once to 
the Sacred Tent of the White Buffalo, where were the Seven Chiefs 
and the subgens of the Ho°'ga, who had charge of the tent and its 
belongings. The watho^'' now became the leader of the council, and 
gave commands to the herald. Two men were selected by him to 
lead in the surround, one to carry the washa'he and the other the 
pipestem. Two boys were also selected to secure the twenty tongues 
and one heart for the sacred feast. Then the herald went out, and 
turning to the left passed around the tribal circle, calling as he went 
the command in the name of the director: 

You are to 2;o upon the chase, bring in your horses. 
Braves of the I''shta'(,'U''da, IIo"'gashenu, pity me who belong U> you! 
Soldiers of the I "Bhta'(,'U°da, Ho^'gashenu, pity me who belong to you! 
Women of the 1 "shta'^u^da, Ho^'gashenu, pity me who belong to you! 

The tribe was always addressed by the names of its two divisions, 
and the words "Pity me who belong to you " constituted an appeal by 





the watho"' to the honor and the compassion of the people to avoid 
all dissensions and imprudence which might bring about trouble or 
misfortune, since any misdeed or mishap would fall heavily on the 
director, who was responsible for every action, fortunate or unfortu- 
nate, and who must sufl'er for the acts of the tribe, as through his 
office he belonged to them, was in a sense a part of them, "as," an 
Omaha explained "a man's hand belongs to his body." 

If the herd was at such a distance that the tribe must move on 
and camp again before the chase took place then the Pole and the Hide 
remained where the message of the nmners had been received, until 
the people were I'eady to go to the new camping place. On that 
journey the two sacred objects, with the Seven Chiefs, led the ad- 
vance, while the marshals rode on the sides of the great cavalcade 
and kept the people in order. Once arrived at the camping place, the 
camp was made silently, for fear of any sound frightening the 
herd, and strict silence was maintained until the hunters were ready 
to start. If, however, the herd was discovered near the camp, then 
after the message from the runners had been delivered the two sacred 
objects, the Sacred Pole and the White Buffalo Hide, were returned 
to their tents and the marshals at once enforced silence, killing any 
barking dogs if necessary. All preparations were made as quietly 
as possible. Each hunter was attended by one or two mounted boys 
who led the fast running horses to be used in the chase : later his own 
mount would be used to bring in the meat from the field. Once again 
the herald circled the camp. His return to the tent of the White Buf- 
falo Hide was the signal for the hunters to move. The two young men 
bearing the washa'be and the pipestem were the first to start; these led 
the procession of hunters, headed by the watTio^' and the Seven Chiefs. 
The advance to the herd was by four stages. At the close of each 
stage the chiefs and the director sat and smoked. This slow approach 
to the herd was for definite purposes: First, to afford opportunity to 
make prayer offerings of smoke to Wako°'da, to secure success; sec- 
ond, to check haste and excitement among the hunters; third, to 
insure an orderly progress toward the buffalo so that each person 
might take part in the chase and obtain his share of the food sujjply. 
As the four stops partook of a religious character they could not be 
disregarded with imjiunity. The following incident occurred during 
a tribal hunt early in the last century: At the third halt a man gal- 
loped up to where the watho"' and the chiefs sat smoking and spoke 
impatiently of the slow jirogress, declaring that the herd was moving 
and might escape because of the delay. The watho'^' said quietly, 
"If your way is the better, follow it!" The man dashed off, followed 
by the hunters, who nished on the herd; in the confusion several of 
the hunters were injured and the man who led the people to disobey 
the rites was crippled for hfe by his horse faUing on him. This dis- 

282 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. anx. 27 

aster was regarded as a supernatural punishment of his irreverent 
action in interrui>tiii<: tlie ])reseribe(l order of ])rocedure. 

When the designated pkice for the attack was reached tlie two 
youths paused while the hunters divided into two parties. One was 
to follow the youth with the vasha'be; the other the youth with the 
pipestem. At the command of the watho^' the two young men 
started and ran at full speed to circle the entire herd, followed by 
the horsemen. The marshals wath their whips held the riders back 
and in order, for no one was allowed to break into the herd or advance 
beyond the washa'he or the pipestem. Whosoever attempted to do so 
or who failed to control his horse and keep in line was flogged, the 
rawhide thong of the marshal falling on the bare body of the hunter 
with all the force of the strong arm of the officer. These officers 
were the only men to wear ornaments on the hunts. They were 
decorated with the highly prized insignia, " the Crow." All of the 
hunters were nude except for moccasins and breechcloths. When 
the two youths bearing the washa'he and the pipestem met, the 
washa'he was thiiist into the ground and the pipestem tied to it. 
This was the signal at which the marshals gave the word of com- 
mand to charge on the herd. The hunters responded with shouts 
and yells, driving the bewildered buffalo in confused circles toward 
the camp. W'hen the two youths started with the emblems of 
authority to circle the herd their places were immediately taken by 
the two boys who had been selected to secure the tongues and 
heart for the sacred feast. As soon as the hunters rushed on 
the herd and a buffalo was seen to fall, these boys pushed in, dodg- 
ing in and out among the animals and hunters, for they must take 
the tongue from a buffalo before it had been touched with a knife. 
They carried their bows unstrung and thrust the tongues on them. 
Tliey had been instnicted as to the manner in which the tongues 
must be taken. An opening was made in the throat of the buffalo 
and the tongue pulled through and taken out; then the end of the 
tongue was bent over and the fold cut. It was thought that if a knife 
was thrust through the tongue to make a hole, it would bring bad 
luck. Through the slit thus made the unstrung bow was thrust. Ten 
tongues were carried on one bow. When tiie twenty tongues and 
the heart w-ere secured, the boys returned with these articles to 
the Sacred Tent of the Wliite Buft'alo Hide. Meanwhile the slaughter 
of the game went on. The Omaha were expert hunters and many 
a man could boast of sentling his arrow clear through a buffalo and 
wounding a second one beyond with the same missile. (PI. 40.) 
At the conclusion of the hunt the xvasha'he and the pipestem were 
brought back and delivered to the ivatho"'. The meat was packed on 
the horses and taken to camp, where it was jerked by the women. On 
the night of the surround the feast of tongues and heart was hekl in the 





Tent of the White Buffalo Hide. The Seven Chiefs, the watho^', 
the Washa'be subgens of the Ho°'ga, and sometimes a few of the 
leading men, were present. All wore the buffalo robe in ceremonial 
fashion. On this occasion, though the subgens prepared the food 
they could not partake of it — the buffalo tongue was their tabu. 
Their position was that of host; they were acting for the White 
Buffalo, of which they were the keepers, and tribal eticjuette de- 
manded that at a feast the host should n<it eat any of the food 
offered his guests. Those who were permitted to eat at this feast 
took their food in the crouching attitude observed at the initial 
council when the imfho"' was authorized and the route to be taken 
on the hunt determined. Sometimes the boys gathered more than 
the twenty tongues required and if the supply was more than suf- 
ficient for the feast they received a portion, as did other persons. 
The feast being a sacreil one, the consecrated food was prized, as it 
was believed to bring health and long life. A share was sometimes 
begged and the portion received was divided among a niunber of 
people, who ate of it in the hope that they might thereby secure to 
themselves the promised benefits. The tongues and heart were 
boiled; only the chiefs anil the watlio^' were present during the 

After the feast the Washa'beto" subgens of the Ho^'ga sang the 
ritual of the White Bufi'alo Hide. The Hide was mounted on its 
frame and occupied the place of honor in the back of the tent facing 
the east, while the chiefs and the wafho^' muffled in their robes sat 
with bowed heads antl smoked the peculiarly shaped pipe belonging 
to the Hide. 


The manner in which the ritual of the White Buffalo Hide was 
obtained, as well as that of the Sacred Pole, has been recounted (pp. 
247-250). When the old man Wako"'mo"thi° (fig. 60) had completed 
the rituals, he agreed to deliver the Wliite Buffalo Hide to the writers 
the following spring or summer. He desired to have .this sacred 
object, which had been so long his care, with him during one more 
winter and until "the grass should grow again." He kept the Hide 
in a tent set apart for its use that was pitched near his little cabin. 
He used to go and sit near it as it hung on a pole tied up as a bundle. 
There he would muse on the memory of the days when it presided 
over the hunt and its ritual was sung by him and his companions 
while the chiefs smoked its sacred pipe and the people feasted on the 
product of the chase, enjoying peace and plenty. It was hard for 
the old man to adjust himself to the great changes that had taken 
place. He realized that his years were tew, that the other sacred 
articles belonging to the tribe were in safe keeping, and he said: "It 
is right that the Hide should go and be with the Pole, as it alwaj-s used 

284 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ANN. 27 

to be, and it shall go there when the grass comes again." Pitying 
the old man, the writers acceded to his request, although a large sum 
of money had been given him for the Hide, and they left it with him. 
In February, 189S, came the tidings that whUe the old man was at the 
Agency (whither he had been called to transact some business), 
thieves had broken into his tent and had stolen the White Buffalo 
Hide. The grief of the old keeper was most pathetic. For months 
every morning he went out and while yet the morning star hung in 
the eastern sky he wailed as for the dead. His sorrow shortened his 
days, for he survived only a season or two. He bitterly lamented not 
putting the Hide where no irreverent hands could reach it — but it 
was too late. After months of search the writers traced the Hide, 
which had been sold to a man in Chicago, and learned the name of 
the thief. Efforts were made to buy back the stolen relic and place 
it where the old keeper had wished it to go, beside the Sacred Pole, 
but the purchaser would not accede to any plan looking to that end. 
The Hide is now deposited with the Academy of Sciences, Lincoln Park, 

It is the skin of a small, whitish" buffalo, with hoofs and horns 
intact. A row of shell disks are fastened down the back. (PI. 41.) 
The exact measurements the writers have been unable to obtain. 
The pipe is peculiar. It is of red catlinite, nearly circular in shape, 
and represents the hoof of the bufl'alo. (Fig. 64). The significance of 
this pipe is indicated in the last stanza of the first song of Part II 
of the ritual belonging to the Hide. (See p. 290.) 

According to Mo°xe'wathe, who was hereditarily one of the keepers 
of the Tent of the Sacred Hide, there were formerly two Sacred White 
Buffalo Hides, one male, the other female. The male hide was buried 
with its keeper many years ago, so that it was the female that was in 
the charge of Wako°'mo"thi°. The same authority stated that on 
the first or second camp, when the tribe was on the annual buffalo 
hunt, any man who desired to make a present to the Sacred Tent, so 
as to "count" the gifts, could do so in the following manner: He 
would send to the keeper and ask him to "untie the buffalo." The 
keeper made a sort of frame of withes and spread over it the Hide, so 
as to give it the appearance of a live buffalo. The man who wished to 
make gifts, took them and with a little girl stood before the tent but 
at a distance from it. Then he sent his presents one by one by the 
hand of the little girl to the keeper, who received them. When he 
had finished, some other ambitious man would advance with presents 
and send them by a little girl in the same manner. These presents 

a The albino buffalo was sacred among all Ihe closp copnatos of the Omaha and also among the Dakota 
tribes, ratlin mentions that the Mandan gave the Blaekfeet the value of eight horses for a white buffalo 
sltin, which they placed with great ceremony in thi-ir medicine lodge. Personal names referring to the 
white buffalo occur in all the cognates. (For an account of a " White BulTalo Ceremony" among the 
Dakota, see Peabody Museiun Reports, m, 260-275, 1880-86, Cambridge, 1887 ) 




I'M.KTrilEU-I.A ri.lOSCIIKl 



could all be "counted" toward the one hundred which would entitle 
a man to entrance into the Ho'''hewachi and to put the "mark of 
honor" on Ids daufjliter. The reason the presents were sent one at a 

Upper surface 

Under surface 
Fi(i. Oi. f'ipu belonging to White BuHiilo Hide. 

time was to give the man the ability to say, "I have been to the 
Sacred Tent so many times." If he had sent all his presents at once, 
they would have counted as only one gift. 

286 THE OMAHA TRTBE [etii. ann. 27 

When tlio tribe was near the l)iiirah) lierds the jieople moved abreast 
and not in a file. As tlic Sacred Tent was then always in atlvance, 
w lien tlic Tent stoj^ped and the buffalo was untied all tlie people had 
to stop, so the man was then seen by all tlie tribe as he made his 
presents to the Sacred Hide. 

TiiK KiTiAi. (IF The AVhitk ]!ii"falo Hiiik 

Tlie ritual of the White Buffalo Hide is dramatic in character but 
hardly a dranui in form. It is composed of nineteen songs, divided 
into four groups. The ritual deals with the gift of the buffalo to man 
and although it pictures in a realistic way man's efforts to secure this 
gift provided for him, yet a supernatural presence more or less per- 
vades the ritual from its opening song to the close. The belief in the 
supernatural presence was emphasized by the muffled figures of the 
chiefs and the watJio^' as they sat with bowed heads and smoked the 
peculiar pipe sacred to the Hide while the ritind was sung. 

The argument of the ritual is briefl}' as follows: 

Pan I.— The Pipe 

(two songs) 

(1) Tlie ])ipe ''appears." ('2) Man is commanded to take it, that 
he may su])]>licate Wako"'da. 

, /'(//■( //, — The Supplication 

(four songs) 

(f) Creation recalled; the species buffalo created. (2) The buf- 
falo's growth and its perpetuation are provided for. (3) Thel)uffaloes 
converge toward man. (4) They come from every ilirection and 
cover the face of the earth. 

J'aii HI. — .Lssuranir of Wako^'da 
(oNf; song) 

(1) The animals aie to grow and perpetuate themselves that they 
may benefit man. 

J'arf IV.~The Hunt 
(TWELVE songs) 

(1) The chiefs' song; i-efers to the council when the I'oute for the 
hunt was decided upon. (2) The people start "toward the lowing 
herds." (.3) The herds retreat but are seen at a distance. (4) Run- 
ners go in search of the herds, aided ])y the birds. (.5) Return of the 
rinuiers; joyful murmurs among tiie people at the good news, (fi) 
The herakl tells of the council's decision to move on the herd and 
repeats the director's admonition. (7) The herald proclaims the sig- 
nal for the start. (8) Depicts the field of the hunt ; the men seek the 
animals they have shot. (9) Refers to the custom of cutting up the 
meat. (10) The song of plenty and teaching of economy. (11) Re- 




turn to camp of the hunters, when the boys carry the meat (ov the 
sacred feast. (12) The plentifulness of the game causes some hunters 
to camp on the fiekl. 

Each song was repeated four times. There was a pause after each 
part, for all ceremonials had to be performed with deliberation. The 
singing of this ritual occupied the greater part of the night. And 
the same rule applieil to these songs as to those belonging to the Sacred 
Pole. An error made it necessary to begin at the first song again, for 
the ritual must go straight through without any break in the order of 
the songs. 

It is a cpiestion with the writers whether the ritual as here given is 
entire. The old keeper-priest gave the songs as a whole and the few 
old men who remembered them declared them correct and complete. 
Still, there may be unintentional omissions. To sing these songs into 
a graphojdione was very different for the old man from giving 
them in their order during the ceremonial, when any omission would 
have been rectified at once by aid of the xu'lca, or prompters. The 
ritual as it here stands is at least fairly complete, and if any songs are 
lacking they would seem to be unimportant to the general outline. 

Part I.— The Pipe 
First Song 

(Sung in octaves) 


J2. jSZ. .^ ♦ 





ba - ha ! 



he - he. 






Tha ni-ba-ha e - tho" be tha - ni - ba- ha, Do° - ba? 

1. Thani'baha 

2. Xu'be hehe 

3. ThaniTja ha, e'tho°be 

4. Thani'baha. Do-'ba 

Literal translation 

1. Thani'ba, an old form of nini'ha, pipe. The Osage use this 
form in daily speech. Ha, vowel prolongation of preceding syllable. 

2. Xu'be, part of waxu'he, an object set apart from ordinary usage 
and made holy; some consecrated thing that is used as a medium of 
communication with the supernatural, with Wako^'da. Hehe, ehe, I 
say; the added h is for euphony in singing. 

3. E'tho"he, appears, comes into view, of its own volition, from a 
covered place, so as to be seen by all. 



[ETII. ANN. 27 

4. Dd^'ha, to see; the word as here used is a part of tlie phrase 
do^'ha iga {do'^ba, to see; i, phiral sign, a number addressed; ga, 
command). The phrase is equivalent to "Behold ye!" 

Free Iranslation 

The holy Pipe! 

Holy, I say. 

Now it appears before you. 

The holy Pipe, behold ye! 

In this song the pipe is not addressed, but speaks through its keeper- 
priest, first by its proper name, then by a term indicative of its func- 
tion; it is then asserted that it "appears" not by any agency of man, 
but by its own power, and commands men to behold. The use of the 
word etho^be gives the key to the meaning of the song — the Pipe 
acts, "appears;" it is not acted upon or made to appear. Although 
so simple and concrete, this song throws more light on the native 
thought and belief in the use of the pipe than any single song the 
writers have found. The pipe is here represented as infused with 
"movement," that special attribute of life, and "appears" to become 
the bearer of man's supplication to Wako°'da. The music fittingly 
clothes the thought expressed in the words and makes a majestic 

opening to the ritual. 

Second Song 

M.M. J=54 (Sung in octaves) 

Ha e - he 

the I 

- u - gth 


he - 

tho° - 

tho"- ba 






^ ■*■ -m- . -7^ 

* ■» . 



■#■ - 

— 1 — . 

— 1 1 — 

-r ■♦ 

— i — ' 

he tliii" be Tha - ni - ni - ba ha 

lie- tho°-tho°-ba- ha he tha 

Tha - ui - ni - ba 

he - tho° - the 

he tha 

1. Niniba, xuba, he lho"lho"ba ha hetho"be 

2. Ha ehe the 

3. lugthe, he tho"tho"ba ha he tho^be 

4. Thaniuiba ha, he tho"tho"ba ha he tha 

5. Ha ehe the 

6. lugthe he tho"tho"ba ha, he tho"be 

7. Thaniniba ha he'tho"tho''ba ha, he tha 




Literal translation 

1 . Nini'ha, pipe ; xuba, part of waxu'be, holy object. The change of 
the final vowel to a is for euphony in singing; Jietho''tho''ha, the same as 
e'tho"he — prefixing of h, doubling of syllable tho", and change of final 
vowel to a are for euphony and to bend the word to the music, ami 
to convey the sound of the breath; ha, vowel prolongation. 

2. Ha, modified form of ho, now, at tliis time; ehe, I say; the, this. 

3. lugthe — i, mouth; ugthe, to insert. 

4. He, a part of eiie, I say; tha, an oratorical sign at the close of the 
sentence, implying something of- a command. 

Free translation 

Holy Pipe, most holy, appear.'^; it appears before you. 

Now I bid ye 
Within your lips take this holy Pipe, holy Pipe. 
The Pipe, it appears, ajjpears before you, I say. 

Now I bid ye 
Within your lips take this holy Pipe, hoh' Pipe. 
The Pipe it appears, appears before you. I say. 

In this song the chiefs, the representatives of the people, are bidden 
to accept the holy Pipe, take it within their lips, that the fragrant 
smoke may carry upward their supplication. Tliis song precedes the 
actual smoking of the Pipe. The music is interesting, as in it the 
motive of the first song is echoed, but it is treated in a way to suggest 
the movement toward the Pipe, which in the first song stood apart, 
clothed with mysterious power. It now comes near and in touch 
with the supplicants and lends itself to service. These two songs 
complement each other and show both dramatic and musical form. 

Part II. — The Supplication 

First Song 


( S a ng in octaves ) 

ha - do° 

e ■ he e - he 

[-last phrase 

♦ » 

tlii -shto° a - do" pa 

1. Kino"8hko"' ha, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto", ado" Pa te shko", ehe a ha 

2. Kino"shko° ha, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado", I"de shko", ehe a ha 

3. Kino"shko" ha, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado", T'shta shko", ehe a ha 

4. Rino"shko" ha, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado". He te shko", ehe a ha 

5. Kino".shko" ha, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado", Nitateshko", ehe a ha 

6. Kino°8hkon ha, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado", No"shki shko", ehe a ha 

7. Kino"8hkon ha, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado", No"ka shko", ehe a ha 

83993°— 27 eth— 11 19 

290 THE OMAHA TRIBE [r.Tii. anx. :27 

8. Kino°shko" ha, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado". Tea shko", ehe a ha 

9. Kino''shko" ha, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado", Mo"ge shko", ehe a ha 

10. Kino"shko" ha, I baluido" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado", Thiti shko", ehe a ha 

11. Kino"shko" ha, I l)ahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado", Zhua;a shko", ehe aha 

12. Kino°shko" Iia, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado", Nixa shko", ehe a ha 

13. Kino"shko" ha, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado", 5i"de shko", ehe a ha 

14. Kino"shko" ha, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado", Imbe shko", ehe a ha 

15. Kino"shko" ha, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado", Zhi"ga shko", ehe a ha 

16. Kino"shko" ha, I bahado" ha, ehe ehe, thishto" ado", ^ite shko", ehe a ha, ^i gthe 

Literal translation 

I. Ki, himself or itself; no^sM-o", movement, action — it moves 
itself; 7ia, end of the sentence; / hahado", conscious, having knowl- 
edge; ha, behold; e?ie, I say; thishto", it is done, it is finished, accom- 
plished; ado^, hado", because; pa te, nose {te, suffix, standing) ; shTco", 
moves; a ha, behold. 

2. I"de', face. 

3. iHhtu', eyes. 

4. He, horns; fe (suffix), standing. 

5. iVito', ears; /c, standing. 

6. No^shJci', head. 

7. No^'l-a, back. 

8. Tea', arm (buffalo arm). 

9. Mo"'ge, breast. 
10. Thi'ti, rihs. 

II. Zhu'ga, body. 

12. Ni'xa, stomach. 

13. g%^'de,iM\. 

14. Im'he, liind quarters. 

15. Zhi^'ga, httle one, the calf. 

16. Qite,ieet; fi ^<?!e, tracks, footprints. 

In this song the creation of the buffalo is depicted. ''Movement" 
is sjTionymous with life. The living embryo moves of itself. Ac- 
cording to native reasoning it moves because it is endowed with 
consciousness. As breath is the sign of life, the nose, whence the 
breath issues, is the first to "move." Next the face moves, then 
the eyes, and so on until all the parts of the body "move" because 
of conscious life. Then the little one, the calf, is bom. Finally as 
the feet move they leave on the earth a sign of life — "tracks."" 

The music is recitative and in a minor key. The emphasis on 
the keynote, of the last word, (/igthe, "tracks," indicates the finality 
of the creation. 

a Oliserve in this connection the peculiar pipe belonging to the Hide (fig. Ii4), in the shape of a track 
of a buffalo hoof. 




(Recitative in octaves ) 

Second Song 

i-thi" lie Nu-ga ha du-di ha i thi° he 

-Vu'ga ha! du'di ha i thi"! ho he 
Nu'ga ha! du'di ha i thi"! he 
Xu'sra ha! du'di ha i thi"! he he 


Zha'wa ha! du'di ha i thi"! he he 
Zha'wa ha! du'di ha i thi"! he 
Zha'wa ha! du'di ha i thi"! he he 

Mi'ga ha! du'di ha i thi"! he he 
Mi'ga ha! du'di ha i thi"! he 
Mi'sa ha! du'di ha i thi"! he he 

Zhi"'ga ha! du'di ha i thi"! he he 
Zhi"'ga ha! du'di ha i thi"! he 
ZM"'ga ha! du'di ha i thi"! he he 

Texi he du'di ha i thi"! he he 
Texi he du'di ha i thi"! he 
Texi he du'di ha i thi"! he he 

Literal tniitsliition 

1. Nu'ga, male, bull. The word is here used in a generic sense. 
Ha, sign showing that the male is adilressed; du'di ha, nearer this 
way; i, come; thi", sign showing that the object spoken of is moving; 
he he, ehe, I say — the h is added for euphony in singing. 

2. Zha'wa, large, majestic, imposing; zha'wa ha!, O majestic one! 

3. Mi'ga, cow, female. The word is here generic and not sj^ecific. 
Mi'ga ha!, O mother one ! 

4. Zhi"'ga, little. — the word refers to the young of the buffalo; 
zhi"'ga ha!, O httle one! 

5. Texi, difficult to accomplish; he, ha, the sign of address. 

This song is closely related to the preceding. In the first stanza 
of this supplicating song the newborn male moving yonder is ad- 
dressed and asked to come nearer this way — that is, toward man, 
for whose benefit he was created. In the second stanza the male 
has grown, has reached maturity, and presents the imposing appear- 



[ETII. ANN. 27 

ance of the bullalo hull. He is asked to come nearer with all his 
powers, that man may be helped to live. In the third stanza, the 
female, the mother with all her potency, is addressed, and bidden 
to come nearer toward waiting mankind to yield him food. The 
fourth stanza addresses the calf, with its promise of growth and of 
a future supply of food. The calf is bidden, as were its progenitors, 
to come nearer and give food to man. In the fifth stanza the word 
texi is used as a trope. It refers to the great power of Wako'''da 
as shown in the vast herds brought about by the multiplication of 
single pairs. These moving herds are asked, supplicated, to come 
nearer to man, to yield him food and life. 

The music is the five-tone scale of F major. Although divided 
into three phases it is recitative in character and the motive is 
similar to the preceding song, to which it is related. 

(Sung in octaves) 

Third Song 

J^ -j -4J a- 

In-to" a-i 

ba do" ha - i bi hi the zho''-s;e he she-no''-ha ge tho° 

1. I "to" ai bado" ha ibi'hi the, zho°ge he .sheno"ha ge tho° 
•2. I "to" ai bado" ha ibi'hi the, 'to" ai bado" ha ibi'hi the 
3, Yo, yo, duda 

Literal translation 

1. lHo'\ now, at the present time; ai iado", they coming; h<t, end 
of sentence; ibi'he, they are coming; the, tha, oratorical close of sen- 
tence; z'ho"ge, v.zfw'ge, path or paths; lie, vowel prolongation; 
she'no"lia, all; ge, many; tho", the. 

2. 'To", i^'iu", now. 

3. Yo, come — a form of call; dudo, this way. 

In this supplicatory song the "moving henls" s])oken of in the 
previous song are now drawing near, converging by many paths 
toward num. Such was the motive of their birth, to benefit man, 
to respond to his supplications and yield their life when he reverently 
calls them: Yo, yo, duda! — "this way, hither come!" The music 
is in the five-tone scale of F sharp minor. The call is on the key- 
note an octtive and a fifth below the opening of the song, which is 
recitative in form, tind follows the motive of the two ])receding songs, 
to which it is related. 


(Sung in octaves) 

Fourth Song 



-*v-*— ^ 



Wi-ax-chi ha ha - i lii hi the wi-ax-chi ha ha a - i bi hi the 

Wi - ax-r'hi-ha ha - i bi hi the 

\vi - ax - chi - ha ha- i bi hi 


wi-ax-chi ha- ha - i bi - hi the wi - ax - ehi ha 


bi hi 

Wiaxchi ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Wiaxrhi ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Wiaxrhi ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Wiaxchi ha, hai Iji 'hi the 

No°ba ha, hai bi 'hi the 
No°ba ha, hai bi 'hi the 
No"ba ha, hai bi 'hi the 
No"ba ha, hai bi 'hi 


Thabthi" ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Thabthi" ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Thabthi" ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Thabthi" ha, hai bi 'hi 

Duba ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Duba ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Duba ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Duba ha, hai bi 'hi 

5ato" ha, hai bi 'hi the 
fato" ha, hai bi 'hi the 
^ato" ha, hai bi 'hi the 
fato" ha, hai bi 'hi 

Shape ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Shape ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Shape ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Shape ha, hai bi 'hi 


Petho"b:i h;i, 'i l)i 'hi the 
Petho"lj;i hu, 'i bi 'hi the 
Petho"ba h;i, 'i bi 'hi the 
Petho"l)a ha, 'i bi 'hi 


Pethabthi" ha, 'i bi "hi the 
Pethabthi" ha, 'i bi 'hi the 
Pethabthi" ha, 'i bi 'hi the 
Pethabthi" ha, 'i bi 'hi 

Slio"ka ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Sho"ka ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Sho"ka ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Sho°ka ha, hai bi 'hi 


Gthebo" ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Gthebo" ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Gthel)o'' ha, hai bi 'hi the 
Gthebo" ha, hai bi 'hi 


0"geda ha, 'i bi 'hi the 
0°geda ha, 'i bi 'hi the 
Cgeda ha, 'i bi 'hi the 
0°geda ha, 'i bi 'hi 

Litiriil Irnnxlatioii 

1. ^Yiaxclli, one; lia uilded to the word makes it to mean "in one 
direction;" hai, ai, they are coming — the h is added for euphony in 
singing ; bi, are ; 'hi, a part of ehe, I say — the final vowel is changed for 
euphony; the, the same as tlui, the oratorical end of the sentence. 

2. No"ba ha, two directions. 

3. Thabthi^ ha, three directions. 

4. Duba ha, four directions. 

5. Cato" ha, five directions. 

6. Shape ha, six directions. 

7. Pethn^ba ha, seven directions; 'i, contraction of ai, they are 

8. Petluibthi" ha, eight directions. 

9. Sho^l'a ha, nine directions. 

10. (rthf'ho" ha, ten directions. 

11. 0"ge(la ha, from every direction. 

In this song the "moving herds" are depicted as coming wherever 
man can turn; they cover tlie face of the earth; they approach him 
from every direction. 0°'geda is one of the ni'hie names in the 
Ho°'ga gens and was taken from this ritual. The old priest shook 
his head as he sang this stanza and in a broken voice he repeated the 




word o'^'geda, meamng the buffalo are coming from everywhere, and 
added • "Not now! not now!" Wako"'da's promises seemed to him 
to havelaeen swept away. He could not face what appeared to be 
a fact nor could he understand it. 

The music follows the five-tone scale of E major; tlie movement 
of the phrase is dignified and lends itself well to imison singing. 

Part III. — Assurance nf Wahon'da 
M (Sung in octaves) 


.Slia-(le he sha-de 


-r — '-r-. ^ — I- 






ha- ne he 












Shade he shade he tha ha 
Nuga hane 'he tha lia 
Nuga hane 'he tha ha 

Shade he shade 'he tha ha 
Zhawa hane 'he tha ha 
Zhawa hane 'he tha ha 

Shade he shade he tha ha 
Miga hane 'he tha ha 
Miga hane 'he tha ha 

Shade he shade he tha ha 
Zhi°ga hane 'he tha ha 
Zhi"ga hane 'he tha ha 

Shade he shade he tha ha 
Texi hane 'he tha ha 
Texi hane 'he tha ha 

Literal translation 

1. Shade, it is done — a declaration of something accomplished; Tie, 
part of ehe, I say; tha ha, oratorical close of the sentence, calling at- 
tention to an important declaration; nuga, male; hane, you have; 
'he, ehe, I say. 

2. Zhawa, majestic one. 

3. Miga, female, mother one. 

4. Zhi^ga, little one, calf. 

5. Texi, difficult to accomplish. 



[ETII. ANN. 27 

In tliis song Wako"'ila gives assurance that man's supplication for 
the animals desired for his food has been heard. In it the form of the 
second song of Part II is repeated, both as to words, and mifsic, with 
the difference that the act supplicated by man in the first song is here 
stated authoritatively as accomplished. The change in the motive 
of the music after the second he in the fu'st measure is marked and 
emphasizes the meaning of the words of the entire song, wliich was 
explained to be the emphatic assertion, ehe, "1 say," of Wako^'da 
that the provision for the perpetuation of the buffalo and the creation 
of the "moving herds" was because of the needs of man, and to give 
him food in abundance. The music is in D minor and is recitative 
in character. 

Part IV.— The Hunt 

First Song — The Chiefs and the Council 

M. M. 1 = 58 (Snng in octaves) 

1110'' zlio" ho" tho e tho - e 

- ft — J • < — r * J . — s ^ *- 

Wi - e to" thi" hi tha - e 



to"- thi" hi 





te do" 

Be to" thi" hi 

e te - do" 


-« • * 0- 


-* — •- 

ino°-zho°-ho" thu - e tho e te do" 

Wi - e to°-thi" 





-0 — • — •- 


hi tha e te do" a - me to" thi" hi i - e te do" 

1. 'Be to"thi" hi ie te do" 

2. 'Be 'to''thi" hi ie te do" 

3. Mo''zho" ho"' thoe' thoe te do" 

4. Wi eto"thi" hithae te do" anie, to"thi" hi te te do" 

5. 'Be 'to"thi" hi ie te do" 

6. Mo°zho° ho" 'thoe'thoe te do" 

7. Wi eto"thi" hithae te do" ame, to"thi° hi ie te do" 


Literal translation 

1. Be, ebe, who; 'toHhi^, efoHhi", first; 7ii, the prolongation of the 
last vowel sound; ie, speak; te, must; do", a terminal word or syllable 
to indicate a question. 

3. Mo"zho'\ land or country; ho'^, prolongation of vowel sound; 
'tJioe, uihue, to speak of. 

4. Wi, I (the cliiefs) ; etoHTii"^, first ; Mthae, I speak — the cliiefs must 
speak with one mind and voice; ame, they say (the people). 

The above song refers to the preliminary council held by the Seven 
Chiefs with the Washa'beto" subgens of the Ho°'ga, wliich had charge 
of the hunt, at wliich the route to be taken by the tribe when going 
after the buffalo was determined. The responsibility thrown on this 
council was regarded as very grave. Tliis responsibility is indi- 
cated by the question in the first line: "Wlio must be the first to 
speak," speak of the land (the route to be taken)? The fourth line 
gives the answer: "I" (the cluefs), "I speak" (the chiefs must 
speak as with one mind, as one jjerson) ; ame, they say (i. e. the 
people, the words implying the authority placed on the chiefs by 
the people; see definition of ni'lcagahi, p. 136). The song not only 
refers to the council and its deliberations in reference to the hunt 
but it voices the loyalty of the people to their chiefs and also the 
recognition by the chiefs of their responsibility for the welfare of 
the tribe. While the words refer only to the "land," the route to be 
traveled by the tribe, the music fills out the picture of the purpose 
of the journey. The motive is similar to that of the second song of 
Part II, that deals with the perpetuation of the buffalo and the mov- 
ing herds, and also recalls the Song of Assurance in Part III. The 
song is divided into seven phrases and is in the five-tone scale of D 


Second Sono — The People Move Toward the Lowing Herds 
(Sung in octaves) 

Hu - to" 




Hu- to" ma di 

wa - pi e - he 

Huto°'ma 'di wapi, ehe tha 
Huto^'ma 'di wapi, ehe tha 
Huto"'ma 'di wapi, ehe tha 
Huto"'ma 'di wapi, ehe tha 
Huto"'ma 'di wapi, ehe tha 
Huto^'ma 'di wapi, ehe tha 
Huto°'ma 'di wapi, ehe tha 

Xthazhe ama 'di 
Xthazhe ama 'di 
Xthazhe ama 'di 
Xthazhe ama 'di 
Xthazhe ama 'di 
Xthazhe ama 'di 
Xthazhe ama 'di 

waj)!, ehe tha 
wapi, ehe tha 
wapi, ehe tha 
wapi, ehe tha 
wapi, ehe tha 
wapi, ehe tha 
wapi, ehe tha 

Literal translation 

1. Huto", the noise^of the animals, as the lowing of the herds; 
ma, ama, they; 'di, a part of the word edi, tlicre; wapi, to bring (bthe, 
I go, is understood, although the word bthe is not present in the 
song) — "I go to the lowing herds to bring back the product of the 
hunt," is the meaning of the line; ehe, I say; tha, the oratorical close 
of the sentence. 

2. Xthazhe, the bellowing of the bulls. 




The music of this song is spirited and suggests movement, not 
merely the moving of the lowing herds but the orderly progression of 
the people going over the prairies to bring back the spoils of the hunt- 
ing field. It is in the five-tone scale of F minor, and is divided into 
seven phrases. 

Third Soxg — The Herds Retreat 

(Sung in octaves) 

-tmz a a 


Shu- dea-ki a- ma di bthe na he he the he tha 

-•-- 0- 

de a - ki 

di bthe na lie lie the he tha shu 


-^ -'—»—» • I *- 

-» . ■*•-»•.■»■•*•.■*■ "— 

de a- ki a- ma dibtlie na he he the he tha He he he bthe-na 


he he the he na shu -de a - ki a - ma di bthe na 



jT"— •— «-i— «— #- 


he he the he tha Shu de a - ki a - ma di the tha 

Shu'de aki ama 'di bthe na, hehe the he tha 
Shu'de aki ama 'di bthe na, hehe the he tha 
Shu'de aki ama 'di bthe na, hehe the he tha 
Hehe he bthe na, hehe the he na 
Shu'de aki ama 'di bthe na, hehe the he tha 
Shu'de aki ama 'di bthe na, hehe the he tha 

Literal translation 

Shu'de, smoke; alt, retreating; ama, they; 'di, a part of edi, there; 
hthe, T go; na, a vocable introduced to accommodate the music; hehe, 
ehe,l say; the and he, vowel prolongations; tJia, the oratorical termina- 
tion of the sentence. "Where yonder retreating herds enveloped as 
in smoke, there I go.'' 

The song recounts the vicissitudes of the hunt; herds sometimes 
scent the people and scatter; they are seen in the distance, the dust 
raised by their trampling rising and covering them as if enveloped 
in smoke. 

The music, in B flat major, is rather rapid and partakes of the 
recitative character. 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

Fourth Sono — The Runners Go Forth 

(Sung in octaves) 

Wu - zbi° - ga sa - be ga- wi" - xa 

ne the 

Ga - wi° 

a - hi° 


hi" u-ne the he Ga-wi" - xa 

hi° u-ne the he Ga-wi" - xa 

Wazhi^ga ?abe gawi"xa 
Ahi° une the he gawi°xa 
Ahi" une the he gawi^xa 
Ahi" une the he gawi^xa 
Ahi" une the he gawi^xa 

Literal translation 

Wazhi'^'ga, bird ; fahe, black — the word is used as a trope and means 
the crow; gawi^xe, soaring; aM", wings; une, to search; the, to go, 
or goes; Ae, vowel prolongation. 

The crow follows the herds — "He is a buffalo hunter," the old man 
explained. "He watches to find his chance for carrion." So, when 
the runners go out to search for herds, they scan the sky to catch 
sight of the crow and other birds of prey, that they may direct their 
steps in the direction of the soaring birds. Wl^en the herds are found, 
credit is given to the guiding birds who thus lend their assistance to 
man when searching for the game. (Note the ritual in which the 
crow promises to help man, p. 311.) 

The music, in A major, is recitative in form, but resembles the 
motive of the buffalo songs already referred to in Part II. 


Fifth Song — Return of the Runners 
( Sung in octaves ) 



J:=^===!:= ^£J ' '—*^^ s=:^i^ 


E- thon-be a - ke - da lia lia lia 5a - e ti - the a- wa-the 



E- thon-be a - ke - da lia ha ha 5a - e ti - the a- wa-the 

^ — 0^ — — »_= — — #-=- = — = =- ^ • 

E- thon-be a - ke - da ha ha ha 5a - e ti the a-wa-tlie 




E- tlion-be a - ke - da ha ha ha 5a - e ti the a-wa-the 


E- thon-be a - ke ■ da ha ha ha ja - e ti tLe a-wa-the 

Etho''be ake da ha ha ha, fae tithe awa the 
Etho^be ake da ha ha ha, fae tithe awa the 
Etho^be ake da ha ha ha, gae tithe awa the 
Etho^be ake da ha ha ha, fae tithe awa the 
Etho"be ake da ha ha ha, gae tithe awa the 

Etho''be ake da ha ha ha, wezhno" tithe awathe 
Etho^be ake da ha ha ha, wezhno" tithe awathe 
Etho^be ake da ha ha ha, wezhno" tithe awathe 
Etho^be ake da ha ha ha, wezhno° tithe awathe 
Etho"be ake da ha ha ha, wezhno" tithe awathe 

Etho^be ake da ha ha ha, gtho^gtho" tithe awathe 
Etho^be ake da ha ha ha, gtho"gtho° tithe awathe 
Etho°be ake da ha ha ha, gtho^gtho" tithe awathe 
Etho"be ake da ha ha ha, gthoogtho" tithe awathe 
Etho°be ake da ha ha ha, gtho''gtho'' tithe awathe 

Literal translation 

1. Etho'^he, appear; al-e, aki, I return; e, vowel prolonged; da, do'^, 
when; Tia, end of sentence; ha ha, vowel prolonged; f«p, noise, as 
made by voices; tithe, suddenly; awathe, I make them. 

2. Wezhno'^, grateful. 

3. Gtho^gtho^, murmur, as many people talking in low tones. 



[ETH. ANM. 27 

The runnor speaks in the song, telhng tliat when he appears on 
the eminence near the camp and signals his tidings, then suddenly 
the sound of many voices is heard, the people talking of the good 
news he brings. The second stanza speaks of the gratitude voiced 
by the jieople over the word he brings to them. The tloird stanza 
refers to the restraint that is put on the camp — no loud talking 
permitted, nor any noise, for fear of frightening the herd. 

The music is in E major and is recitative and subdued in character. 
Even the song is repressed in conformity with tiie scene to which it 
is related. 

Sixth Song — The Herald Tells op the Decree and Admonitions of the Council 


(Sung in octaves) 

te e - a tho°- ka a tlia ha E - tli shue tee-atho°-ka a tha ha 

tha ha 

Wanita a'no°(;e e ta ania ha, edi shne te ea tho''ka a tha ha edi shne te ea tho''ka a 

tha ha 
Wato" 'thohe tha ha; edi shne te ea tho°ka a tha ha, edi shne te ea tho"ka a tha lia 

wani ta a'n(j"ie e ta ama ha edi shne te ea tho"ka a tha ha 


Wanita a'no"(,e e la ama ha, edi shne te ea tho^ka a tha lia, edi shne te ea tho"ka a 

tha ha 
(,'abe uthohe tha ha; edi shne te ea tho''ka a tha ha, edi shne ic ea tho''ka a tha ha 

wani'ta a'no°ve e ta ama ha, edi shne t'e ea tho°ka a tha La 


AVani'ta a'tio^cye e ta ama ha, edi shne te ea tho"ka a tha ha, edi shne te ea tho"ka a 

tha ha 
Gthezhe uthohe tha ha; edi shne te ea tho^ka a tha ha, edi shne te ea tho°ka a tha ha 

wani'ta a'no^oe e ta ama ha, edi shne te ea tho^ka a tha ha 

Wani'la a'uCi.'e e ta ama ha, edi shne te ea tho^ka a tha ha, edi shne te ea tho°ka a 

tha ha 
Gani uthohe tha ha; edi shne te ea tho°ka a tha ha, edi shne te ea tho''ka a tha ha 

wani'ta a'nonfe e ta ama ha, edi shne te ea tho"ka a tha ha 

Wani'ta a'no^fe e ta ama ha, edi shne te ea tho"ka a tha ha, edi shne te ea tho°ka a 

tha ha 
Gashpe uthuhe tha ha; edi shne te ea tho"ka a tha ha, edi shne te ea tho°ka a tha ha 

wani'ta a'no^fe e ta ama ha, edi shne te ea tho"ka a tha ha 

Wani'ta a no°<;e e ta ama ha, edi shne te ea tho"ka a tha ha, edi shne te ea tho"ka a 

tha ha 
Texi uthohe tlia ha; edi shne te ea tho^ka a tha ha, edi shne te ea tho"ka a tha ha 

wani'ta a 'no"'fe e ta ama ha, edi shne te ea tho"ka a tha ha 

Wani'ta a'no^ye e ta ama lia, edi shne te ea tho°ka a tha ha, edi shne te ea tho°ka a 

tha ha 
fani uthuhe tha ha; edi shne te ea tho"ka a tha ha, edi shne te ea tho°ka a tha ha 

wani'ta a'no\e e ta ama ha, edi shne te ea tho"ka a tha ha 

Literal translation 

1. Wani'ta, animals, game; OTW'^pe, surround, inclose; e, vowel pro- 
longation; ta, will, intention; ama, they; ha, the sign of the end of 
the sentence; edi, there; shne, you go; te, must; ea tho^Tca, say they, 
who are sitting (refers to council in the White Buffalo Tent); a, vowel 
prolongation; ha, modification of tha, the oratorical close of a sentence; 
wato^\ possessions; 'tliohe, part of uthohe, a collection of sacred articles 
(refers particularly to all the materials used in making the washa'he, 
the staff or badge of the office of the leader of the hunt). 

2. ^ahe, black (used as a trope, meaning the crow, one of the birds 
used in making the washa'he). 

3. Gthezhe, spotted or brown eagle (used in making the umsha'he). 

4. Gani, the golden eagle (the feathers are tied on the washa'he). 

5. Gash,pe, broken (a trope, meaning the shell disk fastened on the 
pipestem. These disks were presented to the White Buffalo Hide 
and fastened in a row down the back). 

6. Texi, difficult to perform (the word refers to the labor involved 
in securing the materials used in making the washa'he). 

7. (,'ani, all — that is, not onl}' the "possessions," but what they 
in their collective form stand for officially. 

304 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

In lliis song of the herald the people are notified that the council 
has orilered the hunters to make ready to surround the herd. They 
are to follow the washa'be, and to remember all that it signifies and 
the help given by the birds — the crow, the eagle — and the elements, 
represented by the shell. All these things, difficult to bring together, are 
now united to lead the people toward the herd and to help them in secur- 
ing food wherewith to sustain the life of the people, both young and old. 

The music, in E flat major, is recitative. 

Seventh Song — The Herald Proclaims the Time to Start 
(Sung in octaves) ^^ 

Ti-tlio" ga-wi° ki- hi bthe-e fka lia a ha a - ma he- he the- he tha 
=, = ^?S— ^ , 


Ti-tho° ga-wi" ki- hi btlie-e fka ha a ha a-ma he-he the- lie tha 

z ^_i — —— — J . r I . — 1^-,- — I — — - -■ -•-g — y • - -• ■ 

■•■■••■•• -* ■•■ . 
Ga - thi° de ho ho o lio a-ma lie he the he tha Ti-tho° ga-wi° ki hi 


—i P 1 P 1= !-^^^ ^ 

d » S it-i — ^ — « # I I j ^ 


-* -•• • ■♦■ -•• " -•• 

bthe e te e fka a a ha a - ma he he the he tha 

Titho" gawi"' ki hi bthe e vka ha a ha ama hehe the he tha 
Titho" gawi"' ki hi bthe e rka ha a ha ama hehe the he tha 
Gathi" 'deho' ho o ho ama hehe the he tha 
Titho" gawi°' ki hi bthe e te e gka a a ha ama hehe the he tha 

Literal translation 

1. Tithd^, village, camp; gawi^, part of gawi"xe, to circle, as a bird 
soars; H, when; M, vowel prolongation; hthe, I go; e, vowel pro- 
longation; flea, may; Tiaaha, vowel prolongation; ama, they; hehe, 
ehe, I say; e he, vowel prolongation; tha, oratorical close of the 

3. Gathi^, yonder walking; 'deho, edea, what does he say? (the final 
vowel changed); ho o ho, vowel prolongation. 

4. Te, must. 

In this song the figure of speech, which likens the herakl going 
aroinid the camp to the soaring and circling of a bird, recalls the song 
of the runner when the birds by their soaring guided to the game. 
The herald left the Sacred Tent of the White Bufl'alo Hide and 
passed around the tribal circle by the left; the completion of his 
round by liis return to the Sacred Tent was the signal that the tribe 
had been notifietl and the people were to start. The song refers to the 
questioning of the people as he walked giving the order of the leader. 

The music, in G minor, is recitative. 




Eighth Song — The Hunting Field 

(Sung in octaves) Harmonized by John C. Fillmore for interpretation on the piano 

Spirited, loith marked rhythm 

-^— #- 




-*— #- 


Wi°a-u the thi° ga thu hi-thi° he Wi°a-n the thi" ga thii hi thi° 

n J ^^ J -^^ -^^ , 

-^— * 

*- * I g> — = — — •- 




'K^^ ^-' 

-*— *- 


i sj-S- ^i 

-*— *- 

-#— #- 


the- thi" ga thu hi thi" he he wi°a-u the thi" ga thu hi thi° he he 





-*— *- 

— rN-3 *- 

-♦ ' -»■ —Y ^ 




r t T 



r r 

Wi" au the thi'' gathu hi thi" he 
Wi" au the thi" gathu hi thi" he he 
Wi" au the i wami hi thi" he 
Wi" au the thi" gathu hi thi" he he 
\Vi ° au the thi " gathu hi thi " he 

Wi" au the thi" gathu hi thi" he 
M^i" au the thi" gathu hi thi" he he 
Wi" au the takiki" hi thi" he 
Wi" au the thi" gathu hi thi" he 
Wi" au the thi" gathu hi thi" he 

83993°— 27 eth— 11- 




[ETH. ANN. 27 

Wi" au the ke gathu hi ke he 
Wi" au the ke gathu hi ke he he 
Wi" au the xiatha hi ke he 
Wi" au the ke gathu hi ke he he 
Wi° au the ke gathu hi ke he 

Literal translation 

1. Wi", one; au, I wounded; the, there; thi'^, moving; gathu, yon- 
der, in a definite place; hi, has reached or arrived at; <M", moving; 
he, ha, the end of the sentence; i, mouth; wand, blood or bleeding. 

2. TahiJci'^, staggering. 

3. A>, lying; a;iaiAa, fallen. 

In this song, the wounded, bleeding, staggering, and fallen game 
is referred to. 

The music, in C major, is vigorous, virile, and suggestive of action. 

Ninth Soncj — Cutting Up the Game 

(Sung in octaves) 

I" thi" -wo"- tho" ga 

gtho" ho° yi i - hi i° thi" wo°-tho° ga ha 

i" thi° wo°-tho° ga 

l" thi° wo°-tho'' ga in gtho° ho" 51 

■ 1 

I" thi" wo^tho" ga i"gtho" ho° fiihi i" thi" \vo"tho'' ga ha 
I" thi" wo°tho° ga i'lgtho" ho" ^-iihi i" thi" wo^tho" ga ha 
1" thi" vvo°tho" ga i°gtho'' ho° fiihi i" thi" \vo"tho" ga ha 


1° thi" haho" ga i°gtho" ho" pa tho" ho" i" thi" baho" ga ha 
I" thi" baho" ga i"gtho° ho" pa tho" ho" i" thi" baho" ga ha 
I" thi" baho" ga i"gtho" ho" pa tho" ho" i" thi" baho" ga ha 

I" thi" wo"tho" ga i°gtho" ho" (,'i"de he i" thi" wo"tho" ga ha 
I" thi" \vo°tho" ga i"gtho" ho" vi"de he i" thi" wo"tho" ga ha 
I" thi" wo°tho" ga i°gtho" ho" t;i"de he i" thi" wo"tho" ga ha 

Literal translation 

1. 7", mine; thi", you; wo"tho", hold; ga, the sign of command; 
i"gtho", eldest son; ^o", prolongation of the vowel sound; (iihi, fihi, 
ankle (the middle i is to prolong the vowel). 

2. Baho", to push up, to bot)st; jia, head; tho", the roundish shape 
of the head ; ho", vowel prolongation. 

3. (7i"(^e, tail; Ae, vowel prolongation. 


Tlie customs relating to cutting up the game have been given 
(p. 271). The first stanza of this song refers to the hunter direct- 
ing his assistants during the butchering, phicing the animal on its 
back; the second stanza, putting the head so as to hold the body in 
position; the third speaks of the tail, used to lift the carcase in order 
that the task may be completed. 

The music, in E flat, is recitative rather than melodic in character. 

Tenth Sono — Of Plenty and Economy 
(Sung in octaves) 


Te - a^i ke tha te - a-a-a Te-a - a-a mi-kehetha thi" he he 

Tea miketha, tea a, tea a, mikehetha thi" he 
Literal trmulation 

Tea, buffalo arm, the fore quarter; a, vowel prolongation; miketha 
milcihethe, to put on the hip; thi'^, moving (equivalent in this instance 
to walking) ; he, end of sentence. 

Teaching economy : The fore quarter, being tough, was the least 
desirable part of the animal for food, and was frequently thi-own 
away. Wlien the hunter took it, he did not carry it with the rest of 
his load, but on his hip, so he could drop it if it became too burden- 
some. The meaning of the song could hardly be gathered from the 
words. It was explained that the song indicated a plentiful supply 
of meat; but the good hunter, unwilling that anytliing should be 
lost, took the fore quarter, the most undesirable piece, and, being 
heaAaly laden, he had to carry it on liis hip. The song, the old priest 
said, was one to instill the teaching that even when there is abun- 
dance there shoukl never be wastefulness. 

The music, in C niajor, is recitative. 

Eleventh Song — Return to the Camp 


(Sling in octaves) 

ki a-nia-hawa - 110° xthi" a - hasrthe a - ma- lia do° 

i^^^^^E^^:EE E^;EE:^EE^E^==J^^E E^ 

gthe a - ma ha She a - ki - a - ma-ha ki - a - uia-hu 

She aki ama, haki ama ha Wai" 'ki ama ha, wano"xthi" ahagthe ama ha do", wai° 

'gthe ama ha 
She aki ama, haki ama ba 

308 TIIK UMAllA TKIBK [eth. axx. 27 

l.ilrriil Iniiisliitioii 

She, yonder: aki, a point on tho return (to camp); ama, one mov- 
ing; haM, ahi, returning to camp; ha, vowel prolongation; wai", car- 
rying a burden: hi, aki, returning: ir(iiio".r(}ii", hurrying: ahagthe, 
agthi, going home; gtlie, agtlu , going home. 

The huntei-s ha^sten back to camp, and, as they go, see one hurrying 
with a burden. This i.s one of the boy.-^, who is carrying the tongues 
and heart for the sacred feast. All are going home. 

The music is recitative. 

Twelfth Song — Thk Beiated Hixters 
(Snug in octaves) 

he-e he lii-mi>° ha ha Bi zi e - ba bi - mo» Bi-zi a-ba bi-mo" 

Texi ehe bimo"' aha, a 
Bimo"' aha a e tha 
He ehe bimo"' lia lia 
Bizi a ha ha bimo"' 
Bizi aha ha bimo"' 


Texi ehe bimo"' aha, a 
Bimo"' aha a e tha 
He ehe bimo"' ha ha 
Shade eha bimo"' 
. Shade eha bimo"' 

Texi ehe bimo"' aha, a 
Bimo"' aha a e tha 
He ehe bimo"' ha ha 
Zia ha ha bimo"' 
Zia ha ha ha naxthi" 

Literal translation 

1. Texi, ilitticidt: ihe. I say: himo"', rubbing (bi. to press; mo", rub- 
bing, as between the hands): aha, ehe, I say (the vowel modified in 
singing) ; fl, ha, tha, syllables indicating prolonged effort : ii^i — bi, part 
of bimo"', to rub, zi, yellow (the word describes the appearance of the 
wood when it begins to glow, anil is used only to imlicate the act of 
making fire l)y rubbing). 

2. Shmh, smoke. 

3. Zia, 3"ellow glow: naxthi". flames 


This song refers to edi'nethe, building a fire on the hunting Held by 
hunters who have killed so much game they can not get througii in 
time to carry all the meat back to camp. The words mark the prog- 
ress of kindling fire by friction, twirling one stick in another stick 
prepared to receive it, by rubbing between the hands — first the glow, 
then the smoke, and at last the yellow flames. The rhythm of the 
rubbing can be brought out in the singing of the song, as well as the 
efforts used in kindling the fire. Wliile this song is realistic, yet 
the making of fire by friction was always an act more or less fraught 
with religious sentiment and it probably was esteemed a fitting close 
to the ritual sacred to the buffalo. 

In hunting the buffalo no songs invoking magicid help were sung 
or decoy calls usetl or disguises worn, success being believed to come 
through the strict observance of the ritual by the leader, the obedience 
of the tribe to the presciibed rites, and the skill of the individual hunter. 
From the detailed description of the Omaha tribal hunt here given, 
as it was told the writers by those who had taken part in it both as 
officials and as ordinary himters, it is evident that the Omaha's hunt- 
ing was not a sporting adventure but a task undertaken with solemnity 
and with a recognition of the control of all life by Wako"'da. The 
Indian's attitude of mind when slaying animals for food was foreign 
to that of the white race with which he came into contact and perhaps 
no one thing has led to greater misunderstandings between the races 
than the slaughter of game. The bewilderment of the Indian result- 
ing from the destruction of the buffalo will probably never be fully 
appreciated. His social and religious customs, the outgrowth of cen- 
turies, were destroyed almost as with a single blow. The past may 
have witnessed similar tragedies but of them we have no record. 


An old man, a leader among the Ponca, who died some fifteen years 
ago, related the following: 

WTien I was a young man I used to see a very old man perform this ceremony and 
recite the ritual of the Feast of the Soldiers. This feast took place when many buffalo 
had Vjeen killed, when food was plenty, and everyone was happy. The hu'thuga was 
made complete and a large tent pitched, where were gathered all those who were 
entitled to be present. ^Tien the feast was ready, a bowl containing soup and bit-s of 
meat was placed near the docjr of the lodge and the leader said, as the bowl was set 
down, "It is done I" ^\^len the leader said this the old man went to the bowl and took 
it up and held it as he sat and began to recite the ritual. The ritual is in four parts. 
There are two names mentioned in the ritual. The name mentioned after the first 
part was A'thi^washe. This name belonged to the Wazha'zhe gens. The name men- 
tioned after the second part I can not recall; it belonged to the Mako° gens. \Vhen 
the first name was mentioned the old man made a depression in the ground near the 
edge of the fire with the knuckle of his first finger and into this depression he dropped 
four drops from the tip of the little spoon which was in the bowl. The offering was to 
the spirit of this man. At the end of the second part, when he mentioned the name 
of the second man, he again dropped four drops from the tip of the spoon. At the end 

310 THE OMAHA TKIBE [eth. ANN. 27 

of the third part, wliich referred to the wdlf, he dropped four more drops and at the 
close of the fourth part, in which the crow is spoken of, he dropped four drops, making 
four times four — sixteen drops in all. 

After this ceremony was completed the servant approached the one who presided 
and fed him from the bowl. He took the food deliberately and solemnly. He was 
fed all that was in the bowl. When he finished, those present could begin to eat. 
Each person who had his l>owl could take only four spoonfuls and must then pass his 
bowl to his ne.\t neighbor, who took four spoonfuls and passed the bowl on. In this 
manner the bowl was kept mov-ing until the feast was consumed. 

The followinc;; is the ritual recited on this occasion. Of line 2 the 
old man said: "The teaching implied ui these words is that thus the 
chiefs had spoken, and there is never any variation or change in these 
words." And of line 9 he said: "It is said that the club as the badge 
or mark of the chief or leader was older than the pipe." The red 
clubs mentioned in the ritual represented the chiefs, the black clubs 
the officers of the hunt. Concerning the dropping of the brotli he 
remarked: "The chiefs, although long dead, are still living and still 
exercise a care over the people and seek to promote their welfare; 
so we make the offering of food, the support of our life, in recognition 
of them as still our chiefs and caring for us." 


1. He! Ni'kagahi efka 

2. Esha bi a bado" 

3. He! Ni'kagahi evka 

4. Ni'to-'ga athite uthishi ke tho" 

5. He! ni uwitha ati thagthi" bado" 

6. He! Ni'kagahi ecka 


7. E no° atho"ka bi abado" e<,'ka 

8. He! Ni'kagahi 

9. He! weti" duba fa'be tha bado" 

10. Duba zhide tha bado" 

11. gabe the te tho" 

12. Thuda the thL"ge xti abthi" ta athi" he esha l)iabado° ni'kawaca 

13. vShi"gazhi"ga wiwita xti thi"ke shti wa" 

14. Thuda agitha mo°zhi ta mike esha bi abado" evka 


15. He! ugaxe thi°ge xti ni'kawaca 

16. Wani'ta to"ga duba utha agthi bado" 

17. Edi aino"zhi bado" 

18. Ni'kawaca efka 

19. Wani'ta .shukato" wi° 

20. Ushte' thi"ge xti gaxa bado" 

21. U'zhawa xti agtha bado" 

22. Wai"'gi uzho"ge ke washi" uno"bubude xti mo^thi" bado' 

23. Sho"'to"ga nuga thathi".she tho" 

24. gi"de ke gaathiko" 

25. Kigthi'ho"ho"xti mo°bthi" ta athi" he edi eshe abado" 



26. He! ni'lcawa^a efka 

27. Ka'xe luiga thathi''she tho" 

28. Ugaxe thi"ge xti edi uwehe ta athi^he eshe abado" 

29. Xu'ka edi uwehe ta athi"he eshe abado" 

30. He! nikashiga aho! ethabi wathe ego" mo°thi"' aho" 

31. Baxu wi" thaftube ego° ithe ado" 

32. Go"te zhi">ga ego° monhi" ki 

33. Baxu ke ibiu xti ethu"be gthi abado" 

34. He! nikashiga aho! etha bi wathe ego" ethu"l)e gthia do" 

35. Baxu ke the" ethu"be gthi ki 

36. Wani'ta shuka to" wi" te wiki the xti ino"iyatha ethi" abado" 

37. Xu'ka edi uwihe abado" 

38. Ni'kawaga ef ka 

Free trnnslation 


1. 0! Chiefs, efka [efka, I desire] 

2. Thus you have spoken, it is said 

3. O! Chiefs, e^ka 

4. The great water that lay impossible to cross 

5. 0! you crossed, nevertheless, and sat upon the banks 

6. 0! Chiefs, e?ka 


7. Thus have you ever spoken, it is said, e<,-ka 

8. O! Chiefs 

9. Four clubs you have blackened 

10. Four you have reddened 

11. Those that are black 

12. Verily, my people, without fear I shall carry, you have said, so it ia said 

13. Not even my own child 

14. Shall stay my hand, you have said, so it is said, e^ka 


15. Without overconfidence, my people 

16. Word has been brought back that great animals have been found 

17. Near to them they (the people) approached, and stood 

18. My people, e^ka 

19. A great herd of animals 

20. Verily they (the people) shall cause none of them to remain 

21. Verily they (the people) shall go toward home rejoicing 

22. Along a trail strewn with fat. 

23. I, the male gray wolf, shall move 

24. With tail blown to one side 

25. I shall gallop along the trail, you have said, so it is said 


26. O! my people, efka 

27. I, the male crow 

28. Verily, without overconfidence I shall join (in giving help), you have said, so it 

is said 

29. As instructor I shall join, you have said, so it is said 

30. The people, astonished at your coming, cry 0-ho! 

31. Beyond the ridge you disappear as though piercing the hill 

32. After a little you return 

33. Sweeping closely the hill 

34. The people, astonished at your coming, cry 0-ho! 

35. As you appear on the ridge 

36. Verily, one herd of animals I have killed for you, you have said, so it is said 

37. Thus you have instructed, it is said 

38. My people, efka 

312 THE OMAHA TEIBE [eth. ann. 27 


The streams and lakes accessible to the Omaha abounded in fish, 
which were much liked as food. Men, women, and children engaged 
in the pursuit of catching fish; while greatly enjoyed, it could hardly 
be called sport, for it was engaged in for a very practical purpose. 
The names of fish known to the tribe are given on page 106. 

So far as can be learned there were no fishhooks of native manufac- 
ture, but small fish were caught by means of a device called tako^'ho"- 
tha fm'tZe, made as follows : Three or four strings having bait tied at one 
end were fastened by the other end, about 6 inches apart, to a slender 
but tough stick; a cord of twisted hair tied to the middle of this stick 
was attached to a stout pole. This was thrown into the stream, and 
often as many fish as there were lines were caught and landed. This 
style of fishing was called huga'fi, a name now applied to fishing with 
hook and line. As the name implies, the bait usually consisted of bits 
of meat (hu'tazhu). 

Fish were sometimes shot or speared. The former method of 
taking them was termed huki'de (hu, "fish;" M'de, "to shoot"); 
spearing fish was termed Jiuzha'he. Another mode of fishing was by 
means of a kind of movable weir of willows tied together, taken into 
deep water by a company of men or women, some holding the ends 
upright and others the center; all would walk up the stream pushing 
this fence of willows before them and so drive the fish into shallow 
water where they were shot, speared, or caught by the hand. The 
willow weir was called hu'bigide, and this manner of fishing, hu'koHha. 

Kinship Terms 

Kinship terms played an important part in all social intercourse. 
They not only designated the actual relationship between persons 
but the custom of never addressing anyone — man, woman, or child — 
by his personal name or of using a person's name when speaking 
of him, if he chanced to be present, made the use of kinship terms 
a practical necessity. These terms were also applied to what 
may be called potential relationsliips, that is, relationships that 
would be established through marriage made in accordance with 
tribal custom. If the wife had sisters, these women held a poten- 
tial relationship to her husband, as they might become his wives 
either during his wife's lifetime or at her death. According to 
tribal usage a man had the potential right to marry his wife's sisters 
and also her nieces and her aunts. On the other hand, a man 
was under obligation to marry his brother's widow. Should he fail 
in this respect, he was liable to suffer in person or property, either 
by the act of the woman herself or by that of her near of kin, in order 
to force him to recognize or make good her rights. Because of these 
potential relationships the children of the wife called all those whom 
their father might marry "mother" and all their father's brothers 
"father." Moreover, all the children of such relationships called 
one another "brother" and "sister." There was no cousinship. All 
the brothers of the mother were called "uncle" by her children, and 
the father's sisters were called "aunt." 

The regulation of marriage implied in these potential relationsliips 
was explained to be for the purpose of "holding the family intact, for 
should the children be bereft of their own mother they would come 
under the care of her close kindred and not fall into the hands of a 
stranger." This interpretation seems borne out by the approval 
still expressed when a woman weds the brother of her late husband 
or a man marries the sister of his dead wife or the widow of his brother; 
even when there is a marked disparity in the ages of the parties, 
it is said, ''The marriage does not make a break in the family 
and it shows respect for the dead." The interweaving of actual and 
potential relationships greatly extended the family connection and 
supplied the proper terms for familiar and ceremonial address. Men- 
tion is made of the custom of speaking of the women of the tribe as 


314 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 2" 

"sisters" (p. 474). At meetings of the Council of Seven duty to the 
tribe was ceremonially recognized by a formal mention of kinship 
terms between the members. The same practice obtained in several 
of the societies within the tribe. 

In the Omaha language the term for relationship, or the accent on 
the word, was varied according to the sex of the speaker and accord- 
ing to his or her relation to the person spoken of, as (1) when a father 
or mother was spoken to by a son, (2) when addressed by a daughter, 
(3) when spoken of by a male relative, (4) when spoken of by a 
female relative, and (5) when spoken of by a person not a relative. 

The following table sets forth these distinctions:" 

« The flrst^born male child was called Ingtho"; the first-born female, Wihi. Both these names are old 
and untranslatable terms; they were strictly " baby names" and were "thrown away" at the ceremony 
of Turning the Child and bestowal of the ni'kie name (pp. 117, 136). There were no other special " baby 
names" in use among the Omaha. 







c3 oS 




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[ETH. ANN. 27 






































































































































































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[KTII. ANN. 27 

The proper modes of atUlrcss were difliciilt to master by one not 
born to their usage and mistakes were regartled as impolite as they 
were embarrassing; therefore children were carefidly trained in these 
forms. This custom of address facilitated story telling, for the nar- 
rative was not broken by such expressions as "he says" or "she says" 
or by explaining the relation "he" or "she" bore to the hero of the 
tale, as the form or accent of the terms of relationship used made this 


Friendship played an important part in the lives of both men and 
women and the intimacies begun in childhood often extended 

Fli;. 05. Playing on the Hute. 

throughout life. The friendships among the women hail seemingly 
fewer dramatic incidents than those between young men, the lives of 
the former being less exposed to the stirring inciilcnts of the warpath 
and the chase. Nevertheless, instances have come to the writers' 
knowledge of enduring friendshijjs between women imder ciriiun- 
stances that would be apt to test the strength of affection and kind- 
ness. Friends were apt to be confidants and few secrets ap|)ear to 
have been withheld from one's intimate companion. A man would 
cleave to his friend, follow him in the face of danger, and if necessary 
protect him with his life. To be false to a friend in either love or war 
marked such an individual as without honor and especially to l)e 




shunned. Young men befriended one another in minor matters as well 
as in the graver affairs of life. A young man would be assisted by his 
friends to deck himself. Two friends would paint each other's faces, 
fasten each other's ornaments, and at the close of the toilet they 
were resplendent in their finery. Not only would a friend help to 
make his friend look well but he would act as a go-between and 
secure an interview for his friend with the chosen girl. Such meet- 
ings generally took place at the spring, in the eai'ly morning. 
Girls never went alone to get water for the family; two sisters, an 
aunt and niece, or else two intimate friends and neighbors started off 
together. The young men haunted these places ; they lay hidden in 
the grass or among the bushes, so that one could suddenly seize a 
favorable opportunity to speak with the girl of his fancy. These 
encounters were sometimes accidental but generally the lover made 
his presence known to the girl by his love song played on the flute 
(fig. 65) . Music was composed especially for this flute, as songs that 
were sung were not played on the instrument, its compass being 
too limited. The following is a favorite flute song: 



As custom did not permit young men to visit young women in 
their homes, the opportunities for the young people openly to become 
acquainted were lunited to gatherings for tribal ceremonies and during 
the confusion incident to breaking up or making camp when the tribe 
was on the annual hunt. The stream and spring were at all times 
the favorite tiysting places. Men sometimes composed their own 
love songs and by the song the girl not only identified her lover but 
became aware of his nearness. There are pathetic as well as humor- 
ous stories told which hinge on these individual love songs. It has 
been stated that a true love song, one that had for its purpose the 
honorable wooing of a maid, did not exist among peoples living in 
the stage of development represented by the native tribes of Amer- 
ica. This statement does not hold good for the Omaha and 
their close cognates. The following songs belong to the love-song 
class. The words are few; soft, breathing vocables float the voice 
throughout most of the melody. Where there are words, they gener- 
ally refer to the morning but most of ^he songs have only vocables. 
These songs are called hige'waa'^. The music expresses the purpose 



[ETII. ANN. 27 

of the song. The songs are all major and generally joyous in feeling, 
although there are others that express considerable subjective emo- 
tion. Sometimes in singing songs of the latter class, of which no. 2 
is an example, the hand is waved at a little distance from the mouth 
to produce a vibrating effect. 

BIf E' WAAN No. I 

Light and smoothly joyous 

-3 ^7 '•s 

J -^ J — J- 




No words — vocables Ha he he ha, etc. 

5* '*^- ;; 7 7 7 

BigE' WAAN No. 2 

Flnwingly, with feeling 

V . — — ^- 

No words — xocables Ha-hc lie ha he. etc. 



fe-i "-^' 




y- * I 4 -f 










~* — :;i — "zir 

♦ -.»• ^ 

There is another class of songs that have been mistaken by some 
writers for love songs. These songs refer to flirtatious and amorous 
adventures. They were not sung in the presence of women but by 
men when by themselves. The existence of this class of songs was 




withheld from the knowledge of women of the better class. These 
songs were called wau'waa", "woman songs." They were composed 
by men yet they always represent the woman as speaking, betraying 
her fondness for some one and thus violating social etiquette by 
speaking of her personal liking for a young man. They sometimes 
refer to uncongeniality in the marriage relation; the unhappy wife 
begs her lover to fly with her to another tribe. In most of these 
songs the act of the man is made to originate with the woman. 
The following belongs to the tvau'waa^ class of songs. It reveals 
something of social customs and also fairly well portrays the char- 
acter of this class of songs, of which few if any are what might be 
termed ribald. 


Flomingly (Aria as sung) 




Da - dii" na ' i-hu" bi-a- ke the the Da - da"- iia i - ba- 

-/» * ^ -, * ^ «* • '^0 — 0^-0 0^^-Z *• * 




.1 I. —I 

Harmoiiizeil by John C. Fillmore for interpretation on the piano 




-* — ^- 

4^^, ' •— • s ^- 



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F — 


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— F — 'f — 1 — '- 
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f • *— 1 •- 

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p^-f ^"^H 

tr -^ ' 1- 

hn" bi - a - ke 

1 1 


— 1 ^ 1 


1— 1 •a.i — 1 


lie u-tha-gti 
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a u-tliu" e-zha-zhe 

"=•1 — 

1 B3 

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^0 — ' 

1 — ^ — 1 

T r 

r«- , 

^ — 1 

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— 1•-^ 

— b 



bt -I 

83993°— 27 eth— 11 21 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

Dadu" na ibahu" biakithe, the 

Dadu" na ibahu" biakithe, the 

Ho"adi uthagthaa thu" izhazhe wibthade the tha 

Dadu" na ibahu" biakithe the; hi 

Ebei°te the! abeda" ehe mike the; the 

WaguHha ma ehe mike the; the 

Izhazhe wibthade the, the hi 

Literal translation 

Dadu^, an exclamation denoting anticipated trouble from fear of 
consequences; na, a part of ena, a woman's exclamation indicating 
surprise; ibahu^, known; biakithe, I have made myself; the, vocable; 
ho^adi, last night; uthagthaa, you sang; thu"^, a part of teihu^di, when; 
izhazhe, name; wibthade, I spoke your; the, feminine ending of a 
sentence; the, vocable; ebeiHe, who is it?; abeda^, when they said; 
ehe mike, I said, sitting; WaguHhxi, hfer lover's name; ma, a suffix indi- 


eating that he was moving, passing along. The word the (tlie next 
to the last word in each line) is the feminine termination of a sen- 
tence; the final the is a vocable which serves as a sort of refrain; 
hi, a punctuation word equivalent to a period. 

Free translatioti 

Dadu° na — I have made myself known, the! 

Dadu" na — I have made myself known, the! 
Last night when you sang I uttered your name, the! 

Dadu" na— I have made myself known, the! hi. 
"Who is it that sings?" the! they said, and I sitting there; the! 

"Wagu°tha is passing," I said, the! 

It was your name I uttered, the! hi. 

As with all Indian songs, both as to words and music, there is no 
setting or introduction. Nothing is said of the girl or her surround- 
ings. The stanza opens with her lament addressed to her lover, who, 
having won her affection, has so possessed her thoughts that when 
he sang without the tent and the family asked "Who is it that sings? " 
the girl unconsciously lets drop his name. All eyes are turned on 
her and then she realizes what she has done. When next day she 
meets her lover she tells him in distress of her betrayal of their secret. 
The young man responds by making this song, in which he betrays 
the girl's confidence to his companions and scores his conquest. 

The structure of the song reveals a groping after metrical form. 
The choice of words and their arrangement are not colloquial and indi- 
cate a desire to express the story effectively and not in a common- 
place way. The use of the vocable the at the end of each musical 
phrase is of interest, and its introduction into the fifth line after eieiHe, 
"Who is it that sings?," has the effect of a sigh — it adds to the dramatic 
expression and gives a touch of pathos to the narrative. 

The opening lines present at once the theme of the song, therein 
resembling the chorus of a ballad, which always sets forth the central 
thought or feeling around which the circumstances of the story 
cluster. In this Omaha ballad there is no elaboration in literary 
form and the music is equally simple; but we find here indications 
that the Omaha had begun more or less consciously to desire that the 
rhythm of emotions should have an answering expression in measured 
language. It is not improbable that the nascent poetic form of this 
class of songs may account in a measure for their popularity. Wliile 
all other songs depended largely on vocables for carrying the voice, the 
"woman songs" were well supplied with words that always told a story. 

Men and women were socially on a moral equality. Tribal custom 
favored chastity and those who practised it stood higher in public 
esteem than those who did not. In the case of a woman who in 
her youth committed indiscretions and later led a moral life, wJxUe 
her former acts were remembered, they were not held against her 

324 THE OMAHA TEIBE [eth. ann. 27 

or her husband or children. Both men and women were allowed to 
to win back by subsequent good conduct their lost position. 

When a 3'ouno; man asked the hand of a girl in marriage he observed 
a certain conventional form of address. The words were not always 
the same but the aspect put on the proposal was practically uniform. 
The young man extolled the girl and her relations ; he did not vaunt 
himself; he pleaded his constancy and asked, rather than demanded, 
that she become his wife, craving it as a boon. There were signals 
other than songs or flute calls to let a girl know her lover was near. 
A tent pole might fall or some other noise be made which she would 
know how to interpret and so be able to meet the young man if a 
meeting had been agreed on. Marriage was usually by elopement. 
The claims on a girl by men holding a potential right to marry her 
almost necessitated her escaping secretly if she would exercise her 
free choice in the matter of a husband. Wlien a young couple during 
their courtship determined on taking the final step of marriage, they 
agreed to meet some evening. The youth generally rode to a place 
near the lodge of the girl and gave the proper signal ; she stepped out 
and they galloped off to one of his relations. In a day or two the 
young man took the girl to his father's lodge, where, if she was re- 
ceived as his wife, all claims bj' other men as to marriage were can- 
celed by this act, but gifts had to be made to the girl's parents and 
shared with her relatives, in order to ratify the marriage. To bring 
this about, the father of the young man made a feast anil invited the 
relatives of the girl. When this in\'itation was accepted and the 
presents received, the marriage was considered as settled beyond 
all dispute. In the course of a few months the father of the bride 
generally presented his daughter with return gifts about equal in 
value to those he had received and the yovmg husband was expected 
to work for a year or two for his father-in-law. This latter claim 
was freqviently rigitlly exacted and the father-in-law was sometimes 
a tyrant over his son-in-law's affairs. 

The following story is told of a man who was highly respected, 
industrious, anil thrifty. He never married ; why, no one knew, for 
he was an attractive man. He had a brother who for some reason 
was always unsuccessful in his wooing and as he greatly desired to 
marrv a certain girl the bachelor brother was moved to say: "I will 
help you to get the girl you want." . To the surprise of everyone, the 
girl included, the bachelor was seen at the spring, where he wooed the 
girl and planned thoir elopement. At the appointed hour he signaled 
her, she came to him, and together they rode to the lodge of one of 
his near relatives where the brother was in waiting. The bachelor 
explained to the girl that he had been wooing her for his brother, and 
the girl, having compromised herself by running away with her sup- 





posed lover, concluded to accept the transfer; the marriage so strangely 
entered on turned out pleasantly for both parties. 

The marriage ceremony as described above depended for its 
completion on the recognition of the girl as the son's wife by the 
father of the yoimg man, but should tliis formal consent be denied 
by either parent, while tliis act interrupted the festivity, it did not 
invalidate the marriage or have any effect on thfe issue of such mar- 
riage; it merely made the hves of the young couple difficult and 
uncomfortable. There was no tribal usage or tradition wliich made 
it possible to deprive a child of its rights to or through its father; 
according to tribal custom all a man's cliildren had equal claim on 
him and he was responsible for all his progeny. 

Cohabitation constituted marriage whether the relation was of 
long or short duration, always provided that the woman was not the 
wife of another man, in wliich case the relation was a social and 
punishable offense. Prostitution, as practised in a white com- 
munity, did not exist in the tribe. 

It was obhgatorj^ that a man and wife should belong to different 
gentes and not be of close blood relation through their mothers. It 
was counted an honor to a man to marry a woman who had tattooed 
on her the '' mark of honor" (fig. 105). Marriage with a man either on 
or about to go on the warpath was not permitted ; such a union was 
looked on as a defiance of natural law that would bring disaster on 
the people for the reason, it was explained, that "War means the 
destruction of life, marriage its perpetuation." The same law was 
thought to be operative when a hunter failed to kill game; it would 
be said: "His wife may be giving birth to a child." 

In the family the father was recognized as having the highest 
authority over all the members, although in most matters pertaining 
to the welfare of the chiklren the mother exercised almost equal 
authority. In the event of the death of the motherand father, pro- 
vided the father had no brothers, the uncle (mother's brother) had 
full control of the cliildren and no relative of the father could dis- 
pute the right of the uncle to the children. During the lifetime of 
the parents the uncle was as alert as their father to defend the 
children or to avenge a wrong done them. The children always 
regarded their uncle as their friend, ever ready to help them. 

When a marriage was arranged by a girl's parents, with or without 
her consent, it was apt to be with a man in mature hfe and estab- 
lished position. The would-be husband made large presents to the 
girl's parents and relatives. When the time came for the marriage the 
girl was well dressed, mounted on a pony, and accompanied by four 
old men she was taken to the lodge of her husband. Young men 
derided this kind of marriage, saying, "An old man can not win a 
girl; he can win only her parents." (PL 42.) 

326 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. Ann. 27 

Polygamy existed, although it was not the rule; in the majority 
of families there was but one wife. A man rarely had more than 
two wives and these were generally sisters or aunt and niece. These 
complex families were usually harmonious and sometimes there seemed 
to be little difference in the feeling of the children toward the two 
women who were wives to their father. No special privileges were 
accorded to the first wife over the others. Polygamy was practised 
more among the prominent men than among any other class. On 
the former devolved the ])ublic duty of entertaining guests from 
within and without the tribe. This duty brought a great deal of labor 
on the household. There was no serving class to render help to man 
or woman, so that the wife could not hire anyone to assist her in any 
extra labor or in her daily work or her varied avocations, as in the 
dressing and tanning of skins, the making of tent covers and clothing, 
not to mention the embroidery put on garments and regalia. It will 
be remembered that embroidered garments, robes, pipestems, and 
other articles were required for gifts that went toward a man's 
"count," which led to his tribal honors. Looking at the duties and 
customs of the tribe, it seems that the question of domestic labor 
had a good deal to do with the practice of polygamy. "I must take 
another wife. My old wife is not strong enough now to do all her 
work alone." This remark was made not as if offering an excuse for 
takmg another wife but as stating a condition which must be met 
and remedied in the only way which custom permitted. 

Divorce was not uncommon, although there were many instances 
in the tribe in which a man and woman lived together tliroughout a 
long life in monogamous marriage. If a man abused his wife, she 
left him and her conduct was justified by her relations and by tribal 
opinion. As the tent or dwelling always belonged to the woman, 
the unkind husband found himself homeless. The yoimg children 
generally remained with the mother, although the father's brothers 
would be expected to assist the woman in their support. If the 
woman was immoral, she was put away and sometimes punished by 
her husband. In that case no one interfered to protect her. These 
punishments were sometimes very severe. Generally speaking, the 
family was fairly stable ; tribal sentiment did not favor the changing 
of the marriage relation from mere caprice. 

The Omaha woman worked hard. Upon her depended much of tlie 
livelihood of the people — the preparation of food, of shelter, of cloth- 
ing, and the cidtivation of the garden patches. In return, she was 
regarded with esteem, her wishes were respected, and, while she held 
no public office, many of the movements and ceremonies of the tribe 
depended on her timely assistance. In the family she was gon(>raliy 
the center of much afl'ection. There were many happy Indian fami- 
lies in which afi'ection bound all hearts closelv together. 


One can sometimes judge of the light by the depth of the shadow 
cast. An old Omaha man stood beside a husband whose wife lay 
dead. The mourner sat wailing, holding the woman's cold hand and 
calling her by the endearhig terms that are not uttered to the living. 
"Where shall I go, now you are gone?" he cried. "My grandson," 
said the old man, "It is hard to lose one's mother, to see one's children 
die, but the sorest trial that can come to a man is to see his wife lie 
dead. My grandson, before she came to you no one was more willing 
to bring water for you ; now that she has gone you will miss her care. 
If you have ever spoken harshly to her the words will come back to 
you and bring you tears. The old men who are gone have taught 
us that no one is so near, no one can ever be so dear, as a wife; when 
she dies her husband's joy dies with her. I am old; I have felt these 
things; I know the truth of what I say." 

Care and Training of Children 

In the Omaha family the children bore an important part; the}- 
were greatly desiretl and loved. Mention has been made of the belief 
that women who bore the "mark of honor" would become mothers 
of many children who would Uve to grow up. The baby was its 
mother's constant companion, although other members of the family 
often helped to take care of it. (Fig. 66.) More than one instance 
is recalled where the father took considerable care of the little ones 
and it was not an uncommon sight to see a father or grandfather 
sooth or amuse a fretful child. Soon after birth the baby was 
laid in its own little bed. This was a board about 12 or 14 inches 
wide and 3 feet long. On this was laid a pillow stuffed with feathers 
or the hair of the deer, over which were spread layers of soft skins. 
On this bed the baby was fastened by broad bands of soft skin, which 
in recent years were replaced by similar bands of calico or flannel. 
There was no headboard to the Omaha cradle-board but the skins that 
were laid over the pillow were so arranged as to f oiun a shelter and pro- 
tection for the top of the baby's head. Wliile the child slept its arms 
were bound under the cover but as soon as it awoke they were released. 
The cradle-board [u'thuhe) was principally used in carrying the baby 
around and it served as a bed when the little one was asleep. A good 
portion of the time the baby lay on a soft skin in a safe warm place 
where it could kick and crow, while the mother sat by with her sewing 
or at some other employment. If the mother's duties took her out of 
doors the baby might ])e laced on its cradle and hung up in the shade 
of a tree; or, if the mother happened to be going away on horseback 
the baby in its cradle was hung at her saddle, where it rode safely 
and comfortably. Wlien the child was old enough to cling to its 
mother it was thrown over her shoulder, where it hugged her tightly 
around the neck while she adjusted her robe or blanket. The robe 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

worn by the women was tied by a girdle around the waist, the upper 
part was placed over the clinging child, and the ends were crossed in 
front and tucked into the girdle. Then the mother gave a gentle 
but decided shrug, when the child loosened its arms and settled itself 
into its bag-like bed, from out of which it winked and peered at the 
world or fell fast asleep as the mother trudged about her business. 

It is a mistake to suppose that Indian babies never cry. They do 
cry, most lustily at times, but efforts are always made to soothe a child. 
No true hillal)y songs have ever been heard in the tribe by the writers, 
but both men and women make a low murmuring that resembles some- 
what the sound of the wind in the pines and sleep soon comes to the 
listener. There was a belief that certain persons were gifted with an 
understanding of the various sounds made by a baby; so when a little 


Fig. 66. Omaha mothi-T iind cliild. 

one cried persistently, as if in distress, some one of these knowing people 
was sent for to ascertain what troubled the child. Sometimes it was 
said that the baby ditl not like the name given it and then the name 
would be changed. Sometimes the difficulty was of a more practical 
kind, as in the case of a baby whose mother, being jiarticularly desirous 
of having her son lie on the softest of beds, had ])ut next to him the 
soft skin of a buffalo calf; whenever the child was laid on its bed its 
cries kept everyone awake. In her tlistress the mother sent for a 
))erson who imderstood the talk of a baliy. This person was evi- 
dently a keen observer, for he at once saw wluit the trouble was — the 
fur tickletl the chiki! He turned the skin and the bab}' was pacified. 
The liirth of twins was considered a sign that the mother was a 
kmd woman. It was said, "Twins walk hantl in lumd around the 


liu'ihuga looking for a kind woman; when they find her, she becomes 
tlieir mother." "Wlien a woman desired to ascertain the sex of her 
coming child, she took a bow and a burden strap to the tent of a 
friend who had a child not j^et old enough to speak and offered it the 
articles. If the bow was chosen the unborn would be a boy; if the 
burden strap, a girl. If a teething child looked at one, at the same 
time grinding its teeth, stretching out its arms, and clenching its 
hands, it meant to break friendship with that j^erson. A child who 
had lost either one or both of its parents was called waho'^'thi^ge 
("no mother"), "orjihan." 

As soon as a child could walk steadily it passed through the cere- 
mony called Turning the Child, and, if a boy, through the supple- 
mental ceremony of cutting the lock of hair in consecration of its life 
to the Thunder and to the protection of the tribe as a warrior. (See 
p. 122.) After this experience home training began in earnest. The 
child had now its name, marking its ni'lcie rites, and its gentile 
relationship. Careful parents, particularly those who belonged to the 
better class, took great pains in the training of their children. They 
were taught to treat their elders with respect, to be particular in 
the use of the proper terms of relationship, to be peaceable with one 
another, and to obey their parents. Whipping was uncommon 
and yet there were almost no quarreling and little downright dis- 
ol)edience. Much attention was given to inculcating a grammatical 
use of the language and the proper pronunciation of the words. 
There was no "baby talk." Politeness was early instilled. No child 
would think of interrupting an elder who was speaking, of pestering 
anyone with questions, of taking anything belonging to an older 
person without permission, or of staring at anyone, particularly a 
stranger. Yet the children were bright ami had their share of curi- 
osity but they were trained not to be aggressive. 

Little girls were subject to restraints that were not put upon the 
boys. The mother was particular in teaching the girl how to sit and 
how to rise from a sitting posture. A woman sat sidewise on the left, 
her legs drawn round closely to the right. (Fig. 67.) No other posture 
was good form for a woman. Sometimes old women sat with the feet 
stretched out in front but that was the privilege of age. All other 
attitudes, as kneeling or sqiuitting, were only for temporary purposes. 
Concerning this point of eticjuette mothers were rigid in tlie training 
of their daughters. To rise well, one should spring up lightly, not 
with the help of both hands; one hand might be placed on the ground 
for the first movement, to get a purchase. A girl was taught to move 
about noiselessly as she passed in and out of the lodge. All her 
errands must be done silently. She must keep her hair neatly 
braided and her garments in order. At an early age little girls as- 
sumed the role of caretaker of the younger children. The boys had 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

to help about the ponies l)ut not much training in etiquette fell to the 
lot of the boy — he could jump about and sit in any manner he chose, 
except after the fashion of a girl. Later he had to learn to sit steadily 
on his heels, to rise quickly, and to be firm on his feet. 

Wlien quite small the two sexes played together but the restraints 
and duties put on girls soon separated them from the boj^s and when 
girls were grown there were few recreations shared in common by the 

rui. 07. sitting po^ture of wome a. 

sexes. In olden times no girl was considered marriageable until she 
knew how to dress skins, fashion and sew garments, end)roider, and 
cook. Nor was a young man a desirable husband until he had proveil 
his slcill as a hunter antl shown himself alert and courageous. 

Politeness was observed in tlie family as well as in the presence of 
strangers. The etiquette in reference to the fire was always observed 
and care was takiMi not to iiitcrnijjt a speaker, anil never to accept 


anything from another without recognition by the use of an expression 
the equivalent of "thank you;" this equivalent was the mention of a 
term of relationship. 

To elucidate further the teachings and training given to children 
and j^ouths, the insistence with which industry, good manners, and 
consideration for others were impressed upon the young, the follow- 
ing notes, taken beside a camp fire one evening m early September 
years ago, are here given. An old man, no longer living, was on that 
occasion in a reminiscent mood and somewhat inclined to question 
the advantage of influences that were creeping in among the people. 
As he talked he sat phiymg with a little stick, tracing figures on the 
ground, while the firelight shed a ruddy glow on the faces of those 
who made the circle. In the distance the tents stood pale and 
specterlike, overhead the stars were brilliantly white in the clear dark 
sky and no sound but the snapping of the burning wood broke in on 
the flow of the old man's words. 

The children do not receive the training that we men did from our fathers. Every- 
thing is changed. I rememlier some of the sayings that used to be common in my 
young days: sayings that were supposed to hold us young people in order and teach 
ua to be mindful of our elders and not become self-indulgent. Write them down; I 
would like the Omaha to know how children were talked to in the old times — chil- 
dren from 10 to 15 years of age. 

When a boy used a knife in cutting meat the old men said: "The knife eats more 
meat; you should bite it." This saying means, the use of the knife makes one lazy; 
a man should rely on his own resources; the one who so trains himself is ready for any 

In old times kettles were scarce and the same kettle would often serve several 
families. It was also customary never to return a borrowed kettle entirely empty but 
to leave a little of the last portion that was cooked in it. If a lad should help himself 
to that which came home in the kettle the old men would say: "If you eat what is 
brought home in the kettle your arrows will twist when you shoot'' [will not go 
straight], adding in explanation: "The youth who thinks first of himself and forgets 
the old will never prosper, nothing will go straight for him." 

There is a part of the intestine of the buffalo, called washna, that is very tender, 
so that the old people who have no teeth, or but few, can eat it, chew and digest it. 
If the lads want to eat this tender bit the father would say: "You must not eat the 
■washna, for if you do, and go with a war party for spoils, the dogs will bark at you." 
Why the dogs would bark was left a mystery, which fact would make the young people 
afraid to take the washna, and so the old people could enjoy it in peace. 

When a young man attempted to drink the broth in the kettle, the old men would 
say: "A young man must not drink the broth; if he does, his ankles will rattle and 
his joints become loose." 

^\"hen the marrowfat was tried out and the lad desired some of it with his meat, the 
old men would say: "If you eat of the marrowfat you will become quick tempered, 
your heart will become soft, and you will turn your back to your enemy" [be afraid]. 

In my day the young men were forbidden to smoke, for smoking, we were told, 
would make young men short winded and when they went into battle they would 
be quickly overcome. 

The old men used to tell the young men that they must learn to make arrows. They 
said: "If one does not make arrows he will borrow moccasins, leggings, and robes and 

332 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

be disliked by the persons from whom he borrows." This meant that one must be 
industrious in order to have thinfjs of one's own. The old men al.sosaid: "If you don't 
make arrows yourself and a young man who is industrious shows you his arrows, you 
will be tempted to steal from him." Also: "If you are not industrious you will borrow 
a horse from a youns man who may be insignificant [of no position in the tribe], and 
you may be proud that you ride a horse even if it is not your own; you will borrow 
a bridle, too, and you will be disliked by the men from whom you borrow." Also: 
"If you are not industrious, when a herd of buffalo is slaughtered you may come across 
a young man whom you may consider insignificant but who has killed a buffalo by 
his energy; you will look longingly at the best portions of the meat, but he will give 
to another who is known to be thrifty and generous and you will go away disap- 
pointed . ' ' 

Boye used to be made to swallow a turtle's heart so as to make their hearts strong. 
I was an orphan, and tender hearted and when any woman talked to me I would 
easily weep. I did not like this, but I could not help it. I swallowed a turtle's heart 
and since then I can control myself. He [pointing to a man in the group about him] 
has swallowed three. The turtle is haid to kill ; e\en when the heart is cut out it will 
still quiver and the turtle's head will be able to bite after it is severed from the body. 
The heart is flat and about an inch long. The boy took the heart and swallowed it 
by himself. Only the heart was used. 

In eating the rib of the game, if the young man tried to unjoint it the old men say: 
"You must not do that; if you do, you will sprain your ankles." 

Once when I had killed an elk I wanted to eat the marrow in the bone; so I roasted 
it but when I was ready to eat it some old men saw me, and they said : " If you, a young 
man, eat that, your leg bone will become sore." 

The lad must not pick the bones of the rabbit with his teeth, but must pull off the 
meat with his fingers. If he used his teeth they would become cracked. He must 
use his fingers in order that his teeth may be sound. 

If a lad desired to eat the turkey's head he was told: "If you eat that, tears will 
come into your eyes when you hunt. You will have watery eyes." 'If he should 
wish to play with the turkey's legs after they had been cut off, the old men said: 
"If you play with turkeys' legs your fingers will be cold in winter and liable to be 
frost-bitten; then you can not handle anything." 

The fat about the heart of the buffalo was given to children that they might have 
strong hearts — be courageous. 

The liver of the buffalo must be eaten raw. This was said to make a man courageous 
and to give him a clear voice. 

We were taught that when a man wounded a buffalo a lad must not shoot an arrow 
at it. He would be justly chastised if he did, as the buffalo belonged to the man 
who first wounded it. 

I was told: You must not be envious and maim the horse of another man if it is a 
fine horse to look at. You must not take another's robe or blanket, or his moccasins, 
or anything that belongs to another. You will be tempted to do these things if you 
are not industrious and if you yield to the temptation you will be shunned by all 
persons. A man must be energetic, industrious — kiua'shko". If you are not indus- 
trious your blanket will be ragged, your moccasins will be full of holes, you will have 
no arrows, no good, straight ones; you will be in poverty and finally you will go to 
neighboring tribes to avoid meeting the members of, your tribe, who should be your 
friends. If you are lazy, by chance you may have a horse that is stalled and you 
will think that you own property. You may have a horse that is blind and you will 
think yourself well off. You may have a horse with a disjointed hip and you tt-ill 
think yourself rich. If you are lazy, your tent skin will be full of holes. You \Till 


wear le^ngs made out of the top of an old tent that is smoked yellow; for a robe you 
will wear a buffalo skin pallet pieced with the fore part of a buffalo hide — such is a 
lazy man's clothing. An industrious man wears leggings of well-dressed deer skin; 
his robe is of the finest dressed buffalo skin and he wears earrings — such is the dress 
of the energetic, industrious man. If a man is not industrious and energetic, he will 
not be able to entertain other people. A lazy man will be envious when he sees men 
of meaner birth invited to feasts because of their thrift and their ability to entertain 
other people. If you are lazy, nobody will have pleasure in speaking to you. A man 
in passing by will give you a word with only a side glance and never stand face to face 
in talking with you. You will be sullen, hardly speaking to those who address you — 
that is the temper of the lazy man. The energetic man is happy and pleasant to speak 
with; he is remembered and visited on his deathbed. But no one mourns for the 
lazy man; nobody knows where he is buried; he dies unattended. Even when only 
two or three are gathered to a feast the industrious and energetic man is invited. 
People in speaking of him say: He is pleasant to talk with, he is easy of approach. 
Such a man has many to mourn his death and is long remembered. A thrifty man is 
well spoken of; his generosity, his help are given to those who are weaker than he 
and all his actions are such as to make others happy. Such are some of the things 
that used to be said by the old to the young men. 

Yes, girls were also talked to by the old men and all this talk to both boys and girls 
was to prevent their becoming thieves through envy. \Mien they saw valuable 
things and desired them, they should know that if they were industrious they could 
have such things for themselves. And these sayings were also to prevent the young 
men from growing up in laziness so that they would go from house to house in order to 
live. Girls were required to know how to scrape and to dress skins and to tan them; 
to cut and make tent covers, garments of all kinds, and moccasins. There were many 
other things that a woman must know. She had much to do, and upon her work the 
people depended. 

These are some of the sayings to girls: If you do not learn to do these things [men- 
tioned above] and abide by the teachings of the elders [al)out thrift, honesty, etc.], 
you shall stop at a stranger's house and your place will be near the kettle pole, your 
hand shall rest on the kettle pole and without being told to go you shall go for water, 
and when you have brought the water you shall look wistfully into the door of the 
lodge, and they will tell you to open a pack so that they may do their cooking. On 
opening the pack you «-ill take a bit of the dried meat, thrust it slyly into yoiu- belt, 
and take it away with you and eat it stealthily — but it shall not satisfy you. Food 
eaten in fear satisfies not the hunger. 

The thrift}' woman has a good tent; all of her tools are of the best; so is her clothing. 

Hear what happens to the thriftless woman: She shall stop at a stranger's place; 
there are holes in her moccasins but she has nothing to patch them with, so she will 
cut a piece out of her robe to mend her moccasins with; then she will borrow her 
neighbor's workbag and from it take sinew stealthily and tuck it into her belt. 

It you are a thrifty woman, your husband will struggle hard to bring you the best of 
materials for your tent and clothing and the best of tools. If you have a good tent, 
men and women will desire to enter it. They will be glad to talk with you and your 

If you ai-e willing to remain in ignorance and not learn how to do the things a woman 
should know how to do, you will ask other women to cut your moccasins and fit them 
for you. You will go on from bad to worse; you will leave your people, go into a 
strange tribe, fall into trouble, and die there friendless. 

If you are thrifty, build yourself a good tent or house [earth lodge], and peoj^e will 
like you and will assist your husband in all his undertakings. 

334 THE OMAHA TEIBE [bth. ann. 27 


In the tent and in the earth lodge the fire was always in the center 
and was the point from which certain lines of etiquette were drawn. 
The space back of the fire, opposite the entrance, was the place of 
lionor. It was therefore the portion of the tent given to guests, to 
which they always directed their steps when entering a lodge; it 
answered to the reception room or parlor of a white man's dwelling. 
Skin robes were spread here to make the visitor comfortable and wel- 
come. The guest on entering must never pass between his host and 
the fire. When the guest was seated no one, not even a child, 
would pass between him and the fire. If by any chance it became 
necessary to do so, notice was given to the person passed and an 
apology made. This etiquette applied to the members of the family 
as well as to guests. When a guest arrived he took his seat quietly 
and remained quiet for a little time, no one addressing him. This 
was for the purpose of giving him time to "catch his breath" and 
"compose his thoughts." Wlien conversation opened it was genial, 
although formal, and if there was any matter of importance to be dis- 
cussed it was never hastily or quickly introduced. I>eliberation was 
a marked characteristic of Indian etiquette. 

When a guest was ready to leave, he rose and, using the proper 
term of relationship, added, Sho^pa'xelia ("I have finished," i. e., 
my visit), or he said, te ha ("permit me") and without further cere- 
mony departed. 

There was a peculiar courtesy practised toward the parents of a 
man by his wife and toward the parents of a woman by her husband. 
A man did not directly address his wife's father or mother, nor did 
any of his brothers do so. If the parents were visiting in tlie same 
tent with their son-in-law or any of his brothers, conversation could 
be carried on but it was generally done indirectly, not directly be- 
tween these persons. A wife did not directly address her husband's 
father but this did not appl}' to his mother. This custom has been 
explained by old Omaha men to mean that respect was thus shown by 
the younger to the elder generation. This rule of conduct was not, 
however, rigidly practised. There are stories told in which a man and 
his son-in-law were very close friends, living and hunting together. 

Mention has been made of the custom of never addressing an indi- 
vidual by his personal name; etiquette demanded also that a per- 
son's name should not be mentioned in his presence. It may be 
recalled that a man's name referred to the rites in charge of his gens 
or to some personal experience — a dream or a valorous deed. The 
personal name sustained therefore so intimate a relation to the indi- 
vidual as to render it unsuitable for common use. It is doubtful, 
however, whether this characteristic was the fundamental motive 


for the custom under iliscussion; it is more likeh' tliat the benefits 
to be derived from the daily emphasis of kinship as a means to hold 
the people together in peaceable relations had to do with the estab- 
lishment of the custom, which was strengthened by the sanctity 
attached to the personal name. This interpretation seems to accord 
with the comment mafle b}^ an aged Omaha on the custom of the 
white people of addressing one another by name, particularly mem- 
bers of the same family: "It sounds as though they do not love 
one another when they do not use terms of relationship." 

'While only kinship terms were used in social intercourse, no one, 
not even children, being called by a personal name, there was a term 
employed in making a formal address to astranger: Icage'ha, "friend;" 
this term was used also between men not closely related to each other. 
Its use was confined strictly to men. When a man of distinction was 
spoken to, etiquette demanded that he be addressed as i^sha'ge, 
"aged man;" the term was one of respect and implied his possession 
of wisdom, dignity, and position. A woman addressed another of 
her sex as vnhe', "younger sister," and when speaking to a boy or 
a young man she had to use the term Tcage' , " j'ounger brother. " 

Under no circumstances would politeness permit a person to ask 
a stranger his name or what business brought him to the tribe. If 
one was curious he must await the development of events. It is said 
that men sent on an embassy from another tribe have come, trans- 
acted their business, and departed without anyone learning their 
personal names. 

A curious reversal of these social customs is shown in the following 
sayings about birds: 

The whip-poor-will sings its own name, ha'kugthi ("translucent 

An unidentified bird having a brown back, yellow breast, and a 
black ring around the neck, says, OH'te dada'^f ("Of what tribe are 

The meardow lark, which heralds the time for the ceremonies con- 
nected with the children (see p. 118), sings, Qni'tethu^gthi tegaze 
(" winter will not comeback"). 

Generalh' two meals were taken, one in the morning, the other at 
night. When the food was cooked it was removed from the fire and 
the kettles were set near the mother's place in the tent. The family 
took their places in a circle around the fire. If there were neigh- 
bors or informal guests, they sat with the family. The mother 
apportioned the food into bowls, which she set on a skin spread in 
front of those who were to eat. In the duty of passing the food she 
might be assisted by her elder daughter or some near kinswoman 
or an intimate friend. After all had been served, including herself, 
the father or the principal guest made the offering of food, lifting a 

336 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. axx. 27 

sniiiU i)(»iti(>ii iind dropping it into the fire, in recognition tiiat all 
food was the gift of Wako'''da. After this ceremony everyone was 
at liberty to eat. If for any reason this ceremony was omitted, no 
one touched his food until everj^one had been served. If there 
were manj' present the mother would be apt to say, "Eat; do not 
wait." After that, anyone who had been served would be at liberty to 
partake of the food. Each person was served separately except in the 
case of infants or very young children. When the meal was at an eml 
the dishes were handed back to the mother. In returning his dish, 
each person gave thanks by mentioning a term of relationship. 
When a child was too young to speak for itself the father or mother 
offered thanks for it. Should a dish be returned with a portion of the 
food uneaten, an apology or explanation was made to the mother or 
hostess. At an informal meal at which guests were present the host 
and hostess ate with their visitors. When only the family were 
present, the thanks to the mother were not exacted from the children. 
The exchange of hospitalities, however, was so frequent that the 
little ones soon learned what was expected of them in the presence of 
company. If a child or a guest seemed to be confused as to the right 
expression of relationship to use, the host or hostess helped the 
embarrassment by suggesting the proper term. Children were cor- 
rected if they made noises or grimaces when eating. Silence with 
the lips, when eating, was not exacted except from the chiefs when 
they were taking their soup. This act must be done quietly. It 
was said there was a religious reason attached to this custom, but 
just what could not be definitely ascertained. 

At a formal feast men served the food. The offering to Wako°'da 
was made by the man of liighest rank present. Etiquette demanded 
that after the food was placed before the company a prominent 
man should say to the servers, "Have you provided for yourselves ? " 
On the occasion of a formal feast the host, the one who gave the feast, 
never partook of the food. Tliis custom obtained whatever the feast 
might be ; whether it was given by a man to the chiefs, or by a member 
to a society, or by a group, as a subtlivision of the Ho°'ga, on the 
occasion when the ceremonies in its charge took place. 

It was also m accord with etiquette to eat all placed before one; 
if, however, it was not possible to do so, the untasted food should be 
carried home. This custom was made practical by the custom of 
guests bringing their own bowls to use; imtasted food was regarded 
as a reproach to one's host. If a kettle was borrowetl for any pur- 
pose, on being returned a little of whatever had been cooked in it 
must remain in the vessel. This remnant was called ihe'xuxe. 
Anyone disregarding this custom could never borrow agam, as the 
owner must always know how the kettle had been used and what had 
been cooked in it. An incident is told of a white woman who 


scoured a borrowed kettle before returning it to the owner; the well- 
meant act was resented as showing a lack of respect and courtesy 
toward the latter. 

Looking into a lodge and seeing all the inmates sitting or lying on 
the ground, it would hardly occur to one unfamiUar with Indian life 
that the ground space of a lodge was almost as distinctly marked off 
as the different rooms in our composite dwellings ; yet such was the fact. 
The father occupied the middle of the space to the left of the fire as one 
entered. The mother kept all her household belongings on the left, 
between the father's place and the entrance. It was thus easy for her 
to slip in and out of the lodge without disturbing any of the inmates 
when attending to the cooking and getting the wood and water. If there 
were young men in the famil}', they generally occupied the space near 
the door to the right, where they were in a position to protect the 
family shoukl any danger arise. If there were old people, their place 
was on the right, opposite the father. The young girls were farther 
along, more toward the back part. The little ones clung about the 
mother but were welcome everywhere and seldom made trouble. 
Each member had his packs in which his fine garments and small 
personal treasures were kept. These packs were set against the 
wall back of the place belonging to the owner. 

In the earth lodge the compartments were quite commodious. 
The willow seats were lounges by day and beds by night. There was 
ample space beneath them for stowing packs, although storage spaces 
adjoined the lounges. In cold weather skins were sometimes hung 
between the inner circle of posts, making an inclosed space about 
the fire where the family gathered — the children to play games or to 
hsten to the stories of the old folk. It was a picturesque scene that 
can never be forgotten by one who has enjoyed the welcoming cheer 
and kindly hospitaUty of an Indian family circle in its earth-lodge 

Young girls were carefully guarded ; they never went to the spring 
or to visit friends unless accompanied by an older woman — mother, 
aunt, or relative. Young married women seldom if ever went any- 
where alone. Custom permitted only elderly women to go about 

Etiquette demanded that when husband and wife walked abroad, 
the man precede the woman. (PI. 43.) This was explained by the 
old men and women, "The man ought always to go first; it is his 
duty to see that the path is safe for the woman." 

Women held no official position in the tribe but under certain cir- 
cumstances they were consulted during the annual buffalo hunt 
(see p. 277); they were respected, the value of their industry was 
recognized, and their influence was potent in all affairs pertaining to 
the home. 

83993°— 27 eth— 11 22 

338 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

Avocations of Men 

The avocations of men were cliiefly those connected with their 
duties as providers for and protectors of the family. As himter 
(p. 270) the man secured the meat and tlie pelts but the work of trans- 
forming these into food, clotliing, and shelter did not belong to him. 
As warrior (p. 474) he was obliged to be on the alert and ever 
ready to respond at once to the cry of danger. Men made all their 
own weapons." Bows and arrows were used for the hunt as well as 
for battle (for the method employed in making these see p. 449). The 
manufacture of stone implements was accomplished in two waj's: 
(1 ) by flaking by pressure from an elk horn, or (2) by placing the piece 
of flint between the folds of a strip of rawhide, holding this between 
the teeth as in a vise and working it sideways so as to break or chip 
the edge of the flint witliin the skin without injury to the teeth, a 
somewhat difhcult and hazardous process. Men made all the stone 
implements used in felling trees, as the stone ax and wedge; these 
were ground into shape and smoothed, a slow and tedious operation. 
Disks about four inches in diameter and an inch in tliickness were 
made in the same manner. These disks {i^'thapa) were used to crush 
kernels of corn into meal, also wild cherries mto pulp for cooking; 
they were mainly used for grinding corn when traveUng, as the large 
mortar and pestle were inconvenient for transportation. 

The making of wooden articles was also the task of the men. The 
mortar (u'Jie), which was a necessity in every household, was formed 
from a section of a tree-trunk a foot or so in diameter and about three 
feet long. One end was cliipped to a point so that it could be thrust 
into the ground to hold the utensil steady when in use; the other end 
was hollowed out to form the receptacle for the corn, by the follow- 
ing process: Coals were placed on the surface and were kept " ahve" 
by bemg fanned as they slowly burned their way into the wood, 
until a sufficiently large cavity had been burned out, when the mortar 
was smoothed with sandstone and water, inside and outside. The pestle 
(we'he) was between three and four feet long, large and heavy at one 
end, and smaller and tapering at the other. Wlien in use the small 
end was inserted into the mortar, the weight of the large entl giving 
added force to the pounding of the corn. Wooden bowls {zho^u'xpe) 
were made from the burrs of the black walnut. These were burned 
into shape as described and pohshed with sand and water; expe- 
rience and skill were needed to make the bowl symmetrical. Some of 
these bowls were beautiful in the marking antl grain of the wood as 
well as in form. The one showai in the illustration (fig. 68) was made 
in the eighteenth century and was prized as an heirloom. Each of the 
several societies had its ceremonial bowl or bowls. Wooden ladles 

a Tile iiiunufaclure of llie shield, the war club, and the spear is dealt with on p. 448. 


were made with the hamlle so shaped that it coukl be hooked on the 
edge of the bowl so as not to drop into the contents. Smaller bowls 
for individual use were not uncommon. Spoons were made of wood 
or of buffalo horn; the latter kind were in general use although tabu 
to one subdivision of the Tha'tada gens (p. 162). 

In clearing the ground for planting, the heavy part of the work 
was not infrequently done by men as were the cutting and trans- 
porting of the large posts needed for building the earth lodge (p. 97). 
The weaving of the slender ends of the roof poles to form the circular 
opening over the fireplace was always done by men. 

Fig. 68. Bowl made from walnut burr. 

All rituals and religious rites were in charge of men; therefore the 
painting and tattooing of symbols devolved on them. 

The Ufe of the man was not an idle one ; he could not pass his time 
in self indulgence, for want and danger were never far distant, and 
plenty and peace for the family and the tribe depended on his indus- 
try, skill, and courage. 

Avocations of Women 

The avocations of women all pertained to the conservation of life. 
She transmutetl the raw material provided by the man into food, 
raiment, and shelter; the home was the product of her labor and all 
its duties belonged to her. 

Bringing the wood for the fire was a part of the woman's task. For 
this purpose she used the burden strap ; the broad banil was worn 
across the chest and the long thongs were used to tie the wood in a 



[ETn. ANN. 27 

bundle at her back. The ilhistration shows a burden strap that 
had been the Hfelong possession of a woman who died at a great age 
more than twenty years ago. It is made of buffalo hide; on the 
side of the broad band worn next to the body the wool had been left 
to make it soft; the other side had been painted red. (Fig. 69; 
Peabody Museum no. 27578.) 

The care of the garden has already been mentioned. This was the 
principal outdoor work of the women; not that their labors were 
otherwise confined to the house, for during warm weather everything 
that could be done out of doors was jierformed under a shade set up 

Fig. G9. Burden strap. 

outside the dwelling. (Pi. 44.) Cooking, sewing, and the eating of 
meals all took place under this temporary structure. 


The appliances for cooking were simple. A pole called vJto" uihu- 
gashhe ("to tie on what is cooking") was set on the edge of the fire- 
place so as to slant towartl the fire and from this " kettle pole " the 
pot (ne'xe) was hung. In old times the Omaha women made pottery 
of a rather coarse type, ornamented with incised lines. These pottery 
kettles could be hung or set over the fire. Horn spoons, fihc' (the 
word means "buffalo horn"), were used. The wooden spoon was 
called zho'''tehe (zho'^, wood), "wooden buffalo horn;" later the metal 
spoon, mo^'fetehe (mo"fe, metal), "metal buffalo horn," still kept 
, tehe' as part of the name. There were no plates or forks anil it is 










doubtful if flint knives were ever used to cut food when eating. 
Bowls of pottery and of wood were used, which bore the general 
name uxpe'. Gourds sometimes served as cups. The introduction 
of copper or brass kettles and of steel knives made changes in 
domestic life and in many ways lightened the task of the women. 
It is said that in the olden days women had to make and keep on 
hand a supply of pottery vessels for visitors, and that when a great 
feast was to be held the kindred and friends of the women came and 
helped to make the necessary supply of dishes. The custom for 
guests at a feast, when not from a great distance, to bring their own 
bowls and spoons may have taken its rise in the pottery-making 

Among the roots and plants used for food was the "pomme blanche," 
called nu'gtJie. The root was dug from the time the plant first 
appearetl until late in the fall. The line of march taken on the tribal 
buflfalo hunt was sometimes determined by the localities where this 
desirable plant grew in abundance. It was eaten raw. The dark 
skin was peeled by the help of the teeth; the inner flesh is white 
and though rather tasteless it is not unpleasant. The roots were 
preserved by slicing, and drying them in the sun, after which they 
were stored in bags, like the shelled corn. They were cooked by 
being boiled \vith the meat, particularly the tripe of the buflfalo. 

The ground nut (Apios tuberosa) called nu, was boiled, then peeled, 
and eaten as a vegetable. 

Artichokes {Helianthus tuherosus L.), called po'^'xe, were used in 
the early spring. They were eaten only raw and were spoken of as 
the food of homeless boys who had no near relative to feed them. 

The root of the great yellow water lily (Nelumhium luteum), called 
te'thawe, and the bulb of the lily (Sagittana variabilis) were gathered 
in the spring. The root of the latter lily was called pi". It was 
boiled and eaten as a vegetable and was said to taste like salsify. The 
root was never cooked with meat. It was gathered only in the 
spring, as later in the season the bulb became spongy and unpleasant. 
The root of the Amphicarpsea monoica, called ho'"bthi'''abe, was gathered 
in the fall from the storehouses of the field mouse. This little animal 
gathers these roots in large quantities. The Indians kept the roots 
in skin bags during the winter. Before boiling, the outer skin was 
removed by rubbing the root between the palms of the hands. The 
flesh is whitish before cooking and reddish afterward ; it is sweetish in 
taste and very nutritious. 

Slippery-elm bark was used for flavoring. Small bunches were 
dropped into fat that was to be used in cooking. 

A milk weed or silk weed (Asdepias syriaca L.), known to the 
Omaha as waxtha' , was used as a vegetable. The tender shoots were 
cut and boiled ; sometimes corn and meat were added to give flavor. 

342 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

Miisluooms {mika'extlil, "looks like tripe") were eaten lioiled or 
frietl in fat. 

The leaves of Ceanothus americanus, " New Jersey tea," were made 
into a tea to be taken with the food; this was called tabe'M. 

The shoulder of game was always roasted and be>cause it was so 
cooked it was called waha'pno^. 

The thigh was cut in thin slices and jerked. This meat was always 
boiled even when it was fresh. The broth {U'zhe'ga) was eaten with 
the meat. 

The marrow (wazhi'he) from the fore-leg and hind -leg bones was con- 
sidered a delicacy. The bones were roasted and served hot with the 
roasted shoulder. A brush made by pounding the end of a sprig of 
the wild cherry was used in serving the marrow. This cherry stick 
brush was called wazhi'he ibagu'de. 

The ribs (tethi'te) were used only when fresh; they were roasted, 
never boiled. 

The tezhu' , a special cut already described, was eitlier roasted or 
boiled; it M'as also jerked. 

Birds were both boiled and roasted. All roasting was done by 
thrustmg the bird on a stick which was then stood up before the fire. 
This mode of cooking was called iapno"' . 

The methods of preparing and cooking corn have been already 

Salt was obtained from a stream near the present city of Lincoln, 
Nebraska, knowTi to the Omaha as Salt creek, the waters of which 
left on the grassy banks a white saline deposit. This fine salt the 
women brushed into piles by means of feathers and afterward it was 
deposited in bladder bags for future use. 


Among the most im])ortant of the woman's duties were the care 
and preparation of the pelts, as on these the people depended for 
clothing and shelter. The work of dressing and tanning, which was 
arduous, bore the general name wato'''tTie. When tlie tribe was on the 
annual hunt a certain part of the work of dressmg the skms had to 
be done at once in order to preserve the pelts for future use and 
t aiming. 

First, the green skm was washo<l in order to remove all eviilences 
of the slaughter. 

Second, slits were cut along the edges, and through these slits pegs 
were driven so that the hide couhl be stretched taut on the ground, 
the inner side uppermost. 

Third, an implement made from the leg bone of the elk, called 
ire'bazhabe (fig. 70; Peabody Museum no. 40109), was used to re- 
move any fleshy portions adhering to the green skin, wliich was 




called taha'nvlca, literally, "wet skin." This work on a single skin, 
which usually occupied two or more hours, was called waba'zhahe. 
When this task was finished the skin was left to dry in the sun. 
Wlien it became dry and hard it was calletl waha'fage. If the hide 
was to be used as a robe or to serve as bedding, it was then folded up 
to be packed back to the village, where the work of tanning was 

We'bazkabe U'c'uhi 

Fig. 70. Implements for dressing skins. 

always done. But if the skm was to be used for moccasins or a tent 
cover, it would have to be made ready for tanning on both sides. In 
that case the dried hide would be turned and the hair scraped off with 
an implement called we'uhi — a short adze, sometimes calleil we'uhazho" 
(really the name of the handle), figure 70 (Peabody Museum no. 
27576). The process of scraping off the hair was called iva'u. The 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

liido was next turned skin side up and scraped to an even thickness 
with the same implement; this process (fig. 71) was called by the 
same name as that liy which the hair was removed. After this the 
skin was folded in an oblong shape convenient for packing and was 
taken home for tanning. Often a family would have a number of 
skins to prepare in this wny when on the hunt and the women would 
be kept busy day and night if the hunters were successful. 

Fig. 71. Scraping a skin. 

Not only did the skins have to be attended to at once in order to 
save them but the meat had to be jerked immediately, otherwise it 
would spoil and be attacked by insects. Jerking (wa'ga) was done by 
cutting the flesh in very thin sUces and hanging these on frames, so 
that the wind and sun could dry them rapidly. If a rain set in just 
after a hunt, quantities of meat and pelts were apt to spoil, owing 
to the difficulty of preserving them in a warm, moist atmosphere. 


The rapidity with which the women worked was remarkable. In 
jerking the meat men sometimes helped if necessity required. 

Wlien the people reached home the tanning was done at the con- 
venience of the women. For this process the brains of the slaugh- 
tered buffalo were saved in bladder bags, where they became dry 
and hard. These dried brains were boile<l. Then the hard skin was 
stretched on the ground and the boiled brains were smeared over 
it by means of a brush made of a bunch of wild sage (artemisia). 
It is said that the artemisia was used to counteract the unpleasant 
odor of the brains. This process was called i'thixthi. If there were 
no brains available, broth from boiled meat was substituted. 

Next, the skin was immersed in a stream, weighted down with 
stones and left there over night. This soaking was called washpo'^'the. 
The water was wrung out and the skin stretched lightly on a frame 
set either upright or flat; a knife-shaped implement, called we'bamo", 
was used to press out the remaining water. Dry corn meal was then 
rubbed on the skin to absorb any moisture yet unexpelled. 

The final process was called wathi'kiMe, meaning softening the 
skin by friction. A post was driven into the ground, a small sinew 
rope i'we'thiki^de) was fastened to it in a loop, and the skin run 
through the loop and pulled from side to side. This pulling was 
done inch b}' inch and was repeated three or four times, making the 
skin soft and pUable for use. 

Skins to be used in making moccasins were browned by smoke. 
This process was called wana'fithe. The skins for tent covers were 
not smoked but were kept white. The same process of tanning and 
softening was used in preparing robes, except that the hair was left. 
Deer and elk skins, not being so harsh as the buffalo hide, did not 
require as much labor in tanning. The processes employed were 
similar to those above described. 


Embroidery with porcupine quills was a feminine accomphshment. 
The Omaha women did fairly good work but it is doubtful if they 
were as expert as the women of some of the northern tribes. The 
following was the Omaha method of preparing and dyeing the quills : 

The quills were plucked as soon as possible after the porcupine 
was killed, for if the skin became dry the quills were hable to break. 
The quills were sorted as to length and size and laid in bladder bags, 
the outer or black ends being placed together. The largest quills, those 
on the tail, were kept by themselves and were used in ornamenting 
comb cases and workbags. The long ones of medium size were 
reserved for fine work. The hair of the porcupine and that of the 
turkey's tassel were used for very fine embroidery — finer than was 
possible with the quills. Fine quills were used in embroidering the 

346 THE OMAHA TRIBK [etii. ann. 27 

line on the middle of the upper part of the moccasins; the hirger 
ones were used in decorating the flaps about tiie ankle. The Omaha 
did not often ornament garments witli (|iiill work. 

It is said by some of tlie old women that in early times only black, 
red, and wliito were used; that red and black were the only native 
dyes; and that yellow, blue, and green were introduced by traders. 
Yet yellow and dark blue were made from roots known to some of 
the women, so these may have been used before the day of the trader. 

The black dye was made from a yellow earth, or clay, called wafe'- 
zhide nika. Tliis earth was put into a vessel over the fire and a piece 
of tallow added. The earth was stirred constantly until it was 
roasted black. A decoction was then made by cutting the inner 
bark of the maple into strips, adding leaves from the trees that had 
been mashed and boihng these in water until it became a dark red. 
The roasted earth was added to the boiling decoction. After the 
earth had been boiled in it, the water was very black. The mixture 
was then taken off the fire and the quills were put into it and left 
over night; in the morning they would be found dyed black. 

The red dj'o was made from the root of a small plant that grows 
in the marshes or lowlands. Tliis root was boiled in water and the 
quills were boiled with it for a short time until all were colored a 
bright red. The Omaha called this dj^e "feather dye." The plant 
has not been identified botanically. The red quills were dyed early 
in the morning, before the fii'st meal was eaten, as the process was 
thought to succeed best at that time. It is said that but few 
persons were competent to dye a good red. 

The yellow dye was made from the early buds of the cottonwood, 
"the buds out of which the leaves sprmg." This color was also 
made from the roots of a vine (not identified). After these roots 
had been boiled the quills were dropped into th.e water but were 
allowed to remain only a very short time. 

Wliite was the natural color of the qudls; they were never bleached. 

Verdigris was used for coloring green. 

The quills were never split. They were held in the mouth to 
make them pliable, as they needed both warmth and moisture to 
bring about that condition. Cold water would not serve the j)urpose. 

To flatten them for working, the black end, or tip, was held by the 
thmnb and finger of the right hand, the nails being used to flatten 
the quills, which were warm and moist and pliable, bemg taken 
directty from the mouth for this flattening process. A number would 
be treated in this way but just before using them in sewing the same 
treatment would be again applied. 

Quill work was called u'thiflr, an old, untranslatable term. 

The |)att('rns were not often traced. The}' were generally evolved 
by the worker as she proceeded. In olden times only tlie awl was 







used to pierce the holes for the sinew and quills. A stitch was taken 
but not through the skin and the sinew was passed through and 
pulled tight. Then another stitch was taken in the same way but 
the sinew was not pulled tight. A httle loop was left and through 
this loop the blunt ends of the quills were put. If, for example, four 
quills were to be used, they were placed one on the other through the 
loop, which was then tightened. A quarter of an inch from the first 
stitch of sinew a similar stitch was taken and in the loop four quills 
were fastened in the same way. Then the first quill was bent toward 
the second loop and the first quiU of the second loop was bent toward 
the first loop, and the braiding went on, back and forth, until all 
four quills were in place, the last quill being doubled under and the 
sinew used in a stitch to hold it in place. In this way little by 
little the pattern progressed. 

Quill work for pipestems was made as follows: Two long threads 
were doubled, making four threads. The free ends were wound 
about a stick and fastened to a stationary object. The doubled 
ends were made fast to the belt of the worker. A few inches of the 
doubled ends were left unworked for fastening to the pipestems. 
The quills were woven one at a time in and out over the four threads. 
Two threads formed one column. The ends of the quills were fas- 
tened between the two threads of a column. The new qiull was 
fastened in the same place by the blunt end. 

No trustworthy information has been obtained relative to symbolic 
designs being worked with quills on garments worn by the Omaha. 
The designs employed were generally geometric, this characteristic 
being due probably to the stiffness of the quills. Later these designs 
were reproduced by narrow ribbons hemmed on to the cloth or skin. 
This style was in greater favor among the Omaha women than 
embroidering with beads. (PI. 45.) 


Among the Omaha weaving was not practised on a large scale. So 
far as is known, cloth was not woven nor were the people acquainted 
with the cotton plant. One of the birds found in the honor pack 
belonging to the Sacred Tent of War was lined with cloth which may 
have been of native manufacture. If the cloth lining was strictly a 
native product it probably was obtained through barter or gift from 
some tribe which practised the art of weaving. Omaha women wove 
scarfs which were used as belts, being wound around the waist, by 
both men and women. The term applied to these scarfs suggests 
the material out of which they were formerly woven — tezhi^'hi^de 
(tezhi^', "little buffalo," or "calf;" M^de, "hair.") Scarfs bound 
about the head were worn exclusively by men. (PI. 46.) Women 
used the scarf to gird the robe or blanket about their waists. They 



[KTH. ANN. 27 

also wove bags, which were generally made from broad, short scarfs, 
doubled and sewed together at the sides. These bags were used by 
men as receptacles for ceremonial objects, as shown by the bags of 
ilifl'erent sizes found in the jiack belonging to the Shell society of 
which the old chief Big Elk was the keeper. (See p. 554.) Women 
made use of these woven bags for various purposes. They had also 
bags of deerskin to contain their sewing materials — sinew, awl, and 
bladder cases containing dyed porcvipine quills. 

Necklaces of beads were woven, the difl'erent colored beads being 
arranged so as to make elaborate patterns (pi. 47; Peabody Museum 
no. 27551.) The short necklaces which were tied about the throat 
were woven on horsehair. The longer ones woven on thread were 
worn about the neck, being allowed to hang down in front. 

The loom used by the 
Omaha women was a 
very simple device. The 
strands forming the warp 
were fastened at each end 
to a stick slightly longer 
than the width of the 
scarf or necklace to be 
woven; a thong was at- 
tached to each end of the 
sticks holding the warp 
and by these thongs one 
stick was fastened to a 
post and the other one 
to the woman's belt. 
She sat on the ground so 
as to stretch the threads 
of the warp taut and then 
wove the woof in accordance with the design she desired to produce. 
The different weaves and patterns used by the Omaha women are 
shown in the illustration given of the bags of their manufacture 
(figs. 114-116, 118, 120, 121). To weave the long necklaces required 
considerable counting and careful arrangement of the beads in order 
to produce the chosen design. 

Ropes for lariats and cortls were made from the nettle ( Urtica gra- 
cilis Ait.), which was gathered in the fall when dry. The fiber was 
separated from the woody part by pounding between stones and was 
then braided. The native name for the plant was ha'nugahi. The 
fiber was called mi'no''zhiha, "maiden's hair." When the hemp rope 
was introduced by traders it was given the same name. Lariats were 
also made in former times, of buffalo hair. Such ropes, usually of 
eight strands, were called taha'thifi'^. Few knew how to braid them. 






social life 
Personal Adornment 


Toilet appliances were few. The hairbrush, mii-a 7* e, (fig. 72; Pea- 
body Museum no. 27561), and the paint stick {peu'gafo^ihatho'^, "to 
part the hair") were the two requisites. The paint stick, as its name 

Fig. 73. Costumes of young men. 

implies, served a tlouble purpose. It was made of wood and was about 
6 or 8 inches long, one end tapering to a blunt point. The case 
in wliich the stick was kept was generally ornamented and sometimes 



[ amn. 27 

liad a ])()inti'(l llap whicli sorve<l as a cover to protect the stick and 
keep it from dropping out. 

Tlie brush (iniJca'he, possibly from mi, "woman;" l-a'Jie, "to comb," 
although this is not a certain derivation) was made of stiff grass called 
by the same name. One end of the brush was tightly wound about to 
form a sort of handle. Both of these articles were usetl by both men 
and women. The hair was kept neatly brushed and glossy. Buffalo 
fat, well fried out, was sometimes used on the hair but it was more 
commonly employed on chapped lips, face, and hands. 

The men wore the hair either flowing or 

cut close to the scalp, leaving only a stiff roach 
extending from the forehead over the top of 
the head to the neck. All wore the scalp 
lock. The sister or wife braided tliis lock in 
a fine, even braid. On this lock the eagle 
feather war honor was worn. A bone case 
was made, in which the quill of the feather 
was fastened securely; the feather could thus 
be made to stand erect or slanting, or to 
hang, according to the honor accorded the 
wearer. The bone case was fastened to the 
scalp lock. When the hair was worn flowing, 
the midtUe parting line was painted red and 
the circular line of parting around the scalp 
lock was generally kept painted the same 

The word for paint varied with the use to 
which the paint was put. Thus, xce'uga was 
paint for a tent; wafe'zhide meant red paint 
for the person {wafe' is part of wafe'co^, 
"clay"; zhide, "red"; wafe'tu, "blue paint," 

Men generally painted their faces or bodies 
in accordance with tlreams or in representa- 
tion of some achievement or accorded honor. Yoimg men used 
merely fanciful designs. Before the advent of looking-glasses a 
young man was painted by his friend. Men were frequently nude 
except for the breechcloth. Wlien going to battle, on the surround 
at the tribal buffalo hunt, when taking part in the Ile'dewachi 
ceremony, at the races, at the Hethu'shka st)ciety, and the Pebble 
society, the painting on their faces and bodies had a serious sig- 
nificance, partaking of the nature of an appeal or })rayer. Except 
with very young men, painting could hardly be called strictty an 
adornment. (See pis. 46, 49, 50, and fig. 73.) 

Fig. 74. Man's necklace. 




The regalia worn by men indicated grades of war hont)rs (p. 438). 
Earrings were worn. Piercing the ears was a costly ceremony, each 
hole generall}^ representing the gift of a pony to the man who did 
thepiercmg; so the number of holes in a man's ears was an indica- 
tion of the wealth of his near kindred. The necklace (wano"'pi^) 
(pi. 47 and fig. 74) was a part of an Omaha man's adornment, as 
were the beaded garters {hi'thawi"), tied below the knee outside 
the legging. (Fig. 75; Peabody Museum no. 27545.) Bells were 

Fig. 75. Man's garters. 

sometimes fastened about the garter and their tinkle emphasized 
the rhythm of the dance. The belt (i'pithage) was worn, and to it 
was attached the embroidered case of the paint stick, and a little bag 
which contamed tinder and flint for making fire. Perfumery {I'nui- 
tho"]cithe) was commonly used by the men. Braids of sweet grass 
were worn about the neck, under the robe. Cohmibine seeds were 
pulverized, mixed with water, and sprinkled over the robe to perfume 



[ETH. ANN. '27 

it. A man attired for a dance often presented a gay appearance. 
The skin of the skunk or of the fox was sometimes bound about the 
leg below the knee, the tail hanging as an ornament on the outside 
of the leg. 

Women parted the hair in the middle from the forehead to the 
nape of the neck (pi. 45) . The hair, thus divided, was arranged in two 
braids, the ends of which were bound together and brought up to 

Fir,. 71". Mounted warriors. 

the back of the neck so as to let the braids fall in a long lo(.)p boiiind 
the ears. The parting was painted red and similar treatment was 
bestowed on the cheeks, back to the ear. A narrow necklace was 
worn about the throat. Earrings also were worn, and a braid of 
sweet grass was often tucked in the belt. 

A man frerjuently painted his horse to represent a valorous act in 
which the man had won honors, or he might paint the animal in a 







manner intended as a symbolic representation of a vision. (Fig. 76.) 
Such a decoration partook of the nature of a prayer. The bridles 

Fig. 77. Painting a tent cover. 

of horses were sometimes ornamented and occasionally the J'oung 

men decked tlie manes and tails of their animals with bright ribbons or 

bands pamted in gay colors. 
Women embroidered the 
cruppers for their horses, 
which were cut in such fash- 
ion as to spread over the sides 
of the animals, as shown in 
the accompanying illustra- 
tion. (PI. 48). This crupper 
formerh' belonged to an 
Omaha woman by whom it 
was used some fifty years 

Men outlined designs on 
their tent covers. These rep- 
resented symbolically their 

visions and so were more than a mere decoration, as they implied 

an invocation in behalf of the household. 
83993°— 27 eth— 11 23 

Fig. 78. Paint brush. 

In the putting on of 



[BTH. ANN. 27 

the color a man's wife or children might assist. The ilhistration 
(fig. 77) shows how tiie tent cover was spread on the ground, the 
design sketched in, and then the color applied by the assistant. 

Robes were sometimes painted, this work being done in the same 
manner as the painting on the tents. 

Paint brushes were made from the porous bone of the hip joint 

and shaped as shown in fig. 
78. The paint was applied 
with the blunt edge of the 
bone brush. 

The peculiar headgear 
shown in plates 36 and 49 
was worn only by chiefs; 
it bore the name waiha'ge, 
which was applied to all 
caps cut to fit the head. 
The style of headdress 
shown in plate 50 was 
called tezhi^'hi'^de, wliich 
was the name applied to 
the woven scarfs, as al- 
ready explained on page 


Wa'thaha is the general 
term for clothing. It 
seems probable that in 
earlier days fewer gar- 
ments were worn than in 
recent years; yet some of 
the articles of clothing, 
judging from their names, 
must have been long in 
use. To this class belong 
These varied in their cut. The simplest style 

Fig. 79. ornamentation of chiefs' leggings. 

the leggings (uto"'). 
consisted of a straight piece of skin folded and sewed at one side. 
A string at the top fastened the leggings to the belt. This style 
was used for little boys. A more elaborate style was that with 
a long pointed flap, which hung from the hip to below the knee. 
Other forms were the legging having a wide band of embroidery 
down the side and the kind called uto"'to"ga, "big leggings," 
with large flaps at the ankle; these were worn exclusively by the 
chiefs. The ornamentation on the big leggings, or chiefs' leggings, 










was peculiar. The round dots represent liail. (PI. 40 and fig. 79.) It 
will be remembered that tlie Nu'xe gens, the people whose rites were 
connected with the hail in both the Ponca and the Osage tribe, 
camped with the gentes which composed the division that represented 
the Upper World; and it will be remembered also that it was from 
that division of the Omaha tribe (the Pshta'fu^da) that the authority 
of the supernatural was symbolized in the rites that were employed 
in confirming the office of chief. The decoration put on these gar- 
ments of the chief had reference to the sacred and responsible char- 
acter of his office. 





I' 1 

r 1 


\-i 1 V^H 



Fig. 80. Shirt. 

The shirt, uno'^'zhi'^ ("to stand in"), figure 80, was generally 
ornamented with bands of embroidery, fringe, or painted devices of 
various kinds. 

The moccasins of the Omaha were made without soles and the 
embroidery was confined to a narrow band on the top of the foot 
and the flap about the ankle. There was no marked difference in 
style between the moccasins worn by men and those wliich belonged 
to women. 

The tunic of the woman was called by the same name as the sliirt — 
uno^'zhi". It was formerly made of two skins fringed at the sides 
and tied together so as to hang from the shoulders and leave the 
arms free. The tunic fell below the knee. 




The woniiiu's leggings l)ore the same name as those of the men. 
They were shorter and were fastened by a garter at the knee 
and tied at the bottom with the moccasin string. In Later times 
the tunic became sliorter and was worn over a scant skirt hiid in 
plaits at the hips and plain in front and behind. (Fig. 81 .) This skirt 
was held in place by the belt which was bound about the waist. The 
skirt was called wate' , a term now applied to a dress. Calico has 
taken the place of skin as the material for a woman's clothing but her 
gala dress consists of a skirt of strouding, or cloth, sometimes em- 
broidered with ribbon work on the 
front, and a short sack. 


The one article of clothing that has 
played an important part in the dress 
of the people is the wai^' , or robe. 
The same word is now applied to the 
blanket. The robe is probably one 
of the oldest types of garment. The 
manner of fashioning and of wearing 
the robe has acquired during the cen- 
turies a ceremonial and a personal 
significance that does not belong to 
any other garment, although this is 
shared in a degree by the moccasin. 
(PI. 51, a, Peabody Museum no. 
51S42; pi. 51, h, Peaboilj' Mu.seum 
no. 27579.) These two, the robe 
and the moccasin, may be considered 
])rimal articles of clothing and they 
deserve special consideration as re- 
vealing the native ideas and their ex- 
pression. Looking at the significance 
of the garment in the light of religious 
observances, social usages, and indi- 
vidual habits of the Omaha, this significance appears to have a per- 
sonal and a social aspect. 

Personal SioNinrANCE 

(a) As distinguishing a man from the horde. In the Sacred Legend 
already referred to, which recounted the epochal events in the history 
of the people, it is said: "As the people came forth from the water 
they were naked and shame they knew not. But as the days passed 
they desired covering and took the fiber of weeds and grass and 
wove it about their loins." According to the interpretation of the 

KiG. 81. VVomau'a costume. 





old kee])er, tliis passagP referred to the natural birth, as well as to 
the development of the people, who then dwelt near "a great water," 
and whose " desire for covering" marked the arousing of self-conscious- 
ness. The words used in the Legend are itha'kigtJia xade, "to cover 
ones' self with;" and the expression is distinct from wa'thaha, the 
word for clothing. The words used in the Legend carry the idea of 
something placed on the body of a person with the motive of 
witlulrawing himself and differentiating himself from his fellows — a 
simple act of self-consciousness expressive of the idea fundamental to 
costume, decoration, and regalia. 

(b) As symbolizing dependence on the supernatural. Nature was 
looked on subjectively and anthropomorphically; all life was con- 
sidered as one and as related. Man's physical existence is sustained 
b}- other forms of life. Eating the products of the earth and the flesh 
of the animals is essential to bodily vigor. And this physical de- 
pendence on living forms was carried a step fvirther in the idea that 
man's spirit {wazhi"'), his will, his power to do, can be strengthened 
by being supplemented by the spirit ar power of the bird, the animal, 
or the plant, since he believed, first, that all things on the earth or 
above in the sky are permeated by the same life or force that man 
is conscious of within himself; second, that this invisible life or force 
is continuous, not to be broken even by physical death; and, third, 
that the equalities or potentialities of one form can be transmitted to 
another form so as to augment power. Moreover, as man has to 
make an effort, has to perform some act in order to secure food for the 
nourishment of his body, the Omaha seems to have argued by analogy 
that he would have to go through some form of appeal if he desired to 
have his spirit strengthened. The visible medium of help for both 
body and spirit was some natural form imbued with life from Wako"'da. 
In accordance with these beliefs, rites seem to have grown up around 
the quest for food and the dress worn at these ceremonies exemplifies 
these beliefs. 

In common with other tribes the Omaha conserved in his religious 
ceremonies those articles which had contributed to the betterment of 
the people in their long, slow struggle upward. Ojie of the earliest, if 
not the earliest, garment which served to protect the body from cold 
and storm seems to have been the vmfashioned hide. This garment 
retained the semblance of the animal and the comfort the skin con- 
tributed to the body seems to have served to increase the native confi- 
dence in the close relation he conceived to exist between all other visible 
forms and himself. Although in later times his ordinary clothing 
ceased to exemplify this close relation, yet when the Omaha entered 
on sacred ceremonies with the desire of securing supernatural aid 
there was a return in his apparel to the primitive form. For example, 
in the rites preceding the tribal buffalo hunt, when the main supply of 

358 THE OMAHA TRIBE [kth. ann. 27 

meat was to be secured, the priests and chiefs wore the uncut buffalo 
robe, the hair outside, so wrapped about their bodies that as they 
sat they presented somewhat the appearance of a group of buffalo. 
This manner of wearing the robe was explained as being in recognition 
of the transmission of life from the buffalo to man that the latter might 
live. Again, the warrior when going to battle might wear a wolf skin 
over his shoulder or put on himself the skin of some swift bird of prey. 
This semblance of the living creature not only indicated an appeal for 
help but was believed to promote the transmission of the help and to 
make it more direct in the hour of need. 

(c) As proclaiming personal achievements. It will be recalled that 
war honors were graded and could be bestowed only at the public 
ceremony called Wate'gi^tu, and that each grade had its peculiar 
decoration, so that a man's costume and regalia proclaimed the 
character of his deeds, his personal achievements. The decorations 
wliich appeared on the face, body, or garments of a warrior not only 
indicated what had been the character of deeds performed by him in 
battle but they asserted his right to appeal to certain powers for 
supernatural aid. 

Social Significance 

(a) Marking the kinship group. As tlie life of the people became 
more complex, the idea seems to have developed of making the skins of 
the helpful animals subservient to man under his new requirements. 
Tliis idea seems to have found expression in the moccasin. To make 
tliis foot gear it was necessary so to cut the skin that when the parts 
were sewed together all semblance of the animal was lost and the form 
pertained wholly to man. The moccasin also became typical of man 
as a social being. In the Omaha and its cognate tribes the moccasin 
held an important place in rites wlrich laid stress on the obligation of 
a gens and winch were social in character. For example, when the 
ceremony took place which marked the initiation of the child into the 
tribe and it was given a name which belonged to its gens, moccasins 
were put on its feet with song and ritual as it was "turned by the 
winds" and sent forth "into the walk of life." Among the Ponca, 
a subdivision of the Ni'kapaslma gens to whom the deer was tabu 
put on their dead moccasins made from deer skin, so that on the jour- 
ney the spirit might be recognized by its own people and not lose its 
way. The same custom obtained in the Tapa' gens of the Omaha 
tribe, wliich had the same tabu. The We'zhi°shte gens followed a 
similar custom and put on the feet of their dead members moccasins 
made from the skin of the elk, the elk being tabu to the living." 
Less serious in character but still related to the ideas embodied 
in the above rites is the following saying: "On a journey if one's 

a Similar customs pertaining to moccasins in connection with the dead obtained among the Osage. 


moccasins wear out and they are set on the trail, pointed toward 
home, and are told to go back and tell of the welfare of the wearer, 
they will do so." The moccasin was formerly the only part of per- 
sonal attire wliicli was not regarded as interchangeable between tribes, 
as each tribe had its peculiar cut and ornamentation and a man's tribe 
could be recognized by the moccasins he wore. 

While the war bonnet can hardly be called a garment, yet it was a 
marked article of dress and was of special social significance, as it 
emphasized interdependence among men. While all the materials 
used in its construction were symbolic, its manufacture was attended 
with ceremonies significant of the development of social ideas. The 
special point of interest in connection with this article is that no man, 
whatever his rank or his record, could make or purchase for liis own 
use a war bonnet. In olden days it had to be built by his fellow- 
tribesmen. Its feathers represented the war record of the warriors of 
the tribe, who thus gave their consent to place upon a fellow-tribesman 
this picturesque mark of distinction. In like manner the hair fringe 
on a war sliirt represented the consent of the warriors to allow the 
owner so to decorate his garment. 

The dress of societies served to mark their respective membership 
and stimulated a feeling of brotherhood independent of the ties of 
blood, thus promoting the social growth of the tribe. 

Looking back along the pathway of progress from those early con- 
ditions wherein man's fears and needs held him in vague dread, from 
the time when liis appeals to the supernatural were a constant 
duty to the time when these appeals were relegated to particular 
times and seasons, we note that under the regulating influence of 
established rites and ceremonies and the growth of social order, 
mental bewilderment gave way and conditions arose that were 
favorable to the development of a secular life, a life in wliich the indi- 
vidual could enjoy a freedom hitherto impossible for him. This per- 
sonal freedom under the influence of social order and secular life was 
apparent in the varied manner of wearing the robe. During the 
long stay among the Omaha of one of the writers the different ways 
in which the robe was worn and shifted to meet the recjuirements of 
varying moods arrested her attention and a study of the subject 
ensued, the results of which are here given. 

The blanket began to supersede the robe even before the extinction 
of the bufl'alo made the latter no longer possible to obtain. The well- 
dressed robe was almost as pliant as the blanket and it was during 
the period when only robes were worn that tliis garment seems to 
have become expressive of the wearer's moods and actions. The 
adjustment never seemed to be the arranging of a costume for effect 
but a free expression of a passing emotion. The picture presented by 
the draped figure told its story with simplicity and truthfulness. 

360 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth, ann. 27 

Wliilo each man wore liis robe in a manner characteristic of the indi- 
vidual, either <i;racefii]ly or otherwise, yet there was a typical way of 
exj)ressing certain j)uiposes or feelings by the adjustment of the robe 
that was persistent and easily recognizable. 

Language of the Robe 

The Omaha had never been trammeled by his clothing; every 
limb had been free to answer to any impulse, to respond to any 
wave of emotion. His clothes were few; and the waV\ or robe, was 
never lacking and lent itself easily to the needs of the moment. 
There still lives in the memory of one of the writers a June day 
nearly thirty years ago when an Omaha girl was seen flitting among 
the tall prairie flowers, shifting her white blanket to suit her varying 
moods — now gathering it closely about her slight, swaying figure, 
now letting it float as she swept in ever-widening curves, or at the 
slightest sound liiding her glossy head and laughing face among its 
soft folds. All the beauty and poetry of her race were in the pretty 
maiden, who was as wayward and blithe as the fleecy clouds drifting 
above her through the deep blue sky. With the Omaha, as with other 
peoples, the airy pleasures of youth must give place to the prosaic 
duties of mature life. So the blanket of the woman was worn veiy 
practically. It was belted at the waist, thus affording a close cover- 
ing and also a pouch or pocket within which she could snugh^ tuck 
her baby or carry some other burden on her bac'k. Her figure sug- 
gested little of beauty. 

The freer Ufe of the man was manifest in his use of the robe. The 
accompanying illustrations show some of the ways in which the robe 
was worn and sliifted and suggest something of the interesting 
lancriuige of this garment. 

The first of the series shows hesitation (pi. 52, a). The man has 
not determined whether he will go forth to take an active part in the 
particular affair occupying the people or will sit down and become a 
mere spectator. 

Next appears a young man walking (pi. 52, i). The robe is 
thrown loosely over tiie left slioulder and gathered on the left arm. 
The right arm is free and the hnibs unincumbered. The fokls of the 
garment add grace and dignity to the figure. Youths thus attired 
could often be seen walking with, elastic step over the hills. 

The tliird illustration depicts a young man about to run (pi. 52, c). 
The blanket hangs over the left shoulder, relieving the ai'm of its 
weight. In long runs, as when on the annual hunt the runners were 
sent out to search for a buffalo herd, the robe was gathered in a 
roll, passed over the left shoukler and tied beneath the right arm. 
In races the robe was droppeil altogether. 



(■ <l 










In the picture of the okl man walldng (pi. 52, d) the adjustment 
of the robe iniUcates the weakness of age, the desire for bodily 
comfort, and the slow and feeble step that bears the burden of the 

The next figure is that of a young man watching for his sweet- 
heart (pi. 53, a) . Courtship was by stealth and the lover when going 
to the trysting place guarded against recognition. He concealed 
himself in his blanket, one eye only being visible. In the picture 

Fig. 82. Language of the robe — Anger. 

he has arrived at his destination ; a slight movement of the head has 
caused the blanket to fall back a little and leave both eyes free to 
watch for the maiden as she comes to the spring to draw water for the 

In strong contrast to the observant lover is the pose of the man 
who stands watching some transaction of public interest (pi. 53, b). 
His attitude is quiet and firm, the robe is not definitely adjusted, and 
resembles somewhat the picture representing "hesitation;" but there 

362 THE OMAHA TRIBE [kth. axn. i;7 

is no indecision in the mind of tho wearer — he will he ready for 
speech or act when the opportune moment arrives. 

Now the man is addressing the tribe or council (jil. 53, c). The 
moment waited for has arrived and he steps forth to speak his 
thought, to impress his views upon his tribesmen. 

In "The admonition" the adjustment of the drapery suggests a 
pause, a change of mental attitude (pi. 53, d). The mind of the 
speaker has reverted to some past experience in his long career, from 
which he draws a lesson and gives it as an admonition to the peo]'>le. 

Perhaps the most striking illustration of this expressive use of the 
garment was its adjustment in the case of anger (fig. 82). Stung by 
sudden wrong or injury, the man grasps the edges of his robe and hast- 
ily draws it up over his head, thus withdrawing from observation. 
The rousing of his anger has made him intensely conscious of his per- 
sonality and he responds to the primitive impulse "to cover him- 
self," to put something upon himself, that he may feel consciously 
separate from his fellows. The draped figure of the man hooded by 
the robe which he holds with tense hands not only emphasizes the 
impulse which the legend assigns as fundamental to the garment — 
that of the desire to difTerentiate one's self from the horde — but it 
suggests the steps we have traced in the use and purpose of the 
g;arment from the uncut animal skin up to the period when it could 
express man's personal emotions, a freedom he could have achieved 
only within the arena of society. 


Household furniture was simjile. The robes used for bedding 
were of hide taken from the buflfalo bull in the winter when the fur 
was the heaviest. This bedding was called und'zhe. The pillows 
(i'behi'") were of soft deerskin stufTed with the long winter hair of the 
deer. There were no contrivances for seats in the tent. In the earth 
lodge were couches, already described (p. 98) . The cooking and eating 
utensils, the mortar and pestle for grinding corn, and the packs for 
storing food and clothing — all those things which pertained to the 
household were the property of the wife. Ilers, also, was the tent. 
All other things were individual property and belonged to the mem- 
bers of the family. Even the articdes belonging to the children were 
considered as their own, and were not disposed of without their con- 
sent. In the Omaha tribe there was no communal property. The 
land was the bountiful "mother earth" which brought forth food for 
all living creatures. There was no property in land or in springs, as 
the country was well supplied with never-failing springs and streams. 
Proprietorship in garden ])lots was recognized as long as the plots 
were used but the produce belonged to the woman. 


To a man belonged his regalia, clothing, weapons, and othei' per- 
sonal property. Horses were not exclusively the property of the 
men. Women owned their own ponies and disposed of them as they 
pleased. Children owned their ponies and a parent did not assume 
the right to give away one of them without the child's consent. 

At death, the articles that had been in immediate use by the 
deceased were buried with the body. Other possessions, as extra 
weapons and utensils, passed to the children if they were old enough 
to use them, otherwise to the brothers of the dead man or woman. 

Hospitality was the rule and food was shared as long as it lasted 
but food was not communal property. No corn was raised and 'kept 
for the use of the tribe nor was any meat set apart for general use. 
An offering of meat was made at the ceremony of Anointing the Pole 
but the meat was contributed by members of the tribe. 

Societies owned certain articles, as wooden bowls, packs contain- 
ing regalia, and medicines (see p. 518). Songs were the property of 
certain subgentes, societies, or individuals (pp. 233, 249, 373). Some 
songs, however, were free to the people, particularly the songs belong- 
ing to the Wa'wa° ceremony (p. 376). 


In their play the children were apt to mimic the occupations of 
their elders. At an early age the girls began to pla}- "keep house." 
Miniature tents were set up. The mother's robe or shawl was often 
seized for a tent cover ; the poles were f requentlj" tall sunflower stalks. 
If the boys were gallant, they would cut the poles for the girls. It 
was a matter of delight if the tent was large enough to creep into. 
Generally the feet and legs would protrude but if the heads were well 
under cover it was easy to ' ' make-believe. ' ' Both boys and girls 
liked to play "going on the hunt." The boys took two parts — they 
were hunters sometimes and sometimes ponies. When the latter, 
the girls tied the tent cover in a bundle and fastened it and the tent 
poles to the boy pony, who might be a docile creature or a very frac- 
tious animal and particularly troublesome when fording a stream 
or if the camp was attackeil by enemies, as such ponies always 
stampeded. Sometimes men carried through life their pony reputa- 
tion. Women woukl laughingly point out some elderly man and say : 
" He used to be a very bad pony " or else " a very good pony." The 
boys who played warrior wore war bonnets made from corn husks, 
which cost much labor to manufacture and were quite effective when 
well done. Children made many of their plaj'things out of clay and 
some of the boys and girls were very clever in modeling dishes, pipes, 
dolls, tents, etc. The writer once came across a miniature clay coffin 
with a bit of glass set in, beneath which was a clay baliy. Some child 
had seen the funeral of a white person and had devised a new play- 

364 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ANN. 27 

thino;. Dolls wore improvised by children from corncobs. Sometimes 
mothers made dolls for their little girls and also small dishes for the 
yoiin<; liousekoepeis. The hobby-horse of the boys was a sunflower 
stalk with one notkling bloom left on the end. Races were I'un on 
these "make-believe " ponies. Generally the boys rode one stalk and 
trailed two or three others as "fresh horses." 

The game of iihe'hasho'^ sho" ([[teraWy, " the crooked path") was 
the game familiarly known to us as ' ' Follow my leader. ' ' The children 
sang as they ran and made their merry way through the village, each 
one repeating the pranks of the leader. The line was kept by each 
boy holding to the string about the waist of the boy in front. It is 
said that the song which accompanied this game had been handed 
down by generations of children. Certainly every Omaha seemed to 
know it. (Fig. 8.3.) 








The quiet games often played about the fire were "cat's cradle" 
{wa'haha, meaning "the litter") and a game resembhng jackstraws, 
in which a bunch of joints of prairie grass was dropped from one's 
hand and the players strove to pull out one joint after another without 
disturbing the bunch. The player could use a joint to disentangle 
those he was trying to secure. Another game, called diui, was played 
with a long stick one side of which was notched. The person who 
could touch the greatest number of notches, saying dua at every 
notch without taking breath, was winner. 

The boys enjoyed the game called tvahi'gafnugithe, "bonesUde." 
Formerly ribs were used; sticks are now substituted. Four or five 
could i)lay at this game. The sticks are about 4^ feet long, made of 
red willow, and ornamented by banding with bark and then holding 
them over a fire. The exposed part turns brown and when the bands 
are removed the sticks are striped brown and white. Each boy holds 
a number of sticks and throws one so it will skim or slide along the 
level ground or the ice. The boy who throws his sticks farthest wins 
all the sticks; the one who loses is tapped on the heat! l)y the winner. 
The Ponca call this game moH'hagi'^, "arrow throwing." 

During the annual buffalo hunt when the tribe remained in a 
camp for moi-e than a day the boys, ranging from ten to fouiteen 
years of age, would engage in a sport called zhi^ga uti^ {zhi^ga, 
"little," referring to the little birds {wazlii^ga, "bird"); w<i", "to 
strike"). The boys armed themselves with sticks about a yard 
long, to which small twigs were attached; then ranging in line through 
the prairie grass they scared up the little birds. As these rose, the 
boys threw their sticks into the air anil the fledglings, mistaking 




them for hawks, tumbled into the grass to hide, only to be caught 
by the hands of tlie boys. One hid was chosen to carry the quarry. 
As soon as a bird was caught, it was killed, scalped, and thrown 
at the boy appointed to take charge of the game; then it was his 
dutj^ to run aliead ami fall into the grass as if shot. On rising, he 
took the bird and strung it on his bow string. This little pantomime 
was enacted with evevy bird caught. When a number of birds had 
been captured, the boys retired to a place where they could roast 

Fig. 83. Group of Omaha boys. 

the birds and enjoy a feast. Boys of the Wazhi°'ga itazhi subgens 
of the Tha'tada gens could join in the sport but could not touch the 
birds or share in the feast, as small birds were tabu to them. 

In winter the boys played whip top. They made their own tops 
out of wood. Sometimes a round-pointed stone served as a top, 
and was spun on the smooth ice. 

Aball game called tabe'gafi {tabe, "hsxll;" gafi, "to toss by striking"), 
which resembles somewhat the game known as shinny, was played by 

366 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth.axn.27 

two jjroups, or parties. This is the game before referred to (see p. 197) 
as sometimes ])hi3'e(l between the two divisions of the tribe, which 
had a cosmic sijjnificance in reference to the winds and the earth. 
When it was phiyed between the two divisions of the tribe it had to 
be formally opened by a member of the Ko"\'e gens in the manner 
already descrilied. Wlien it was played merely for pleasure between 
two groups of boys, if among the number there chanced to be a boy 
from the Ko"'ve gens, he would be the one to open the game and first 
to toss and strike the ball. Two stakes, as goals for the two sides, 
were set at a considerable distance apart. The players with the ball 
started from the center. The aim of each player was to drive the ball 
to the goal of his side, while the players on the opposing side tried to 
prevent this and to drive the hall to their own goal. The bat used was 
a stick crooked at one end. \^^len boy neighbors played together, the 
"sides" were chosen in the following manner: A boy was selected to 
choose the sticks. He took a seat on the ground and another boy stood 
behind him. The standing boy held his hands over the eyes of the 
seated boy. Then all the sticks were laid in a pile before the latter. 
He took two sticks, felt them, trying to recognize to what boy they 
belonged. Then he crossed his hands and laid one stick on one side and 
the other on the other side of the place where he was sitting. When 
all the sticks had been taken up and laid on one or the other pile, the 
standing boy removed his hands and the boy who had chosen the 
sticks indicated to which pile or side he would belong. There were no 
leaders in the game — the ball was tossed and the sides fell to playing. 
When men played this game, large stakes were often put up, as gar- 
ments, robes, horses, bows and arrows, and guns. No stakes were 
ventured when boys were the players. 

Pa'fi^zhahe was a game adopted from the Pawnee some generations 
back. It was played with a hoop and a peculiar stick which was 
thrown so as to intercept the rolling hoop. (Fig. 84; Peabody 
Museum no. 37776.) 

Lads sometimes indulged in a game called wa'thade. This game, 
which maybe called "dare," consisted in lads doing ridiculous things, 
which required exertion to accomplish. Some of the number were 
detailed to see that the boys actually did the things called for. 
Many are the laughs the older men have over these "hazing" sports 
of their youth, as they recount their escapades. 

Girls had a game, tabewaba' zhnade (tabe, "ball;" waba'zhnade, 
"stick"), played with two l)alls tied together and a stick. Two goals 
were set up several yards apart. The players were lUvided into two 
parties, each with its goal. They started in the middle and each 
side tried to prevent the other's lialls from reaching the goal. 

There were two games which were rarely, if ever, played except for 
stakes. One of these was played exclusively by women; this was 




called Ico^'fi (ko", part of the word IcoMe, the name of the plum ; fi, 
"seeds "). The appliances were few and simple — a wooden bowl and 
five plum stones. Two played at a time. First, tlie number of counts 
that should constitute the game 
was determined — 50 or 100 
points. Sticks were used for 
keeping tally. The plum stones 
were "burned" so as to show 
certain forms. Two on one side 
hail moons, t\\'o on one side had 
stars; there were three black 
sides and three white sides. 
The bowl containing the plum 
stones was tossed and the com- 
binations of the stones as they 
fell had certain values. These 
counts were as follows: 

Two moons and 3 black 
counted 5 if the game was 50, 
and 10 if the game was 100. 

Two moons and 3 white, 2 
stars and 3 black, and 2 stars 
and 3 white had the same 
count as the above. These 
counts were called xu'he, and 
whoever tossed and got any 
of these throws might keep on 
tossing so long as she could 
make xu'he. 

One moon, 1 star, and 3 white 
counted 1. 

One moon, 1 star, and 3 black 
counted 1 in a game of 50, and 
2 in a game of 100. 

One moon, 1 star, 1 black, 
and 2 white counted nothing. 

Two moons, 1 black, and 2 
white counted nothing. 

Two moons or 2 stars, 1 
white, and 2 black counted 

Fig. b4. Impluments used in game of ^a'<;i'tzhahc. 

The stakes put up were necklaces, moccasins, earrings, and ]>aint. 

The gambling game of the men was called i'liti'^, "hiding the stone." 
For this game there were used four moccasins and two small stones. 
Four persons played — two to hide the stones, two to watch and guess. 




Tlio two sides had their backers niui watchers, who often contributed 
to the stakes, which consisted of all manner of articles — garments, 
wea])()ns, horses, and other property. The number of chances to con- 
stitute a game was agreed on. Then the players sat down. Before 
one of the couples were laid four moccasins, the heels toward the 
player, two moccasins to a man. These each had a small stone 
which they were to hide under tlie moccasins l)efore them while the 
men who sat opposite guessed under which of the moccasins the stones 
were hid. During the process of hiding, which was accompanied with 
many feints and movements intended to conceal the decisive act, 
songs were sung by the side supporting the guessers. The following 
belong to this class of songs : 







-• — •-=- 

U=q— 5^ 

I ya liii i lio i tha i ya lia i ho i tha i ya lia i ho i tha i 






-*— *-*-p-J. ^^ 

va ha i ho i tlia 



ya ha i lio i tha i ya ha i ho i tha i 
A ^ D.C. 



ya ha i ho i tha i ya ha i ho i tha i ya ha i ho i tha 

The only words in song no. 2 are: I'e zJd" ga dada" shlcaxe, "Little 
stone, what are you making?" All the rest in both songs are 

Sometimes the game was played without moccasins, when the little 
stone or a small l)all of buffalo hair was tossed between the hands. 
The outstretched arms were moved from side to side and the ball 
was dexterously passed from one hand to the other. This form of the 
game was very attractive, as the movements of the arms conformed 
to the rhythm of the song, ami if the player was graceful as well as 
rhythmic, it was a ]ileasure to watch the game. The following song 
was a favorite for this game: 












da-tla" shka-xe? Ha 

bo e tba a 

bo e tha 

Foot racing was another pastime. Races genei'ally took place 
among the Omaha, however, after a death, when gifts contributed by 
the family of the deceased youth or maiden were distributed among 
the successful competitors. At these races sharp contrasts marked 
the occasion. The race generally took place a short time after the 
burial. A feast was given by the parents, after which if the deceased 
was a young man his young men friends took part in the race; if a 
girl, her young companions competed for her possessions. The dis- 
tribution of the goods was made by a personal friend, while the 
parents often retiretl to the grave, where the sound of their wailing 
could be heard above the noise of the contestants. 

There was no ceremony in the tribe that corresponded to the 
drama, the acting out of a myth, a legend, or a storj-. There were 
dances and movements which were dramatic in character, as when at 
the meetings of the Hethu'shka society a man acted out his warlike 
experience (p. 466) ; also during the closing scenes at the ceremony of 
Anointing the Sacred Pole (p. 243). The dance at the Ho^'hewachi 
was dramatic in purport and expression (p. 502) ; the secret societies 
had their dramatic acts in which both men and women took part 
(pp. 509, 565). The nearest approach to a drama was the He'dewachi 
ceremony (p. 251), but this was too fragmentary rightfully to claim 
to belong to the drama class. The tribal rites combined religious and 
social elements, and these ceremonies and the meetings of the differ- 
ent societies formed the principal social recreations of the people. 

There was one amusement in which both sexes of all ages, except 
infants, took great pleasure; this was swimming. The Omaha swam 
by treading, moving hands and legs like a dog, or by keeping the body 
horizontal and throwing the arms up and out of the water alternately 
as the body was propelled by the legs. The people were good swim- 
mers. The current in the Missoiu-i is always strong, so that it requires 
a good swimmer to make a safe passage across the stream. During 
83993°— 27 sth— 11 24 

370 THE OMAHA TRIBE [kth. ann. 27 

the flood season the current is too rajiid for anyone to venture to cross 
the river. Diving was practised l)y boys and girls and was enjoyed 
by men and women also. In these water sports the sexes did not 
mingle ; women and girls kept together and apart from the men and 

Story telling was the delight of everyone during the winter evenings. 
It was then that the old folk drew on their store of memories, and 
myths, fables, the atlventures of the pygmies and of the gajazhe (the 
little people who play about the woods and prairies and lead people 
astray) — all these and also actual occurrences were recited with 
varying intonation and illustrative gesture, sometimes interspersed 
with song, which added to the effect and heightened the spell of the 
story or myth over the listeners clustered about the blazing fire 
The uncle (the mother's brother), who was always a privileged 
character and at whose practical jokes no nephew or niece must ever 
take oft'ense, often made the evening merry with pranks of all sorts, 
from the casting of shadow pictures on the wall with his fingers to 
improvising dances and various rompings with the little ones. 

In the spring, after the thunder had sounded, the boys had a festiv- 
ity called i^de'gihefc {inde, "face;" gthepe, "striped''), the word 
referring to the mask worn by the boys. A dried bladder, with holes 
cut for the mouth and eyes, was pulled over the head ; the bladder 
was striped lengthwise in black and white, to represent lightning. The 
boys carried clubs and scattered over the village. Each boy went 
to the tent of his uncle (his mother's brother) and beat with his club 
against the tent pole at the door, while he made a growhng sound in 
imitation of thunder. The uncle called out, "What does Striped 
Face want?" The boy disguised his voice, and said, "I want leg- 
gings or moccasins or some other article." Then the uncle called him 
in and made him a present. Should the uncle refuse to give anything 
the boy might punch a hole in the tent or do some other mischief. 
But generally the sport ended pleasantly and was greatly enjoyed 
by old and young. 




The drum was the most important of Omaha musical instruments 
and generally accompanied most of the songs, both religious and 
secular. The large drum, called ne'xegaku {ne'xe, "a water vessel;" 
(fahu, "to beat"), was made from a section of a tree hollowed out 
and partially filled with water containing charcoal. A buffalo skin, 
ch'essed or undresseil, was stretched taut over the open end. A ilrum 
was always tuned before being used and if necessary during a cere- 
mony it was tuned again. Tuning was done by tipping the drum so 
as to wet the skin cover from the water within and then drying it 
before the fire until it yielded the desired resonant tone in response 
to the tap of the drumstick. The tones were full and clear and could 
be heard at a great distance on a calm day. Drums were beaten 
either with a single strong stroke or with a rebounding movement — 
a strong stroke followed by a light one. 

The small drum {ne'xe (jakuhihafka — hthafka, "flat") was made by 
stretching a skin over a small hoop. This kind of drum was used by 
the "doctors" when attending the sick and in magical performances. 
It was beaten with a small stick, the movement being a rapid tap- 
ping — an agitated pulsation. 

The whistle {nifude) was about 6 inches long; it was made from the 
wing bone of the eagle. It had but one opening and but one tone, a 
shrill sound, which was repeated with moderate rapidity, to simulate 
the call of the eagle. This instniment was used only in certain parts 
of the Wa'wa" ceremony. 

The flute or flageolet (fig. 85), nipude tu^ga {tu^ga, "big"), was 
generally made of cedar; it was about 20 inches in length and an 
inch in diameter. The holes — six in number — began about 4 inches 
from the lower end and were about an inch apart. The stop was 
placed 5 or Si inches from the mouthpiece at the end. This instru- 
ment had a flutelike tone but, being made by the "rule of tlnimb," 
lacked accuracy of pitch. To be acceptable, a flute must give forth 
a full, vibrating tone when blown with all the six holes closed. It 
was interesting to watch men, old and young, take up a flute to test 




[KTII. ANN. 27 

it; they would readjust the stop piece, ))ound to the to]i over the 
opening and usually carved, and if alter several trials the instrument 

Flute-nr fla,cr;^o]et. 

could not be made to give this vibratory tone the flute would be laid 
aside and no words would avail to make the man take it up and play a 

tune on it. Thecompass of the nifudetu'^ga 
was an octave. The intervals did not 
correspond exactly to our diatonic scale. 

Two kinds of rattles were used: the 
taslia'ge, literally "deer hoofs" (fig. 86), 
and the pe'xe, "gourd rattle" (fig. 87, d). 
The tasJia'ge was made by fastening the 
deer hoofs by thongs in a cluster to the 
sides of a beaded stick some 8 to 10 inches 
long, the handle being ornamented with a 
a long tassel of buckskin thongs. The 
pe'xe, as its name indicates, was made 
from a gourd from which the contents had 
been carefully removed and the interior sur- 
face of which made smooth, so that nothing 
should impede the contact of the fine 
gravel or beads with the inner side of the 
gourd and blur the sound. Through the 
holes made in both ends of the gourd, in 
order to remove the contents, a stick was 
thrust, closing them tight. One end of 
the stick protruded an inch or more from 
the top of the gourd; the other end, which 
formed the handle, was bound with buck- 
skin, so adjusted as to make it firm and 
not to slip from the gourd. This kind of 
rattle was symbolically painted and used in 
the Wa'wa" ceremony. The y^f'.rf was used 
also in the Wate'giytu rite, when war honors were conferred. The Shell 
and Pebble societies ami the "doctors" used this kind of rattle. 

Fig. t6. 

Ueer-liouf mttle (iiativu 


Songs, Singing, anb Rhythm 

Song was an integral part of the life of the Omaha. Through song 
he approached the mysterious Wako"'da; through song he voiced his 
emotions, both individual and social; through song he embodied feel- 
ings and aspirations that eluded expression in words. As is amply 
demonstrated in this volume, the Omaha did not depend on words to 
convey the meaning of his songs, so many have few or no words, the 
voice being carried by vocables only, and yet the songs were able to 
conve}- a well-untlerstood meaning. 

Songs, like the language, were transmitted from one generation to 
another and care was taken to preserve accurately both songs and 
language. Xo liberties were permitted with either. As to the songs, 
the writers have phonographic records of the same song sung by differ- 
ent groups of singers, the records having been taken at an interval of 
more than ten years, yet the songs show no variation. An interest- 
ing instance occurred some ten years ago. An old Ponca was visiting 
the writers, when, in a period of silence, he was heard to hum a familiar 
Omaha song. He was asked to sing the song into the phonograph, 
and did so. Then he was asked, "Wliere did you learn the song?" 
Among the Omaha," he replied. " Wlien did you learn it ? " " Wlien 
I was a lad." ' ' Have you always sung it as you sing it now V With 
a look of astonishment he replied' "There is but one way to sing a 
song!" As he was a man then more than 70, his version of the song 
must have been of full fifty years' stantling. On comparison of his 
rendition of the song with three other records of the same song from 
different singers in the possession of the writers, no variation was dis- 
covered. Tliis incident, so far as it goes, indicates a fair degree of 
stability in the songs of this people. In many of the societies a fine 
was imposed if a member made mistakes in singing. As has been 
shown in preceding pages, a mistake in the singing of ritual songs 
invalidated the ceremony and made it necessary to begin again. It 
will be recalled that in the ceremonies connected with the Sacred 
Pole and the White Buffalo Hide if a mistake was made, a rite of con- 
trition had to be performed, after which the ceremony was begun 
anew so far as singing the songs was concerned. 

Songs were property. They belonged to a society, to a gens, or to 
an individual. They could generally be purchased from the last-named 
but the right to sing any of the songs belonging to societies or gentes 
could come only through membership or birth. 

In singing, the Omaha was not concerned with his audience, he was 
not seeking to present a musical picture, his mental attitude was 
wholly subjective, he was completelj' occupied with voicing his owti 
emotion, consequently he paid little attention, generally speaking, to 
any shading or what we term "expression." This statement can 

374 THE OMAHA TRIBE [etii. ann. 27 

be fully appreciated only by those who have sympathetically watched 
the faces of Indian singers when they were singin<;j with all the power 
of their lungs to the accompaniment of the drum. Nevertheless, 
beneath the noise moved the melodj^ of which the singer was alone 

Among the Omaha there was a standard of musical tones. The 
tuning of the drum has been spoken of and anyone who has observed 
the process can not deny that there was a standard of tone sought 
after. Among singers there were men and women who were recog- 
nized as "good singers." Their services were sought and paid for. 
They formed the choir or leaders on occasions when song had an 
important part, as in the Wa'wa", the Hethu'shka, and elsewhere. 

Few Indian songs were ever sung solo. Almost all were sung by a 
group, many by a hundred or more men and women. The volume 
not only strengthened the tone but steadied the intervals. A single 
singer frequently wavered from pitch, but when assisted by a friend 
or friends the character of the tone at once changed and the pitch 
was steadied by the union of voices. It has been the constant ex- 
perience of the writers that the Omaha objected to the presentation 
of their songs on a piano or reed organ as unsupported arias. As 
almost all their songs were sung by a number of singers, the melody 
moving by octaves, the overtones were often strongly brought out, 
and tliis may account for the Indian's preference for a simple har- 
mony of implied chords, when their songs were interpreted on these 
instruments. ' ' That sounds natural ! " was their comment on hearing 
their songs so played, even when it was explained to them that they 
did not sing their songs in concerted parts; yet they still persisted, 
"It sounds natural." 

The harmonic effects are more noticeable when women join in the 
singing. Women form part of many of the choirs, even of the warrior 
societies, and they join in the choral songs during religious ceremonies. 
The women sing in a high falsetto, consequently one often heard the 
melody sung in two octaves. When the song dropped too low for a 
natural tenor the singer took the octave above. In the same way, by 
octaves, the bass and contralto voices adjusted themselves in the unison 

The octave is seemingly the one fixed interval. The songs are not 
built on any defined scale. What has often been taken for a minutely 
divided scale is probably due to certain qualities in the native tone 
of voice, wdiich is reedy anil lends itself to vacillation of tone. The 
same song sung by a group, piano, and then sung forte is often hardly 
recognizable to the untrained listener. The noise of strenuous sing- 
ing drowns the music to an alien audience accustomed to hear music 
objectively presented. 


In a few instances the songs herein given have been interpreted by 
adding a simple harmony and in every instance the harmony given 
has been tested among the Omaha and been preferred by them when 
the song was played on the piano or organ. This manner of presenta- 
tion has been chosen in order t o give some of these songs a chance 
to be really heard by the average person, for only the exceptional and 
musicallj' gifted can discern the possibilities that lie in an unsupported 
aria; moreover, the single line of music stands for a song that is 
sung in octaves by a group of male and female voices and therefore 
is not a true picture of the song itself. 

Rhythm is a marked characteristic of Indian music. Most songs 
present one or more rhythms in their rendition, for besides the 
rhythm of the melody with its rhythm of phrase the singers pulsate 
their voices, thus adding an inner rhj^thm, so to speak, to the general 
rhythm. This custom of pulsating the voice tends to produce the 
effect of uncertain intonation and interval. This statement is based 
on many experiments with different singers during a number of 
years. When in transcribing a song these pulsations were noted, so 
that when the song was played on a piano or organ the pulsations were 
represented bj^ rapidly repeated notes, the rendition was alwaj^s 
declared to be incorrect. In every instance in which a note was 
pulsated by a singer the tone had to be represented by a single 
note on the instrument and no argument would prevail to jiermit 
the pulsation to be indicated by rapidly struck notes on the piano 
or organ. In love songs, which frequently have long notes, the 
hand is sometimes waved at slight distance from the mouth so 
as to break the continuity of sound and give the tone a wavering 

Frequently the aria of a song is in triple time, 3/4, 6/4, or 9/4, while 
the drum is played in 2/4 or 4/4 time. In these songs the two conflict- 
ing rhythms are syncopated and play against each other in a bewilder- 
ing manner. The precision with which these complicated rhythms are 
given by the Omaha is remarkable. In the Wa'wa" ceremony the 
movement of the pipes adds another rhytlim, so that the ear and the 
eye are addressed simultaneously by the rhythm of the melody, of the 
drum, and of the swaying pipes, all forming, however, one harmonious 
rhythmic presentation. The rhythmic movement of a song must never 
be altered ; to do so in even a slight degree blurs or destroys the song 
for the Indian. 

In view of the above statements, it will be seen that the mere aria 
can not portray an Indian song as it really sounds when interpreted 
by the Indian singers, and these facts seem to justify their pref- 
erence for a harmonized version of their songs when translated on 
the piano or organ. 

376 THE OMAHA TRIBE [kth. axn. 27 

The Wa'wa*^ Ceremony 

The Onialia nanio fortius ceroniony, Wa'wa" ("to sing for some- 
one"), refers to one of the marked characteristics of the ceremony, 
the singing of songs accompanied by rliythmic movements of the two 
peculiar objects essential to the ceremony, the nini'ha we'awan (nini'ha, 
" pipe;'' %ve'awa^, " to sing with.") 

According to the Sacred Legend, it was while a council was being 
held between the Omaha, including the Ponca, the Cheyenne, the 
Arikara, and other tribes, to bring about friendly relations, that this 
ceremouA^ with all its peaceful obligations, became known to the 
Omaha. The extent of country over which this rite once held sway 
has been referred to. (See p. 74.) It was a ceremony which made for 
the securing of peace between unrelated groups through the establish- 
ment of a ceremonial tie which should be regarded as of a nature as 
inviolable as that between father and son. 

The two objects essential to this ceremony were similar to pipe- 
stems and ornamented symbolically but they were not attached to 
bowls and were never used for smoking. Still they partook of the 
significance of pipes in their sanctit}*, they were spoken of as pipes, 
and were held in the greatest reverence." Songs formed an important 
feature of the ceremony and the singing was always accompanied by 
rhythmic movements of the pipe bearers and also of the pipes. This 
movement was spoken of as nini'ha hazho'^, "shaking or waving the 

Each stem was of ash; a hole burned through the entire length per- 
mitted the passage of the breath. The length was seven stretches 
between the end of the thumb and the tip of the forefinger. The 
stem was feathered, like an arrow, from the wing of the golden eagle. 
Around the mouthpiece was a band of iridescent feathers from the 
neck of the duck; midway the length was a ruff of owl feathers; over 
the bowl end were stretched the heail, neck, and breast of the mallard 
duck, tied in place by two bands of buckskin painted red, with long, 
flowing ends. Beyond the owl ruff were three streamers of horsehair 
dyed red, one at the tip of the stem, one at the owl feathers, and one 
midway between. These hair streamers were bound on by a cord 
made of the wliite hair froni the breast of the rabbit. From each 
stem depended a fanlike arrangement of feathers from the tail of the 
golden eagle, held together and bound to the stem by two buckskin 
thongs; the end, which hung from the fan-shaped appendage, was 
tipped with a downy eagle feather. One of these fan-shaped feather 
arrangements was composed of ten feathers from the tail of a mature 
golden eagle. These were dark and mottled in ai)pearance and 
were fastened to the blue stem; this pipe (fig. 87, a) represented the 

a Throughout this section these articles will be referred to as pipes. 




feminine element. Tiie other stem, which was painted green, liad its 
appenilage of seven feathers from the tail of the young golden eagle. 
The lower part of these feathers is white; the tips only are dark. 
These were the feathers worn by men as a mark of war honors ami 
this pipe (fig. 87, i) symbolized the masculine forces. It is to be 
noted that among the Omaha, as among the Pawnee, the feathers 
wliicli were usetl by the warriors were put on the stem paintetl green 
to represent the earth, the feminine element, while those which were 
from the mature eagle and which stood for the feminine element, 
were fastened to the stem painteil the color of the sky, which repre- 
sented the masculine element; so that on each pipe the masculine 
and feminine forces were symbolically uniteii. Near the mouthpiece 

Fig. 87. Objects used in Wa' wa" ceremony. 

was tied a woodpecker head, the upper mandible turned back over 
the red crest and painted blue. The pipes were grasped by the 
duck's neck, the mouthpiece pointing upward. Wlien they were laid 
ilown, the stems rested in the crotch of a small stick painted red, 
which was thrust at the head of a \\'ild-cat skin spread on the gi-ound. 
This skin (fig. 87, c) served as a mat for the pipes when they were 
not in use and as a covering when they were being transported. 
The wild-cat skin was required to have intact the feet and claws, 
and also the skin of the head. Two gourd rattles (fig. 87, d), a 
bladder tobacco pouch (fig. 87, e) to which was tied a braid of sweet 
grass, a whistle from the wing bone of the eagle, and three do\\^ay 
eagle feathers completed the articles required for use in the ceremony. 

378 THE OMAHA TKIBE [eth. axn. 27 

Two parties, composed of persons having no blood relationship, 
were the principals in the ceremony. One was associatetl with the 
man who presented the pipes, the other with the man who received 
them. Among the Omaha the first was called wa'wa^ aJca, "the one 
who sings;" the second was spoken of as a'wa" iaka, "the one who 
is sung to." A man of one gens could carry the pipes to a man 
of another gens within his own tribe but not to a man belonging 
to his own gens; or he could take the pipes to a man of another 
tijibe. The relation ceremonially established by taking and receiving 
the pipes was equivalent to that of father and son and the two 
parties were spoken of by these terms. 

Only a man who had had the Wa'wa" pipes presented to him 
four times was considered to be sufficiently instructed in the rites of 
this important ceremony to inaugurate a Wa'wa" party. Before he 
could take definite action looking toward gathering the party together, 
he had to obtain the consent of the Seven Chiefs (see pp. 206, 376), 
particularly if he proposed to carry the pipes to another tribe. 

A large amoimt of property was required to make up the gifts 
which must attend the presentation of the pipes; consequently 
the man who initiated the party was generally assisted by his rela- 
tives or close friends. The gifts that went with the pipes were 
eagle-feather bonnets, bows and arrows, red pipestone pipes, em- 
broidered tobacco bags, otter skins, robes, and, in later years, brass 
kettles, guns, and blankets. The return gifts were horses (in earlier 
days burden-bearing dogs), bows and arrows, pottery, robes, and 
skin tent-covers. All these gifts, because they helped toward the 
peace and welfare of the tribe, could be counted as wathi^' ethe either 
towarti chieftainship or toward admission into the Ho^'hewachi and 
thus the assistance given the "father" or the "son" of a Wa'wa" 
party accrued to the giver's benefit by adding to his "count." 

A Wa'wa" jiarty consisted of a dozen or more men. Sometimes the 
wives of a few of the leading men accompanied them and assisted in 
the work of the party. All the members contributetl toward the gifts 
to be made and also toward accumulating provisions that would be 
needed on the journey, if a distant tribe was to be visited, and for the 
feasts to be given the receiving party during the four days and nights 
occupied by the ceremony. Ponies were sometimes taken as pack 
horses and occasionally the ^dsiting men rode but generally the 
journey was made on foot. The pipes, incased in the catskin cover, 
were carrietl by their bearer, who with the leatler of the party walked 
in advance, the other' members followong closely. If game was 
abundant, Inmting was permitted to some extent; otherwise the jiarty 
movetl rapidly tt) its tlestination. No songs were sung on the journey 
but in those sung during the ceremony there were references to the 
traveling and the various events preparatory to the actual ceremony. 


Owing to the loss of the Omaha ritual used when "tying the 
pipes" — a loss consequent on the death of the old men who knew 
it — a comprehensive comparison between the Pawnee version, 
already securetl," and the Omaha form of the same ceremony is im- 
possible. While nearl}' all the articles used and their symbolism 
are identical, yet the absence of the ear of com from the Omaha cere- 
mony forms the most striking difference between the two. With 
the Pawnee the com is spoken of as "Mother," and typifies Mother 
Earth, to whom the whereabouts and fortunes of man are known 
(op. cit., p. 44 et seq.) . In the Omaha ceremony the corn has no place. 
With the latter tribe the eagle is the "Mother." She calls to her 
nestlings and upon her strong wings she bears the message of peace. 
With the Omaha, peace and its symbol, the clear, cloudless sky, are 
the theme of the principal songs and the desirability and value of 
peace are more directly expressed in the Omaha songs than in those 
of the Pawnee of this ceremony. It is the custom among the Omaha, 
when preparing the feathered stems, to draw a black line near the 
bowl end. The line does not show, for it is covered by the neck of the 
duck, but it is there, with its symbolism. It represents the neck or 
throat of the curlew. This bird in the early morning stretches its 
neck and wings as it sits on its roost, and utters a long note. This 
sound is considered an indication that the day will be cloudless. So, 
to all the other emblems on the stem tliis prophetic call of the curlew 
is representetl as adding its song to the forces that make for the 
symbol of peace. In the I°ke'vabe gens, wliich had the keeping of 
the tribal pipes, the name Ki'ko°to°ga, "curlew," is found. The 
name refers to this symbolic mark on the Wa'wa" pipes. Aii old 
Omaha explained that "the eagle, whose feathers are on the pipes, 
and the wild cat, whose skin is their covering, are both fierce crea- 
tures and do not fail to secure their prey; but here, with the pipes, all 
their powers are turned from destruction to the making of peace 
among men." 

Another emphasis of peace in the Omaha ceremony is found in the 
signification of the name given the child, who pla3's the same part in 
both the Pawnee and the Omaha version of the ceremonj-. Among 
the Omaha as with the Pa\\iiee, the cliild represents the coming gen- 
erations, the perpetuation of the race; but the Omaha emphasize the 
innocent character of the child, the absence of the warlike spirit. 
The name given the child is Hu^'ga, the Ancient one, the one who 
goes before, the leader. In tliis name the continuance of the human 
family is implied but the name in tliis ceremony becomes the syn- 
onym for peace because "the cliild tliinks no harm." The word 
Hu°'ga forms a refrain in nearly all the Omaha songs of the ceremony. 
The meaning of the word and of the refrain were explained to the 

uSee The Hako, in the Twenty-second Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, pt. 2. 

380 THE OMAHA TRIBE I ktii. ann. i;7 

writers as given above. A like refrain does not occur in llie Pawnee 
ceremony. The prominence given to peace in the Omaha version 
apparently confirms the account given in the Sacred Legend, that 
this ceremony was introduced to the people when a great coiuicil 
was being held in the interest of establisliing peace among several 
tribes. This council seems to have taken place at a period in the 
history of the Omaha when the thoughtful members of the tribe were 
concerned for the very existence of the tribe itself, owing to the break- 
ing away of groups, and "the old men" were devising means by which 
to hold the people more firmly together. This ceremony, which 
could take place only between unrelated persons, and which had a 
wide recognition among many tribes scattered over a vast territory, 
laid special stress on jjeaceful relations. So while among the Pawnee 
we find the teachings of peace embodied in the ceremony, they were 
not emphasized and dwelt upon with the same degree of insistence 
as among the Omaha. This difference becomes explical)le when we 
consider the internal condition of the Omaha tribe and their rela- 
tions to other tribes at the time the ceremony appears to have been 
adopted by them. 

Among the Omaha the symbols on the stems were interpreted as 
follows: The green color represented the verdure of the earth; the 
blue color represented the sky; and the red color, the sun, t_ypif_ying 
life. The straight groove, painted red, that ran the length of both 
stems stood for the stiaight path, representing the path of life and 
was interpreted to mean tliat if a man followed the straight path the 
sim of life and happiness woiikl always sliine upon him. The red 
streamers were the rays of the sun; the white cords that bound them 
the light of the moon, for night was believed to be the mother of daj'. 
The eagle was the bird of tireless strength. The owl, again, repre- 
sented night and the woodpecker the day and sun: these birds stood 
also for death and life respectivelj-. The downy feathers at the end 
of the thong that bound together the fan-like appendages were some- 
times spoken of as symbolizing eggs and again, as the feathers of the 
young eagle, which fell from the bird when it matured and was able 
to take its fhght. The gourd represented eggs and the reproduction 
of living forms. The band and the four lines painted on these were 
symbolic of the bounchirv line of the sky, the horizon, and the four 
paths of the four winds, at the four directions over which help 
comes to man. The tobacco pouch was similarly painted and to it 
were attached a braid of sweet grass, and a mat of bulfalo hair such 
as falls from the animal when shedding its coat. The latter sym- 
bolized food and clothing and meant: ' 'If you accept and follow the 
teacliings of tliis ceremony, you shall go forth to search for food in 
safety and in peace." The sweet grass was used for its scent and was 
added to the tobacco when a pipe was smoked during the ceremony. 


As has already been mentioned, in the Omaha form of the cere- 
mony the eagle is the prominent figure; it supplants that of the com 
in the Pawnee version. In the latter the pipes are taken up from 
their resting place on the wild-cat skin without song or ceremonial 
movement. In the Omaha ceremony the pipes are taken up wrth 
movements representing the eagle rising from her nest. These 
motions are accompanied by songs, some of which are of musical 
interest and beauty. 

If the Wa'wa" ])arty were taking the pipes to another tribe, when 
they were within a days journey four men were chosen to carry the 
tobacco pouch, which was painted symbolically with the circle and four 
dependent lines, and to which the braid of sweet grass and the mat 
of buffalo hair were attached. All four men wore the buffalo robe 
with hair outside, girdetl about the waist; the one who carried 
the tobacco pouch wore a downy eagle feather tied to his scalp 
lock. This person was called Ninia'thi" (from nini, "tobacco," and 
athi"-, "to carry" — "tobacco carrier"). The four passed on rapidly 
to the lodge of the man whom the leader of the party had designated. 
Having arrived there, they entered the lodge and jiassed around thefire 
by the left. The tobacco pouch was placed in front of the man visited. 
The four then took their seats to the right of the entrance, filled a pipe 
(but not from the pouch brought), and offeied it to their host. He 
then inquired who had sent him the tobacco bag. The bearer gave 
the name of the leader of the party and discoursed on the value of 
peace and peaceful relations between the two tribes. The host then 
sent for his relatives and followers to consult as to whether they 
could make the return gifts requisite and so accept the pipes. Only 
the inability to give the twelve to thirty ponies re([uired as presents, 
or a recent death in the family, was consideretl a sufficient reason for 
honorably refusing the honor of receiving the pipes. If, however, the 
consultation with his relatives and friends resulted in a favorable 
decision, the host said to the young men: " Bid them hasten. Come, 
we are ready." The leader of the party was spoken of as wa'wa'^ 
u'zhu but he was addressed as "Father" and all of his followers as 
"Fathers." The man who received the pipes was addressed as 
"Son" and his party as "Sons." 

The messengers hastened back and met the Wa'wa" party, who 
had slowly continued their journey. When very near the village the 
party halted, took the pipes from their covering, and placed them at 
rest on the crotched stick and the cat skin and sat down. They were 
met here by their host or one of his relatives, always a man of promi- 
nence, who bade them welcome. Then the party arose and two of the 
three principal singers took the pipes; the third stepped between them, 
holding the cat skin, in which was wrapped the crotched stick. The 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

^ink'V and other members took their phvces behmd. Then the fol- 

lowing song was sung:" 

Harmonized by John C. Fillmore to translate the music on the piano 
.^ = 132 (Aria sung in octave unison) 




IIu» - ga 



^.-r •-• •-•-1— i5 0-0—0—0—0 I „ ' 0~r* • • •-! • 0—0-0 1 

ggb=i=|i=|i r[rF^-|rl i-j> _[t_^,[t^[l4, r_ L -^d brrpz^fid 


-0 0- 





'J U U I 

<■ The aria is sung in unison; the harmonization is added to translate the song to our ears and Is so 
preferred by the Indians when played on a piano. The bass should be played lightly. 




Thethu haiba 

Thethu haiba thethu haiba the haiba a he 

Thethu haiba the haiba 

Thethu haiba Hu"ga 

Thethu haiba a he 

Thethu haiba the haiba 

Thethu haiba Hu°ga 

Literal translation: Thethu, here; haiba, they are coming: Hu'^'ga 
refers to the child as a symbol of innocence, docility, and peace. 

The song refers to the approach of the pipes. The people welcome 
the party, crjnng: "They are coming here!" 

In singing this song the stems are waved to the rhythm of the 
music and the rattles are shaken with an accented beat but no 
drum is used. At the close of the song the party moves forward a 
httle space, then a halt is made, and the song is repeated. There are 
four halts, at each of which the song is sung. The fourth halt is 
made at the entrance of the lodge, which has been prepared and 
stands ready for the ceremony. The actual entrance is in silence. 
When the west side of the lodge is reached, the pipe bearers stand 
facing the east and sing the following song: 


(Sung ill octaves) 





tha - the i - tha- the 


i - tha- the i - tha- the 



-H ' 1 1 H 1— 





Literal translation: Ho! exclamation; ithathe, I have found; tha, 
end of sentence. The words of the song are few but their meaning 
was explained to be: "Ho! I have found the man worthy to receive 
the pipes and all the blessings which they bring — peace, the promise 
of abundant life, food, and happiness." The words also imply a rec- 
ognition of the cjualities which make the man worthy of the selec- 
tion, and which instigated the choice by the leader. 

The following song was sung as the host and his relatives entered 
the lodge : 

b = 132 (Sung in octaves) 

- 4 J 



=-. ^- 

The hu-wi - ne 


liu-wi - lie 


hu-wi - lie 


Hu° - ga 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

The liuwine the huwine Ihe huwine a he Hu^'ga 
The huwine the huwine a he Hu^'ga 

Literal translation: The, this; huinne ,1 see\i; a ?(e, vocables ; Hw'ga 
refers to the child, here the symbol of peace. 

This song refers directly to the host and again implies that the 
one who was sought was one to whom peace was considered of great 
value; that the man's character was such as to hokl the respect of his 
people and whose influence was for order and peace. The refrain 
Hu^'ga has a double reference — to the ceremony and to the character 
of the one to be made a "son." 

After the singing of this song the pipes were laid at rest. The 
wild-cat skin was spread a little distance back of the fireplace, the 
crotched stick thnist into the ground at the head of the animal, and 
the stems were laid in the crotch; the pipe with the white feathers, 
representing the masculine force, lay uppermost. The rattles were 
placed under the winglike appendages; the ends with duck heads 
rested on the skin. After the skin had been spread and the stick put 
in place, the song used laying dowai the pipes was sung. In sway- 
ing the pipes the rhythmic movements simulated the eagle descend- 
ing, then rising and again descending, until it rested on its nest. 

80 (Sung in octaves) 






■» — #T* — - "4--* — *-— i — -> — 1-1 -i — I — - — I — —I — I — 1^ — A — 1 — 5h 

There are no words to these songs; only vocables are used. 

The pipe bearers now took their seats behind the pipes, which were 
never left alone throughout the entire ceremony (fig. 88). After 
the pipes were at rest the host left the lodge and the rest of the party 
busietl themselves with unpacking and getting settled. The men 
usually occupied the lodge where the ceremony was to take place; if 
there were women in the party, a tent was prepared for them near by. 

Soon after sunset the host reentered the lodge and took his place 
on the north side not far from the door. His relatives and friends 
were seated on both sides, the older men nearer the center, the young 
men toward the door. The Wa'wa"' party sat between the pipe 
bearers and their host's party; the leader's seat was toward the north. 

The servers of the party sat on both sides of the entrance. It was 
their duty to fill the pipes and attenil to the fire and the cooking. 




About the door were gatliered the poor and the onlookers, who had no 
part in the ceremony. A feast had been prepared by the Wa'wa" 
party but it was not served until near midnight. The pipes could 
not be taken up until some one of the host's party shoulil rise and 
say: "Fathers, you have come to sing; we desire to hear you." This 
invitation retjuired the gift of a horse. Then the leader of the Wa'wa" 
party and the host both arose and advanced to the man who had 
spoken, as the act implied a gift. The host, standing before him, lifteil 
both hands, palms outward, and then dropped them slowly. He then 

i^- '^^^[^H^l 


Jjgl ^^ 






A J^^H 



■•■■ '•!«,•' y ■ A 



m. i 




. >■' f^ 








. .>1 .' 

^ WmM 


Flu. 88. ?ipe bfarers and pipes iu Wa'wa" ceremony. 

passed his right hand over the left arm of the giver from the shoulder 
to the wrist and lepeated the movement with his left hand on the 
man's right arm, the sign of thanks. He then walked slowly in front 
of his kinsmen and friends, s])eaking to each man by a term of rela- 
tionship, raising his right hand in further token of his thanks. The 
leader of the Wa'wa" party then advanced to the giver and repeated 
the same movement indicative of his thanks. Raising his right 
hand, palm outward, he turned towartl the left and then toward the 
right, to give thanks to all the host's relatives and friends gathered in 
83993°— 27 eth— 11 — -26 



[ETII. ANN. 27 

the lodge. Wliile this was going on within, an old man of the poorer 
class arose and jiassed out of the lodge, beginning as he went a song of 
thanks and finishing it outside the lodge. He introduced the name 
of the donor of the horse and to make sure that it was heard he called 
the name twice at the close of the song. This triple form of thanks 
was observed whenever a gift was made to the Wa'wa" party. 

At the conclusion of the thanks the pipe bearers arose and the pipes 
were taken up ceremonially. The movements simulated the eagle 
rising from its nest and making ready for flight. There are no words 
to the songs used to accompany these movements. These songs 
were repeated four times. The beauty of this part of the cere- 
mony was greatly enlianced when the pipe beareis were gracefid 
and could imitate well the flying, circling, rising, and faUing of the 
bird. The feather appendages moved like wings as the pipes were 
swayed and both the eye and the ear were rhythmically addressed. 

The following is one of the songs sung on raising the pipes. 
Only vocables are now used when singing these songs. Note the 
closing cadence when the eagle is up and away. 

J ^108 (Sung in octaves) 



-i *— J5- 


When the pij)es were raised the three bearers, with the two pipes 
and the wild-cat skin, turned to the left and circled the lodge. The 
other members of the party followed, bearing the drum. A rhythmic 
side step was taken as the party faced their seated hosts, and the 
pipes were swayed so that the feathers moved like the wings of a bird 
slowly flying. The fire was always replenished just as the pipes 
started, so that the flames as they leaped filled the lodge with light 
and the shadows cast by the moving feathered stems seem to make 
real their simulation of the eagle's flight. If the song was familiar, 
as often hapi)ened, it was taken up by all present as the pipes 
approached and passed before the sitting people. 

The following noble choral has been heard sung by three hundred or 
four hundred voices, male anil female ; no one is excluded because of sex 
orage, for, itissaid, "The pipes are free to all." The volumeof tone, 
the variety of voice quality, the singing in octaves, gave strong har- 
monic eft'ects, and it was notsurprising that the Omaha objected to such 




sungs being given on an instnunent as unsupported arias. The 
following harmonization was added to meet the demands of Omaha 
singers, who only gave their approval when the song was i)layed as 
here presented. "Now it sounds natural" was their simple but 
unmistakable verdict. 

(Sung in octaves) Harmonized by John C. Fillmore for interpretation on tlie piano 
\= 132 Willi religious feeling 





i I 

■\y—^, 1 1 

I I 

I I I 






I I 




-* — hi 


• a 1 LI 



Sva. Sva, 

The akede hiao tha 

Ho tha kede hiao tha 

The akede hia the he 

Hiao tha kede hiao tha kede hia thehe 

Literal translation: The, this; awaX-e, what I meant (wa omitted in 
singing); de, sign of past tense; hia, here it is; o, vocable; tha, end of 
sentence. The second line has the same meaning as the first, the 
sounds being changed for ease in singing. The literal translation of 

388 TlIK OMAHA TRIBE [ktii. anx. 27 

the words of this son^ gives little idea of its meaning, but to the 
Omaha the song had a profound significance and its import as ex- 
j)lainpd by the old men is borne out by the character of the music. 
The past tense refers to the teaching given in the past, to the fathers, 
whereby the blessing of peace could be secured, and this blessing is 
now brought here by the "tireless eagle" who bore it from the past, 
bears it in the present, and brings it to the "Son" with whom it will 
remain as a gift from Wako"'da. Once, at the close of this song, a 
venerable man turned to the writers (all had been singing as the pipes 
passed around the lodge) and said: "Truly the pipes are from Wa- 

The music of this choral presents points of interest, particularly 
as indicating what we term modulation, that is the passing from one 
key to another. On this point the late John Comfort Fillmore, a 
musical scholar of ability, wrote in 1892: "The song begins in the key 
of B flat. . . . the original key is kept until the fifth measure, in 
which the first clause ends with the relative minor chord. The next 
phrase of three measures is in the key of E flat (subdominant), the 
third measure eft'ecting a transition to the key of F by means of the 
chord of G (over-third of E flat), followed naturally by the chord of C 
(dominant in F). The last clause begins in F, modulates to C, in the 
second measure and closes the period in that key. This key, the 
major over-second of B flat, the original keynote, would seem to be so 
remote as to make it impossible to preserve unity within the limits of 
a short 12-measure period. But the melodic flow is so smooth and the 
harmonic connections so natural tiiat I, at least, do not get from it 
the impression of anything forced, harsh or unpleasant, nor do I feel 
the need of a return to the original tonic." " Much study was bestowed 
on this song by Professor Fillmore and man}' harmonization experi- 
ments were tried on Omaha Wa'wa" singers during Professor Fill- 
more's visit to the Omaha reservation in Nebraska. The arrangement 
here given met with the expression of approval, "It sounds natural," 
when it was played to them on a reed organ, the onh' instrument 
there available. 

a lu A study of Omaha Indian Music, in Archaeological and Ethnological Papers, Peabody Museum, 
Harvard University, i, 295, Cambridge, 1893. 




After the close of the preceiHnti; choral the pipe bearers again 
moved about the lodge, waving the feathered stems to the rlivthm 

of the following song: 

M. M. J = 63 (Sung in octaves) 

Transcribed bv John C. Fillmore 








Hu° - ga 

Hu" - ga Hu" - ga 

The awake tha we the awake tha we 
Tahesha we the awake tha we 
Hu^ga the awake tha we Hu^ga 
The awake tha we Hu"ga 
Tahesha we tha awake the we 
Hu°ga the awake tha we Hu°ga 
The awake tha we Hu^ga 

Literal translation: The, this; awal~e, what 1 mean; i/ta, oratorical 
end of sentence; ive, vowel prolongation; tdheslia, an old word the 
meaning of which is lost. This word appears as a personal name in 
the I°ke'cabe gens, which had charge of the Sacred Tribal Pipes. 
It probably had a symbolic meaning connected with the articles 
or with the teaching of this ceremony. We, vowel prolongation; 
Hu"'ga, the name of the child who has a part in this ceremony. 

This song followed and supplemented the preceding choral, which 
referred to a teaching that had been handed down. In this song 
the subject of this teaching was enunciated: "This is what I mean" 
(the present tense is used) — " Hu^'ga," peace, which is to be accepted 
with the docility of the child. The song was a favorite one and 
was often expatiated on to the writers, particularly the teaching 
of the Hu"'ga. This word is a modification of Ho"'ga, a name (as 
already noted) which played an important part in the history of 
the Omaha and cognate tribes. It means ''one who went before," 
an ancestor; also "one who goes before," one distinguished and 
important, a leader. The meaning of Hu"'ga in this ceremony is 
made up of many aspects, all of which go to impress on the Omaha 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

mind that from tlio heginning, down through the ages, and at the 
present time, that which preserves the race, even as does the chiltl, 
is peace. Suclr was the exphination of the old men concerning this 
word so frequently used in these songs. 

At the close of the song the pipes were laid to rest with ceremonial 
song and movements, as already described. Then the feast was 
served. Not far from midnight the company dispersed. The Wa'wa" 
party remained in the lodge with the pipes and slept there. 

At the first sign of the dawn the pipes were raised ceremonially 
and after they were up the bearers sang the following song as they 
stood in their places, facing the east, and swayed the pipes to the 
rhvthni of the music: 

(Sung in octaves) 

Ku the go" u-ho' 

Ku the go" ii-ho° ga 

ga um - ba ya tho 

Uniba ya tho 
Kutlie go° uho""ga 
Umba ya tho 
Kuthe go" uho»'ga 
Umba ya tho 
Kuthe go" uho°'ga 
Umlia ya tho 
Kuthe go" uho"'ga 

Translation: Umba, day or dawn; ya, coming; tho, oratorical end 
of sentence; kuthe go^, to move quickly, to make haste; uho"", to 
cook, to prepare food ; ^a, sign of command. " Day is coming! Arise, 
hasten to prepare the food! " This song was repeated the second 
and third mornings of the ceremony. 

No special ritual was observed on the second day. As gifts are 
generally made at this time, the songs used implied gratitude both 
for the gifts and for the promised success of the ceremony. The 
six songs that follow were sung on the second day. 

Most of the wa'wa'^ songs have but few words; they are supplied 
with vocables only. It was explained that these vocables are 
syllables representing words foruierly used. As it was the custom 
among the Omaha to secure good singers to be the pipe bearers and 
leaders in the music, which was a special feature of the ceremony, 
the songs were not in the keeping of a priest ; it was explained that 




syllables had been substituted for the original words to keep most 
of the words from the knowledge of the people. This statement may 
account for the paucity of words and the lack of particularity in the 
songs. Their meaning was general rather than related to some special 
and ritual action. The few words in this song ami in all those sung on 
the second day were: The, this; howane, what I seek; Hu^'ga, peace. 
The following three songs are interesting musically. No. 1 gives 
the theme in its simplest form; nos. 2 and 3 are variants. These 
three songs are regarded by the Omaha as distinct musically and are 
here given in order to show how little change is required to make 
songs sound differently to the native ear. They also throw a side hght 
on the accuracy demanded in rendering songs and in their transmission, 
a marked peculiarity in Omaha music. It would be very easy for one 
of the white race to interchange these three songs as the difference 
between them is not striking. 


M.M. J =60 

(Sung in octaves) Introduction 

No. 1 


M.M. J=60 



The ho - wa • 


Hu° - ga 

M.M. J =60 No. 2 

(Sung in octaves) Introduction . — . 


M.M. j=60 



-f^ N- 



The ho - wa - ne ho - wa - ne 




[KTH. ANN. 27 

M.M. J = 60 
(Sung in octaves) Introduction 


No. 3 


Hu° - ga ha 


^J- -i ■• -«- -» 

Hu" - ga 









^-J — ' ^ J ' 1 1 ' ^-^ ^- 

Hu° - ga - a 

The rhythm in the following song is particularly strong ami lends 
itself finely to the customary unison singing in octaves: 

(Sing in unison) Transcribed by John C. Fillmore 

M. M. ^ = 66 Marked rhythm 

The following songs refer to peace imder the symbol of the clear 
sky, TcetJia. This symbol embraces a reference to Wako°'da, who gives 
to man the sunshine, the clear sky from which all storms, all clouds, 
are removed. In this connection it should be remembered that the 
black storm clouds with their thunder and liglitning are emblematic 
of war. The clear sky therefore i-epresents the absence of all that 
could relate to war. Among the syllables sung to the music of these 
songs appear the words Irfha, clear sky or i)eace, and Hw'ga, child- 
likeness and peace. It is to be regretted that all the exact words of 
these songs are lost; they might have revealed something of the 
ritualistic progression of the ideas embodied in the ceremonv. The 




fact that the only two words that remain stand for peace — one, 
Tcetha, peace as symbohzed in nature, and the other, Hw^'ga, peace 
as symbohzed by a httle chiUl — indicates that the peaceful teaching 
of the ceremony was that which appealed most strongly to the Omaha 
mind. Other phases, as can be observed in the Pawnee version, if 
they were ever a part of the Omaha version have been lost. 

Floioingly, with feeling Double beat .^ = 126 
(Aria sung in octaves) Harmony by John C. Fillmore for translation on the piano 


Hu" - ga 

ke tha IIu" - ga 



-• \ ^— H- 

:*r^i^i_^izE^^_^_itz^ -J.- 













Hu° - ga 

Ke - tha Hu" - ga 



r I 

-J — — ^ — \ — (■ 



fri- ^ r , 



riu" - ga 





Ke-tha Hu^-ga Hu" - ga 



■♦ -r ■♦ ■»■ 

-3 ^ M 


r r 

-^ — • — « — ^ — ( — I — I — 1- 


I ^^— ■ i *— »— J^^*^*^-^*— •— *-«^^— •— * ' ! 1 1 F^M 1 h 1 



[FITH. ANN. 27 

Some of these Tcetlui songs are gentle and pastoral in character, 
particularly this one ; the words of the song were explained as mean- 
ing: "Fair as is the clear sky, the green grass, yet more fair is peace 
among men; " and the music bears out this interiiretation. 

(Aria snng in octaves) Harmonized by John C. Fillmore for interpretation on the 

Double l)iat ^ = 126 With dignity 






Ke - tha ke - tha ke 

tha ha 







■4t-i — e 



'J u u 


* — * — *- 

-* — s- 


S d - 




-B IS ,t 1- 

-• « a •- 



^= 1—1—1- 

■*• ■*■ 


■' 4 4 

-• 4 4 - 

4 4 4r 4 I 4— < 4 4 

Ke- tha - a Hu" - ga - a - ha 

t^-^t. * 


-• — « — •- 

^ i i * 


1 1 1 1 — ' 1 1 1 ^— 

A^ -A • • •— 1- 

4 ' ^4 4 _ i. 4 

■*• T^ ■*■ ■*• 

-• 4 4- 

- 4 4 - 



f^^^-4-4 — — 4 • — • •- 





Fr.r:TCHr:R-i.A flesohe] 



Ke-tlia - a Hu" - ga 




The foregoing spirited choral is wonderfully stirring when sung by 
two hundred or three hundred voices, as the writers have heard it 
many times. It is spoken of as a "happy song." 

When the weather was rainy, the following plea for a clear sky 
was sung: 

(Sung in octaves) 


V — h 



Ke-tha we tha Hu" - ga 

Hu° - ga 



Hu" - ga 


Hu°- "a 



Ha° - ga 

The only words are litiha, "clear sky," and Hu"'ga. It was 
greatly desired to have the svm shine during the ceremony, so when 
clouds gathered this prayer for clear weather was sung with much 

On the evening of the third day the gifts brought by the Wa'wa° 
party were presented to the host, who distributed them among his 

On the morning of the fourth day the ceremony in reference to the 
child took place. There was no song nor any cooking of food. All 
must fast. The leader, or "Father," and the pipe bearer went to 
the lodge of the host, the "Son;" as they walked thither the fol- 
lowing song was sung: 

(Sung in octaves) 

pTL'ag. — r-^ i — 

g — »— j — I J I — 






IeTH. ANN. 27 

If this song ever liad words, they are lost. Havinjj arrived at the 
door of the lodpje, they paused and sang as follows: 

J^ — 168 (Sung in octaves) 


.^!_i 1-0 — ^ , u 




Atie tha weane 

Atie tha weane 

Atie tha weane 

Zhi°ga thi uwine the Hu^ga 

Atie tha weane 

Atie tha weane 

Zhi°ga thi uwine the Hu^ga 

Literal translation: Atie tha, atia tlw,, I have come; tlia, end of sen- 
tence; weane, a changed form of uwine, I seek you; ztii"ga, little one, 
child; till, you. 

The party then entered the lodge where the little child, with its 
parents, was awaiting them. The leader carried clothing for the 
child and the skin pouches that contained the red and black paint. 
First the child was clothetl; then a member of the Wa'wa" party 
who coidd count honors won in defensive warfare was ilesignated to 
paint the child. The pipes were waved to the following song as this 
ceremony took place: 

■- 184 (Sung in octaves') 

A - thi - ba - ha 

ba - ha 

Hu° - ga 

Abaha the athe, abaha the a the 
Athi baha, athi baha Hu°ga 

Athaha the athe athaha the athe 
Athethaha athethaha Hu^ga 




Literal translation: Abaha, to show; the, this; atJie, I make; athi 
haha, to show you, Hii^'ga; athaha, to adhere; the, this; atlie, I make; 
athitltalia, to make adhere to j'ou. 

During the singing of the first stanza the man held the paint in its 
recej)tacle over the head of the child and showed it to all present. 
He first made a feint as if to touch the child with it. As the second 
stanza was sung he put red 
paint over the face of the 
child, then he drew a band 
of black across the forehead, 
a stripe down each cheek, 
one down the nose, and one 
at the back of the head. 
This design had the same 
meaning as that on the 
gourds. The band across 
the forehead represented 
the line of the sky; the 
stripes were the paths at the 
four directions whence the 
winds start: the red paint 
symbolized the light of the 
sun and the gift of life; the 
lines signified the winds — 
the breath of life, giving 
motion and power. In this 
connection the ceremony of 
Turning the Child should be 
remembered. (See p. 117.) This style of painting was called Hw^'ga 
fcio", "Hu°'ga painting" (fig. 89). The dead of the Nini'bato" sub- 
division of the I^ke'fabe gens were sometimes so painted for en- 
trance into the life after death. 

Then was sung the song which accompanied the act of tying the 
hi^xpe', a do^vny eagle feather, on the child. 

Fig. 8y. Huo'ga painting. 

J*' = 176 (SuDg in octaves) 



A - gtbe Hu" - ga 





Hu" - ga 

Hu" - ga 
.VVthe Hu'",H:a. etc. 


Literal translation: Agthe, to jjut on something and make it stand. 



[KTH. ANX. 27 

Eagle down was sprinkled over the head of the child, making it 
look like a callow biid. The wari'iors counted their honors, and while 
they were telling of their deeds of valor performed in defensive 
warfare the following song was sung: 

Harmonized l)y John C. Fillmore for interpretation on the piano 

," = 176 (Sung ill octavps) 


Hu"'i,'ii hiiiii 

Literal translation: /(«;;/. you have. Vocaliles iill (Uit the measure 
of the music. 

The meaning of this song antl act was explained as follows: The 
reason why only honors won in defensive warfare could be counted 
at this time was that those men who had won such honors had done 
so because they had risked their lives for the defense of the women 
and children of the tribe; thej had done deeds to promote safety 
and so to secure the perpetuation of the race. The act was symbolic 
and was considered one of the most important. It had a direct 
bearing on the teaching of the ceremony. If by any chance the 
Wa'wa" party did not have a man who could recount deeds done in 
defensive warfare and honors so gained, then the host, "the Son," 
was obliged to seek a man to perform this part in the rite, for the 
child could not be lifted up and carried to the lodge where the cere- 
mony was to be completed until a man had counted over it honors 
won in defensive warfare. This explains the meaning of the words 




Hif'gn ha ni— "you have the Hu'-'ga," i.e., because of my acts the 
clulihen live, "you have" them. 

Note the change of key in tlie music and its imphed harmonic 

After the counting of honors the following worils were sung: 

Sho" \vii"a tha 

Literal translation: ;S/(.o«, it is done ; M'ii''a, I carry you; </)a, orator- 
ical end of sentence. 

The child was then taken on the back of a man, who followed the 
swayed pipes as this song was sung: 



Zhi" - ga the u - we - ue Hu°-ga 



1$' ' ' * * *? 

— ^— 
— *— 

D. C. ad lib. 

Hu"-gu Hu°-ga 

Zhi"Ka thi uwine Hu°ga, etc. 

Hu° - ga 

Literal translation: Z/ii«^a, little one, child; tU, you; uwine, I seek. 

When the lodge was reached, the leader took his place outside at 
the right of the door and held the child between his knees. The 
singers took their seats at the left of the door. Two young men of 
the party were selected to perform the final dance. They were 
divested of clothing except the breechcloth. A red circle was 
painted on the breast and back, a hi^xpe' feather tied on the scalp 
lock. Each dancer carried one of the feathered stems. 

Meanwhile all those who had made gifts of horses to the Wa'wa" 
party gathered their ponies and decked themselves in gala dress, 
and approached the lodge to witness the final dance. The singers 
started the music and the two young men, holding the feathered 
stems high above their heads, with a hght, leaping step danceil in two 
straight hnes to and from the east, simulating the flight of the eagle. 
The line taken by the dancers signified that by following the teach- 
ings of the ceremony, the straight red line on the pipes, one could go 
forth and return in peace to his lodge and have no fear. As the 
young men leaped and danced — a dance that was full of wild grace 
and beauty — it might happen that a man would advance and stop 
before one of the dancers, who at once handed him the pipe. The 
man recounted Ms deeds and laid the pipe on the ground. The 
dance antl mu.sic ceased, for the act was a challenge and the pipe 
could be raised only by one who could recount a deed equal in valor 

400 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

to that told hy tlic niiin who had caused the pipe to he hiid down. 
This stoppinif of the thmce often led to s|)iiited contests in the 
recital of brave deeds. While the dancing was going on, the ponies 
were led by the children of the donors to the leader and the little 
Hu^''ga stroked the ann of the messenger in token of thanks. When 
all the ponies had been received the fmal dance came to an end. 

The man who had recounted his deeds and painted the Hu^'ga 
entered the lodge alone with the chilil and closed the door. He took 
the pipes, which had been folded together, and made four passes on 
child — down the front, back, and both sides. He then turned the 
child four times, and led it outside the lodge. This act of blessing 
the child was secret and no outsitler but the host could be present. 
The pipes and all their belongings, wrapped in the wildcat skin, were 
then handed by the man who had blessed the child to the leader, who 
presented them to the host, saj'ing: "Mj' son, j^ou have made me 
many gifts but they will disappear, while that which I leave with 
you will remain and bring you the blessing of peace." The "Son" 
then gave away the pipes, the wildcat skin, the tobacco pouch, and 
the rattles to those who had taken part with him in receiving the 
pipes. He retained none of the articles. Only by this act could he 
receive all the honor and advantage to be derivetl from the reception 
of a Wa'wa° party and enjoy all the promised benefits of the rite. 
The \'isitors then gathered their ponies, which were apportioned by 
the leader, and moved off. Wlien a mile or two away they campetl 
and partook of their first food after a fast of nearly twenty-four 
hours and then made their way home as rapidly as possible. 

Many are the stories told by men and women of their experiences 
when they were Hu"'ga — of how tired they became, of the tidbits 
doled to them by the leader to keep them contenteii, of how when 
they rejoined their playmates the latter plucked at the down wliich 
clung to their hair and made sport of their cjueer looks. Neverthe- 
less in after life it was regarded as an honor to have been a Hw'ga 
and the inconvenience was remembereil only to make merry with. 

The Omaha Wa'wa", while lacking some of the elaborateness of the 
Pawnee version of the same ceremony, was not without beauty and 
dignity. It was a ceremony that was dear to the people. It was 
held in a reverence free of fear and strongly tinctured with the spirit 
of kindliness and hai)piness. Its songs, being free to both sexes and 
to all ages, were widely laaown in the tribe and greatly enjoyed. 


According to a Ponca tradition, the Wa'wa" ceremony was insti- 
tuted at the time the seven pipes were distributed at the formation 
of tlie tribe as it is at present. This tradition would seem to place 
the event about the time that the ceremony was acceiited by the 


Omaha when peace was made througli it with the Arikara and otlier 
tribes. (See p. 74.) This ceremony was known and observed by the 
Ponca as among the Omaha and the same songs were used, for the 
Ponca had none of their own composition belonging to it. Accord- 
ing to Hairy Bear the closing act, "blessing the child," which was 
secret among the Omaha, was open with the Ponca and differed in 
some of its details. After the pipes had been folded together and 
wrapped in the wildcat skin they were raised high over the head of 
the little Hu^'ga, then brought down slowly so as to touch the fore- 
head of the child and passed down the front of the bodj^ to the feet 
until the mouthpiece rested on the toes, which it was made to press 
strongly on the ground ; then the pipes were laid for a moment on the 
ground in a line toward the east, as the following words were spoken: 
"Firm shall be your tread upon the earth, no obstacle shall hinder 
your progress; long shall be your life and your issue many." The 
movements with the folded pipes were repeated on the right side of 
the child from its head to its feet and the pipes laid in a line toward 
the south, as the promise was repeated. The movements were next 
made on the back of the child and the pipes laid in a line toward 
the west, while the promise was given. Lastly the pipes were 
passed over the left side of the child and then laid in a hne toward 
the north, as once more the promise was given to the child, who 
stood at the intersection of the four symbolic lines, "in the center of 
the life-giving forces." The child was then told to "walk four steps 
toward the sun." "• When tliis was accomplished the Uttle one was 
dismissed and the Wa'wa" ceremony came to an end. 

" The taking of the four steps suggests the rite of Turning the Child ^see p. 121). 
83993°— 27 eth— 11 26 

Influence on Tribal Development 

Two classes of warfare were recognized among the Omaha, defensive 
and aggressive. Each had its distinctive rites, its rank, and its 
duties in the tribal organization. 

Defen-sive warfare was called ti'adi, meaning "among the dwellings,'' 
OY wau'atatMsho'^ {toau, "women;" ata' thisho'^ , "toward or pertaining 
to;" that is, "fightuig for the protection of the homes, the women, 
and the children ' ') . The Omaha word for " tribe," already explained 
(p. 3.5), was derived from fighting of this kind. In the use of tliis 
word one can get a hint of the growth and influence of defensive 
warfare. Self-protection naturally expanded toward the protection 
of one's family and to extend this protection to a group of families 
living near together was a logical progression and leading naturally 
to an appreciation of the necessitj^ for permanency in the group to be 
protected. When therefore the thought expressed by the Omaha 
word for " tribe " had taken hold of the people so strongly as to become 
the name of a community held together at the risk of life against 
outside aggressors, that community had ceased to be a congeries of 
people and had become a more or less stable association of persons 
among whom political ideas coidd take root. 

It has been shown that the Omaha tribal organization was based 
on certain fundamental religious ideas pertaining to the manner in 
which the visible universe came into being, and is to be maintained, 
and to man's relation to the Cosmos and to living forms. All these 
ideas were conceived anthropomorphically, for the Omaha projected 
his self-consciousness on nature. These conceptions were more or less 
clearly expressed in dramatic ceremonials, ceremonials that tended to 
bind the people together as expressions of a common faith. 

The disuitegrating tendencies of aggressive warfare, particularly 
the quarrels and schemes of ambitious men, were checketl by the 
incidcation of the idea that war is allied to the cosmic forces autl 
under their control. The storm, with its destractive hghtning and 
deafening roar of thunder, was regarded as the manifestation of the 
war phase of the mysterious Wako°'da. As has been sho\\^l, all 
Omaha males m their childhood were consecrated to Thunder as 



the god of war. The warrior was taught that it was this god, 
not man, who decreed the death on the iiold of battle; tliis mode 
of death was called i"'gthu"gaxthi (i"'giJm", "thunder;" ga, "ac- 
tion bj^ the hand ;" a;</ii, "to bruise," as with a club), the term applied 
also to death caused by lightning. In tliis connection shoukl be 
remembered the reference to the " Gramlfather's club " in a song used 
in the Wate'gictu (p. 437) and also the round stick bound to the 
ancient cedar pole (fig. 57). The application of tliis term to death 
on the battlefield probablj'' had a double significance; it referred to 
the teaching that the life of a warrior was in the keeping of the 
Thunder gotl (see p. 126) and to the time when the club was the only 
weapon of the man. The word is said to be an old term, as evi- 
denced by its tran.sference to a warrior's death bj' an arrow or a gun. 
This teaching tended to change, in the Omaha mind, the character 
of warfare; it placed the warrior under a supernatural power over 
which he had no control, and, while it did not eliminate fi-om him 
the spirit of revenge or hatred, it curtailed a man's estimate of Ids 
OMTi ability to exploit vengeance on his fellows. This teachuig was 
formulated in rites the performance of which was essential to the 
initiation of aggressive warlike expeditions, rites that became an 
eiTective means of establishing and maintaining tribal control over 

The close connection between Thunder and the Sacred Tent of 
War was confirmed in popular belief by coincidences that were 
interpreted to indicate the watchfulness of the Thunder god over the 
war rites of the tribe. Witlun the last century the keeper of the 
Sacred Tent of War died and the man to whom the office descended 
was so afraid of the Tent and its duties that he refused to assume 
the office and kept away from the Tent. His brother was the next 
in the hereditary line, but he also feared the responsibility and left 
the Tent standing alone and uncared for. Shortly afterward both 
men were killed by lightning, and their deaths were regarded as a 
punishment sent by the Thunder god for the disrespect shown the 
ofhce of keeper by their neglect of duty toward the sacred rites 
committed to their care. The punishment was believed to applj^ 
only to this life ; it shortened the days of the offenders but did not 
affect their life after death. 

Aggressive warfare was called nuatathisJio'^ (nu, "man;" aia'thisho^, 
' ' in the direction of ; " that is, " war with men' ') . The use of the word 
nu, "man" or "male," is noteworthy, particularly in comiection 
with a ritual song used in accordmg honors to the warrior, where 
again the word is emjjloj^ed, indicating that war was waged against 
men. T\1iile it is tnie that in attacks on villages women and chil- 
dren were sometimes killed they were not invariably put to death 



Aggressive warfare was under the control of rites which were 
connected witli the vMi"'waxuhe, or Sacred Packs of War. ( IFai"' 
was the common name for a pack — a receptacle made of skin^ fre- 
quently of parfleche, in which articles could be laid away and kept 
safely; waxu'he, "sacred"). There was another name applied to these 
packs: wathi'xahe, "things flayed," referring to the contents of the 
packs, which were the skins of certain birds. It was the presence of 
these bird skins, which represented the species and the life embodied 
in the species, that made the wai"' , or pack, waxu'he, or sacred. 

There is no tradition as to the origin of these packs. Probably 
none of those now existing in the Omaha tribe are much more than 
two centuries old. The pack itself was not sacred, only the con- 
tents. The association of birds with the powers of the air is veiy 
ancient. Particular birds were thought to be in close relation with 
the storm and the storm cloud, the abode of Thunder, the god 
of war. The flight of the birds brought them near the god and 
they were regarded as his special messengers; moreover, from their 
vantage point these denizens of the air could observe all that oc- 
curred on the earth beneath. When the warrior went forth to 
battle the birds watched his every act and through them the Thun- 
der became cognizant of all his deeds. The swallows that fly before 
the coming tempest were regarded as heralds of the approaching 
god. The hawk and other birds of prey were connected with the 
destruction caused by the death-dealing storm. The crow and 
t)ther carrion birds haunted the jilaces where the dead lay and were 
allied to the devastating forces of the god of war. I'^jxin this ancient 
belief relative to the connection between the birds of the air and the 
manifestations of the powersdwelling in the sky (the wind, the thunder, 
and the lightning) the war rites of the Omaha were built. It was only 
after the performance of certain ceremonies connected with these 
packs, wherein were kejit the rejiresentatives of the birds which 
could act as officers, so to speak, of the Thunder, that the Omaha 
warrior could go forth to aggressive warfare with the sanction of 
the recognized war power of the tribe. How important this sanction 
was »is revealed in the res]>onsil)ility and ])unishment accordetl the 
war leader who omitted to secure it for his venture. If a man 
among the Omaha who organized a war party secretly and stole away 
to carry out his designs of revenge or the ac([uiring o( liooty, in the 
battling chanced to lose a member of his party, he was accounted 
and ])unished as a nunderer. In any event, no matter how lu'avely 
he might have acted, none of liis deeds could receive the public honor 
which otherwise he would have secured. 

Early in the last centiuy such an unauthorized itarty stole away. 
They met with disaster aiul one of their number was killed. This 


misfortune placed the lives of the survivors in jeopardy. Realizing 
the trouble he had brought on himself and his companions, the 
leader secretly returned to the tribe and went to his father, one of 
the chiefs, for help. The chief, approaching his son, bade him and 
his companions to strip off all their clothing antl put clay on their 
heads, and in this guise publicly to enter the village. They 
were met by the people with taunts and angry words; the only 
reply of the returning warriors was to lift their hantls in an appeal 
for mercy. They were driven through the village by the incensed 
people but through the influence of the chief they escaped serious 
consequences as murderers. At last the chief declared that they 
had been sufficiently humbled and punished for their disobedience 
to tribal law. Gifts had to be made to the relatives of the deceased 
meml)er of the party. In olden times niembers of an unauthorized 
war party wliich had lost any of its number, on their return were 
forced to strip themselves, put clay on their heads and faces, 
crawl on their hands anil knees to the lodges of the principal chiefs, 
and there cry for mercy. During the last century a man well on 
toward high rank as a chief yielded to temptation and joined an 
unauthorized war party. lie returned successful, but liis progress 
toward chieftainship was arrested and during the lifetime of Big 
Elk (p. 83) the man was not allowed to meet with the chiefs or to 
take any part in tribal affairs. Other instances could be given of 
the debasement of men who joined unauthorized war parties, even if 


When a man wished to lead a party out on aggressive warfare, 
either to avenge an injury received or to obtain booty from an enemy, 
it was his duty to go to the keeper of a wai^'waxuhe, or Sacred Pack 
of War, and invite him to a "feast." The term "feast" is used 
in a limited sense only; it does not imply a siimjituous meal but a 
repast, always very simple as to the food, partaken of in honor of an 
action or a person. This feast had to be repeated four times. After 
the fourth feast the keeper of the Sacred Pack opened it before the 
would-be leader, explained to him his duties, instructed him as to the 
rites he must perfc^rm morning and evening antl how to organize and 
conduct his party as to scouting and attacking the enemy. Not 
infrequently some one of the sacred birds was given the leader to 
carry on the war path and on his return he was required to take it 
back to the keeper of the pack. 

Besides the birds, there were certain charms concealed in small bags 
in these packs that were believed to help the leader and his men. What 
these little skin bags contained was a secret not imparted even to the 
man to whom they were loaned. Generally these charm bags were 
put into a pouch, which was carried by one of the party. When, how- 

40() THK OMAHA TRIBE [etii. ANN. 27 

ever, iho men were about to make tl^e attack, eacli man fastened his 
own charm bag on his person. 

There were four of tliese Sacred Packs amono; the Omaha. A 
difference of opinion existeil among the okl men as to the rank of 
these packs; but, taking all the evidence obtainable into considera- 
tion, it seems proba]>le that the pack which belonged to the Sacred 
Tent of War, in charge of the We'zhi"shte gens, had the widest 
authority and significance. Its rival was a pack that was the hered- 
itary charge of Geu"'habi, of the Wazhi"'ga itazhi subgens of the 
Tha'tada gens. This pack was associated with a remarkable man 
named Wa'bapka, who lived in the eighteenth century and who 
led a memorable fight against tlie Pawnee. On that occasion, not 
only did Wa'bafka obtain authority for his war i)arty from the 
keeper of tliis special pack but he carried the pack witli him. It 
was because of the association of the pack with this historic event 
that it became specially honored by the Omaha tribe. As the story 
illustrates Omaha customs and is well known to the people, it is here 
given : 

The Omaha and the Pawnee were at peace, when some Pawnee men raided the 
Omaha \'illage and drove off a number of horses. At that time horses were not so plen- 
tiful as they became later; they were a comparatively new acquisition and were very 
valuable. Wa'bavka was not a chief but a man of position and had what might be 
called wealth, as he owned several horses. All these were driven away by the robbers. 
Thinking that the act was committed by some thoughtless, adventurous young men — 
for the two tribes were on friendly terras — \Va'ba(;ka, accompanied by a few men 
who also had suffered loss, started for the Pawnee village to lay their grievance before 
the principal chief, who they felt would surely require the young men to restore the 
property taken from a friendly tribe. There are different stories told of what hap- 
pened on this visit but all show that the chief did not take the matter so seriously 
as the (;)maha thought he should. lie said that his young men were in need of horses 
and had borrowed them, and bade the Omaha go back home and make arrows for 
the Pawnee (the Pawnee were not as good arrow and bow makers as the Omaha) and 
in the spring they might come again and the Pawnee would return the horses for the 
arrows. Another story runs that a Pawnee chief, to whom one of the party apjiealed, 
placed before the Omaha a large bowl of beans, and, laying beside it a war club, 
bade the Omaha eat all the food on pain of death. In any event, the Omaha felt 
themselves insulted — they had come peaceably and were willing to condone the 
Pawnee action if only the property were restored. \Mien they were bidden to come 
again with arrows to exchange for their own horses, Wa'backa said he would go back 
and make arrows and return with more than the Pawnee would care to see. As 
he left the Pawnee village the boys and young men laughed at him and his friends 
because of their fruitless errand. 

On the way back Wa'bavka threw away his moccasins, leggings, and shirt, cut off 
the corners of his robe, and on entering the Omaha village went to the chief's house 
and stood there wailing, his hands lifted to heaven.. He cried aloud of the insult 
that had been put on the ( )maha by the Pawnee and called on the people to avenge the 
wrong done. The people listened but said nothing. At length a young man who was 
greatly moved composed a song telling of the occurrence, and went about the village 
singing it. He called on the people to rise and wipe out the insult put upon them. 




This song has not come down to the present time. Finally the people were aroused; 
every man began to make arrows and the women to make moccasins. Wa'ba^ka hewed 
a club and said he would use this weapon only against the offending Pawnee. So great 
was the fervor created in the tribe, that the chiefs temporarily set aside their office and 
all the people wore given into \\'a'ba(;ka's control without reserve. It is said that 
this is the only instance known in which the control of the people was given to one 
man. Meanwhile Wa'ba(;ka had received authority from a sacred pack, and also 
had secured permission to take it with him. When the time came to start, the whole 
tribe went with Wa'bafka — men, women, and children. The women composed a 
song which was sung on the march across the country. This song has lived and 
as it has been used by the women since that time as a wc'ton waan — a song to send 
strength to the absent warrior on the battlefield — it is probable that it originally 
belonged to that class of songs. 

(Aria as sung) Harmonized by John C Fillmnre for interpretation on the piano 
J = 56 With marked rhythm 

Uhe kithame 

Wa'bafka ha xage wathasta" zhiada" he 


He kithame 

Literal translation: TThe hitJiame , they yielded to his request; lia, 
vowel prolongation; xage, to cry; wathasta'^ zhiada^, he ceased not, for 
that reason. 

Free Irnnslation 

His call they obeyed! 

Wa'bafka raised his voice, nor ceased to cry aloud. 

Come with me! 

They all obeyed. 

408 THE OMAHA TRIBE (kth. ann. 27 

As horses were scarce and the skin tents heavy, when about half a days journey 
from the Pawnee village the people halted and on the banks of Maple creek (a branch 
of the Elkhorn river, Nebraska) they buried their tents; this act gave rise to the 
name Ti'haxaike, which the stream slill bears among the Omaha. 

Before day the warriors, led by Wa'bafka, started for the Pawnee village, which 
was surrounded by a strong palisade. This they leaped and rashed in on the sleep- 
ing Pawnee. Tearing away the sods from their earth lodges, they set fire to the 
straw that covered the wooden structure beneath and as the smoke drove the people 
out they were slaughtered. Wa'bafka went direct to the lodge of the chief who had 
slighted the peaceful overtures made the year before and clubbed him to death. The 
battle was fierce; many were slain on both sides. The Omaha were avenged. They 
took all the booty they could carry; but the battle cost them the life of their leader, 
Wa'bafka, who fell, fighting to the last for the honor of his tribe. His death brought 
the battle to a close. 

The club made and used by Wa'baf ka is said to be preserved in the pack he carried 
at that time. An old man who, before the middle of the last century, had been 
instructed as a war leader from this pack, said that it contained one bird hawk, one 
blackbird, one swallow, one crow, and a bladder tobacco bag. This old man's party 
killed a Dakota and brought back the man's scalp; when the victory dance was being 
held some blackbirds came and alighted on the pole to which the scalp was attached 
and swallows swept over and about the camp. As the old man saw the birds, he called 
to the people: "They have come to greet us!" He had carried on the warpath a 
blackbird and a swallow from the pack Wa'ba<,ka had used and he believed that the 
living representatives of the birds he took to watch over him had come to approve and 
to welcome the victorious party; all the people rejoiced at this favorable omen 
and believed it had been sent by the Thunder god. 


A war party varied in numbers from eight or ten up to a hundred 
warriors. A man seldom went on the warpath alone unless under 
the stress of great sorrow, as that caused by the death of a child or 
other near relative. He might then go forth to seek opportunity to 
kill some one who would be a spirit companion for the one who 
had recently died. If it was a child whose loss sent the father 
to seek an enemy, the little one's moccasins were taken along in the 
father's belt. If he found a man and killed him, he placed the 
moccasins beside the dead man and, addressing the spirit, bade it 
accompany the child and guide it safely to relatives in the spirit 

All members of a war party were volunteers. As soon as a man 
determined to become one of a war party and gave notice of his 
determination, tribal custom obliged him to observe strict continence 
until his return to the tribe; disobedience of this requirement, it was 
beheved, would bring disaster to him or to the people. The old 
men explained that this rule was based on thei same reason as that 
which forbade marriage at such a time (p. 325) ; moreover if the man 
were married and should be killed, he might leave an unborn child 
to come into life without a father. 

War parties were of two classes — ^those organized for the purpose 
of securing spoils and those which had for their object the avenging 





of injuries. The latter were held in higher esteem than the former, 
and the men who took part in them were regarded with more respect 
by the tribe. 

The nudo"'ho^ga, or war leader, was the commanding officer. He 
directed the movements of the party and had to be ready to sacrifice 
his life for its safety if circumstances required. A war leader who 
in any way sought his own convenience and security or provided for 
himself first, incurred lifelong disgrace. The members of the war 
party were addressed by the war leader as ni'kawapa, a very old 
word indicating those who are not officers — similar to the term 
"privates." The leader assigned men to certain duties. There were 
four classes of service : 

(1) The hunters, whose duty it was to provide game for the food of 
the party. 

(2) The moccasin carriers. A large number of pairs of moccasins 
were necessary; otherwise the men would become footsore on the 
long journeys undertaken. 

(3) The kettle carriers. These had charge of all the cooking 

(4) Those who built the fires, brought the water, and carried the 
provisions of the party. 

For services 2, 3, and 4 men of strength rather than agility were 


The warriors formerly wore a white covering for the head, of soft 
dressed skin; there was no shirt, the robe being belted about the waist 
and tied over the breast. For this latter purpose strings were fastened 
to the robe, the place where they were sewed being marked by a 
round piece of embroidery. When the war leader had once tied 
over his breast these strings that held the robe together, custom 
did not permit him to untie them until the scouts reported the 
enemy in sight. No feathers nor ornaments could be worn. In 
actual battle the warriors wore only moccasins and breechcloths im- 
less they put on some skin connected with their vision. (See p. 131.) 
The accompan3M'ng illustration (pi. 54) shows a wolf skin worn by 
Zhi^ga'gahige. A sUt at the neck of the skin admitted the wearer's 
head, the wolf's head rested on the man's breast, and the decorated 
skin hung over his back. 

When an enemy had been slain, the war leader painted his face 
black. Later, on the return to the village, all who had taken part in 
the fight put black paint on their faces. 

Occasionally the wives of a few of the men accompanied a large war 
party. They assisted in the care of the moccasins and in the cooking. 
The women of a war party were allowed a share in the spoils taken 
because they had borne their part in the hardships of the journey. 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

The following r.iVkafi (wolf) sons; refers to this custom: 

(Aria as snns;) nnriiuinizcd by John C. Fillmore for interpretation on the piano 





n^-a e 

vaw ha 

a hi-a e 

— f^ — ( ^^ — I 

yaw ha 

-0 ti 




T — r 

T — r 


Con Fed. 




^ — vla- 


A-it—s-s i- 

wa°- ge he ya 

hi - a o - yaw 


we - a - he 





H-c 1- 

-*— ^- 



r rr r r r 


S 5 


4— ^- 

Hia e yaw haa 

Hia e yaw haa 

Hia e yaw haa 

Hia e yaw ha a we tha he he thoi 

\Vitu"!,'a do sesasa a"thu"wa°gihe 

Hia c yaw lia woa he tho 





Literal translation: First four lines and last line, vocables. 
Witu"'ge, younger sister; se'sasa, trotting; a"thuHva^gihe, follows me. 

Women were always spoken of as "sisters." The words picture 
the little sister trotting along with her share of the spoils, following 
the warriors. The lively music has a quaint charm. 


The Sacred War Pack, which was kept in the Tent of War, to- 
gether with the other articles kept in this tent, was deposited in 1884 
in the Peabody Museum of Harvard University, where they have 
been examined and photographed. This pack (fig. 90; Peaboily 
Museum no. 37563) is of skin; it was so rolled as to present the 

Fig. yu. Sacrctl War I'ac-k (uiinpt-ned). 

appearance of a large, long-bodied bird, one end being fringed to rep- 
resent the tail. It is 800 mm. long and 300 mm. in circumference; 
the length of the tail is 220 mm. The pack was held together by a 
band wound about it twice. A band about the middle had ends so 
looped that the pack could be hung up or carried, if necessary. 
There are a number of slits in one end of the skin covering through 
wliich a piece of hide was threaded in and out so as to gather the 
covering and form the neck of the bird; this end is the head. The 
other end is slashed to represent the tail feathers. The covering is 
wide enough to be wound twice about the contents and twisted at 
the neck end, but not at the tail end. It was folded over and tied by 
bits of hide knotted on the under side. When the pack was opened 
it was photographed with the contents in situ (fig. 91; Peabody Mu- 
seum no. 47820). 



[KTIl. ANN. 27 

The first article met with was a flag, carefully folded (fig. 92; Pea- 
body Museum no. 47S2]); nil efforts at identification of this flag 
have thus far failed. There is no knowledge of it in the tribe. 

Flu. 91. iSucred War Pack (opened to show contents). 

Whether it was captured, or presented to a war party by some trader 
in an effort to extend his business to the Omaha, is conjecture. 

Six swallows, each wrapped in a bladder, four laid together (c) and 
two (a, h) below these, were beneath the folded flag (fig. 93 ; Peabody 

Museum no. 47S17). Next was a 
falcon, the legs tied with a twisted 
cord of sinew, painted red. Below 
this was a swallow-tail Idte {Ela- 
noides forficatus) (fig. 94; Peabody 
Museum no. 47816). This bird is 
lined with cloth, native weaving of 
nettle-weed fiber. Several strands 
of native thread are fastened t<> the 
tail and a scalp lock is tied to the 
right leg. There were also a swal- 
low-t ail hawk ( Nauclerusfurcatus) , 
a wolf skin, and seven skins of the 
fetus of the elk. The last-named 
are said to have been used by the chiefs in a ceremony now lost, 
which was not unlike some of the ceremonies of the Shell society, 
these elk sluns taking the place of the otter skia. 

Fig. 9LI. Flag fuund in Sacred War Pack. 
Inner rectangle represents flag. Dimensions: 
6 ft. 9 in. hy 4 ft. 9 in.; of cornerrcctangle, 2 ft. 
6 in.by2ft.9in. Colors; darkest sections, red; 
lightest, yellow; remainder, blue. 




The wolf skin is that of a yoimg animal; in place of the feet, which 
had been cut off, was tied a tuft of elk hair, painted red. The head 
also has been cut off and a thonp run throug;h holes made in the neck, 

Fig. 93. Olijects from Sacred War Tack. 

Flo. M. Swalliiwlaii kite Ircm 

to which is fastened a feather, the quill of which is painted in red 
bands and bound to the thong with a strip of porcupine work and a 
tuft of elk hair, making a kind of tassel at the end of the thong. 



[eth. an-n. 27 

Near tlic liind lo<2;s l\olos luivc l)Oon mado in tlie skin through which 
passes a lliong. (Fiij. 95; Poalxxlv Museum no. 4S256.) 

Fn.;. 95. Wolf skin anil othtTobJL'Ots from Sacred War Pack. 

Fit;, '.tii. Eagle feather in bone socket, from Sacred War I'ack. 

The wolf skill is said to have been used in augury by a, war ])arty. 
The banded quill of the feather forming part of the tassel was just 
above a bladder tobacco pouch, which was folded within the skin, as 
was also the eagle feather fastened in a bone socket for tving to the 


scalp lock. (Fig. 96; Peabody Museum no. 48264.) A war party 
sometimes resorted to augury to ascertain the conditions in the coun- 
try to which they were going and to learn of their future success. 
The wolf skin was then used in the following manner: It was soaked 
in water and thus made pliable. Then it was put about the throat 
of one of the party, wlio was seated on the ground and supjjorted at 
the back by another member. Two men, holding the ends of the skin 
wound about the throat of the seated man, drew it firm and taut 
but did not choke the man, who soon became vmconscious. Wiule 
in that condition he was supposed to be able to look into the future, 
viewing the covmtry and the people whither the party were going, 
and discerning also what was to happen. The Winnebago wore 
accustomed to use an otter skin for the same purpose and in the 
same manner. 

While this pack could give authority to aggressive war parties, and, 
it is said, was sometimes taken along by tlie leader of a very large war 


Fig. 97. Pipes from Sacred War Pack. 

party, one of a hundred or more warriors (a nuJa"' JdHo^ga), it was 
the only pack entitled to authorize defensive warfare. When that 
was clone the two pipes (fig. 97; Peabody Museum no. 37551) belong- 
ing to this pack were ceremonially smoked. 


When the leader of an aggressive war ]iarty had obtained authority 
from one of the four Sacred Packs, he was not held responsible 
for the death of any member of his party or for any disasters that 
might happen to it. Each one of the party, through the leader, had 
placed himself under the authority of the war power, the Thunder 
god, tlirough his accredited representatives, the birds contained in the 
iLmi^'icaxnhe, the Sacred War Pack. We here find another illustra- 
tion of the Omaha belief in the continuity of all life, so that a part 
could represent the whole and that all forms, animate and inanimate, 
were linked together by the pervading life-giving power of Wako°'da. 
Because of this belief the Thunder and its representative birds, and 
the charms, or " medicines," which were generally some product of 
the earth, were able to influence men and their fortunes in all avoca- 

416 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. anx. 27 

tiuns. While this bohof may seem strange and irrational, it was 
logical anil vitally effectual to tlie Omaha and underlay his organi- 
zation, ceremonies, and ]iublic and })rivate acts. So when tlie leader 
and his followers had received instructions from the keeper of one 
of the Sacred Packs and had secured one or more of the sacred 
birds that woidd act as a medium between them and the Thimder 
god, they felt themselves ready to face any danger; and, in any event, 
the responsibility for their acts rested with the supernatural agencies 
they had invoked. 

When a man applied for authority to lead an aggressive war party 
the keeper of the Sacred Pack invited the members of the IIo°'he- 
wachi to meet the party. The leader of the war Jiarty provitled the 
feast. At this gathering songs and dances pertaining to the IIo"'he- 
wachi (night dance) were sung but not those related to the counting 
(p. 495) and tattooing ceremonies (p. 503). These songs were given to 
remove from the minds of the men about to go forth all fear of death 
by bringing before them the symbolism of night, which represented 
both death and birth. The feast took place in a large dwelling 
belonging to a member of the Ho°'hewachi. On this occasion the 
keeper of the Sacred Pack conducted the ceremonies (which were 
sometimes omitted if haste was recjuired). Just before they were 
ready to start, the men of the war party, led by their leader, performed 
the mi'Jcafi dance {mi'kafi, "wolf;'' the wolf was regarded as connected 
with war). The dance was an appeal to the wolf that the men might 
partake of his predatory character, of his ability to roam and not be 
homesick. The dance was in rhythmic steps, more or less dramatic 
and imitative of the movements of the wolf — his rapid trot and sudden 
and alert stops. The music of the songs is lively, well accenteil, and 

The first part of the following vn'Tiafi song has no words, only 
vocables. The words in the second part are given below. 





Harmonized by John C. Fillmore 

Tlie upper line is tlie Aria as snng. The harmonization is preferred by the Indians 
when tlie song is played on tlic piano 

n Song ' — 104 Drum-beat ^ = 208 



— 1= 

Hill ha a ha 
a 4 a ^ ^ 


^ I 

e ya 

^ I 



I I 

Double Drum-beat 

ya he 





% ^ \ — I J — 1 

I I I I 

n n n n 

1 • — • — • • ^a-0-0-0-^0-0-0-a-' 

-^— «— ?- 


mi - ka - fi a - ma mo" zho° nom-pa ba - ji ba 

I K ! ^ ^ ! ! ^ _ ! ,s _ 1 

-«?— «-- Jf- 




83993^—27 eth— 11- 



MI'KAgi— Contimiod 

[ETH. ANN. 11 



^ — I- 

yau a ha e - yau he 

-I L, ^ ^ ^ 

he ya A ha e ya 



-* — *' 



♦ * I — ] r^i n n n n r^, 




<-»-<-<-' #*«<»- 

*-•(»- -^ ■•- ■•• 


-^t— #- 


* — • 

ha a ha e - va e - va e - va a l)a e - va lia he ya 








-* — » 


-V— 1- 


-H 1 • f- 


-f=: — F=- 

Mi'lun;! ama mo"zho'' nonipa bazhi ba egima 




Translation: }fi'kiifi, wolf; (ima, they; rnn^zho", earth or land; 
nompa, fear; hazhi, not; ha, so; e'gima, I am like them, or I do likewise. 
"The wolves have no fear as they travel over the eartli: so I, like 
them, will go forth fearlesslj', and not feel strange in any land." 

Homesickness was greatly dreaded by the warriors, as it unnerved 
them for action and presaged defeat. The above song and others 
similar in feeling were sung as a ])lea for help against this internal 
enemy of the warrior. The leader was constantly on the lookout 
for indications of nostalgia, and if he detectetl signs of this dreaded 
condition, if he found tlie men speaking of their sweethearts, he took 
means at once to cheer up the ])arty. He would organize a dance, at 
which time songs of the following class would be siuig, and in this way 
the men would be heartened and the party would go forward to success. 

(Sung in octaves) Vivace (Marked rhythm) 

nu - do" i the-a he. E 

- na! 




- bthe 

thi° the 

P W P » » 




U 1/ '• > > 




1 ■ 

•r •! ■ 

_« « 1 1 ^^—1 i«^_ 

__H 1_ 

— _ 



— ;^' 


thu tha zhi-a he A - he the he va lio 







P P 9 P 

W ^ U I 






.V ha i ya he. a ha i ya he 

.\ ha i ya he, a ha i ya he 

Ya ha i ya he 

Ya ha i ya he 

k he the he ya ho e tha he the he the thoe 

E na ! abthi.xe ko"btha thi" nudo" ithea he the 

Ena! ithatabthe thi" thethii thazhiahe 

A he the he ya ho e tha he the tho 

420 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann.2- 

Literal translation : The first five lines and the last are vocables, 
/i'na.', an exclamation^nsed only by women; ahthixe,! marry; lo^htha, 
I wish or desire; tlti", tiie one — the word indicates that the one spoken 
of is moving; nnclo^, war; itheahe, ithehe, has gone — the a is introduced 
to accommodate the word to the music; the, end of the sentence; emi!, 
feminine exclamation; ithatahthe, I hate; tJii", the one moving; thethu, 
here; tluizhi, has not gone; a, vocable; he, feminine termination of a 
sentence spoken by a woman. 

Free translation 

Ena ! The one I wish to marry has gone to war. 

Ena! The one I hate has not gone forth but remains here. 

The mi'kafi dance was the last public appearance of the war 
party. Their departure was kept secret. The leader designated a 
time and ])lace where all were to meet and each man stole away to 
the appointed spot. This course was followed in order to prevent 
undesirable persons from joining the party and causing inconvenience. 

Each leader of a war party was instructed in his duties by the 
keeper of the Sacred Pack to which he had applied for permission 
to go on the warpath. There were slight differences in the details of 
these instructions but the following, recounted by an old warrior from 
his own experience, may be taken as a fair picture of the general 
procedure : 

At night, when on the march, after we had had supper and were about to go to bed, 
the leader selected four men, who were sent out from the camp to four designated 
places in the direction of the four cardinal points. The leader bade these men to go 
forth as directed and listen for the howling of the wolf. Toward midnight a man in 
the camp gave the cry of the wolf; he was answered by the four men from their posts, 
who then returned to the camp and all went to sleep. The guards did not watch all 
night. It was only during the first night that the party traveled; after that the men 
rested at night and went forward by day. On a morning when the party were near their 
destination, the Pack they had carried was opened ceremonially according to the 
instructions given the leader and eight men were selected and sent out as scouts; 
two were to turn back over the route that had been traveled and look for signs of 
people; two were to go out on one side, two on the other side, and two were to keep 
in advance of the party. The two in the rear were to follow at lught and rejoin the 
party, which, thus protected in the rear, on the flanks and in front, traveled on all the 

When one of the scouts discovered a village where there was a chance to obtain 
booty or other trophies of war, he at once ran to report to the leader, singing this song 
as he advanced toward the war party: 








He he no°-zlu°-ga he lie no°-zhi''-ga he he no"-zhi°-ga 

Nu - do° ho° - ga no" zhi° ge 

he no°-zhi° - ga ii 



-J 1 j^_|_^ — , 1 , 1 1_ 

_■•• -0- ■0- -' ■»■ -» -♦ -0- 

tho he the 


the thoi 


no"- zhi"-ga 

*J • • ■0- 


he no°-zhi° - ga 

Nii-do" - ho" - ga no°- zhi" - ge 


' '^ •>^ -•■ -•■•■•■-•• -0- 

he no°- zhi" ga u - zha - we tho he the tho 

The words are few and interspersed with vocables: No'"zhi"ga, 
arise; Nudo^ho^ga, war leader; uzhawe, rejoice, be glad. 

The attack was generally made in the very early dawn; such a 
fight was called ti'gaxa, "striking among the houses." This word 
appears as a name in the I"shta'9u"da gens. When a man was 
slain, his friends rallied around the body to protect it and to prevent 
honors being taken from it. Often the severest fighting took place 
over the body of a fallen companion. When possible the wounded 
were carried away, but those overpowered were general^ killed. 
The dead were buried on the field of battle. Captives were not taken 
as there was no ceremony of adoption in the Omaha tribe. 



"IFf'io" wflfl," is an old and untranslatable term u.sed to designate 
a class of songs composed by women and sung exclusively by them; 
these songs were regarded as a medium by wliich strength could be 
transmitted to an absent warrior and thus assist him in becoming 
victorious over his enemies. When a war party was away it was 
the custom for women, particularly of the poorer class, to go to the 
tent of one of the absent warriors (sometimes that of the leader or 
(me of the prominent men in the party), and, standing in front of 
the tent, there sing one or more of the we'to" waa". It was believed 
that by some telepathic process courage and increased strength thus 
were imparted to the man who was battling. In return for the 
supposed benefits to the absent man, the wife of the warrior dis- 
tributed gifts among the singers. 


The following; is a son" of this class: 

LKTH. ANN. 27 

(Sung in octaves) Harmonized by John C. Fillmore for interpretation on the piano 


„ 11 r lowmgi 

r f rj N J n. | J J n\ 

Ka-ge te - XI ha i tho°-zha Ka - ge te ■ xi ha i 




nu J n. 

* ¥ i -j_| 

m \ f I r f p i f f f 






^— ^ —gj- 


the - zha .He! Uh - a ge wa-ga" ya be - do", Nu te te 





| l ^ p . ' l i' 3E3 



^^ ^ 






. 1 J i3.. i ^i j]. i j].ji i ^j j 

XI ha 1 - tho°-zha Ka-ge tha tho°ga ta du" shu° tha thi° she 


^^i ^-^Iji^.l"^ ^ 



i-j— J4 

Kage texi hai tho"zha 

Kage texi liai tho^zha 

He! Ishage waga"9a bedo" 

Nu te texi hai tho°zha 

Kage tha (;o" ga tadu" shu"thathi''she 

Translation: Kage, little brotiiei-; Uxi, difficult; }iai, ai, tfiey say; 
tho"zha, notwithstanding; he!, exclamation, as at a difficulty; 
ishiuje, old men; waga^fa hedo", when they taught; nu, nian;<(', to 
be; he, vowel prolongation; thufd'^ga, you shall experience or realize; 
shoHhathiHhe, therefore you are going. "Little Brother, the old 


men have taught that it is difficult to be a man ; you are now going 
where you will realize this saying," implying that he will prove the 
truth of the teaching by his valor. 

The custom of singing the v:e'to^ waa^ and belief in its efficiency 
obtains also among the Ponca and Osage tribes. 

All the rites pertaining to defensive warfare were in charge of 
the We'zhi°shte gens, whose place was on the south side of the open- 
ing into the Tm'tliuga. A tent was set apart as a repository tor the 
ceremonial articles pertaining to war. This tent was pitched about 
40 feet in front of the line of tents belonging to the We'zhi°shte gens. 
The door of the tent was placed about the center of the invisible 
line that divided the two halves of the Tiu'thuga. This position of the 
Tent of War, shown in the diagram (fig. 20), was maintained only 
when the tribe camped in the ceremonial order of the Tiu'thuga on 
the annual tribal buffalo hunt. In the village the tent was pitched 
near the dwelling of the keeper. The office of keeper was heredi- 
tary in a certain family of the We'zhi°shte gens. His duties were 
to provide the tent for housing the sacred articles and to protect 
them from the weather and injurious influences. When the tribe 
moved out on the hunt, he had to furnish proper transportation for 
the tent and its belongings. In his own lodge he was required to 
keep his doorway in order, to clean out his fireplace, and to sweep 
both every morning. His children had to be prevented from digging 
holes about the fireplace. Should he neglect these duties, calamity 
would befall him or his kindred.. 

AU the sacred articles belonging to the Tent of War were kept in 
the rear of the tent, facing the door, with a skin covering to pi'otect 
them from the weather. No one but the keeper was allowed to 
touch them. If during the bustle of travel any person or animal 
should run against the tent or any of its belongings, it was neces- 
sary, as soon as the Tent of War was set up, for the offender to go 
or the animal to be taken to the keeper to receive the ceremonial 
ablution. For this purpose warm water was sprinkled by the keeper 
over the offender with a spray of artemesia. If this should be neg- 
lected, the person or animal "would become covered with sores." 


On the buffalo hunt when the tribe entered a region where signs 
of the trails of an unknown tribe were observed, this fact was at once 
reported to the leader of the hunt, who reported to the Seven Chiefs; 
these in turn notified the keeper of the Tent of War, who then sent 
for the leading men of the We'zlii°shte gens to assemble in council, 
at which the Seven Chiefs were present. The chiefs reported to the 
council that signs had been seen which indicatetl that the people 
were on dangerous ground. The council without delay selected cer- 

424 THE OMAHA TRIBE Iktii. ann. 27 

tain young men of tlie tribe, sons of leading waniois, to be called 
out to act as scouts. Tbe herald of the gens was summoned. He 
responded, arrayed in the ceremonial manner — the robe worn with 
the hair outsiiie and a downy eagle's feather fastened to his scalp 
lock. He took the pole on which the Pack Sacred to War, the 
wai^'waxuhe, was hung (a crotched stick slightly taller than a man), 
and, going some 15 feet in front of the door of the tent, thrust the 
pointed end into the ground so that the pole stood firm; on it he 
hung the Pack Sacred to War. Then he took his place beside the pole 
with the pack and, leaning on a staff, called the names of the young 
men who had been selected for scouts, adding: Mo''zJio^ i" thega 
(o^ga fa yathi^Jio! (ino'^zho'^, "land;" iHhega fo^gata, "to examine for 
me;" yatJti^ho, "come hither"), "Come hither, that you may examine 
thelandforme! ". This command and explanation of the duty required 
were given after each name called. At the first sound of the herald's 
voice silence fell on the camp. Children were hushed or taken 
within the tents and every ear was strained to catch the words of 
the herald. When he had finished, he returned with the Sacred Pack 
to the tent and placed it in the center. Meanwhile the men who had 
been summoned did not stop to paint or ornament themselves but 
hastened from their dwellings to the Tent Sacred to War. If anyone 
who was called was thought too young for the task, his father 
responded instead. On their arrival those summoned entered the 
tent and sat in a circle. 

The two pipes belonging to the Tent Sacred to War have bowls of 
red catlinite, with serrated ornamentations on the top; they are pro- 
vided with stems of wood, .3 feet 4 inches in length, flat and painted 
(fig. 97). On one stem are fastened two narrow strips of skin orna- 
mented with porcupine-quill work, from which depend a tuft of elk 
hair. The other stem is painted in red and black, the up])er side red 
down the center, and a border of ten scallops on each side, of black; 
the under side of the stem is divided into nine sections. A black 
section is at the mouthpiece: the next is red, the next black, and so 
on until the red bowl is reached; the last block on the stem, where it 
joins the bowl, is black. The significance of these blocks of red and 
black is similar to those on the He'dewachi pole (fig. 62), sym- 
bolizing night and day, death and life. 

The two Pipes Sacred to War were then filled from tobacco kept in 
an elk-skin bag, as the war ritual was recited. This ritual has been lost. 
The pipes were passed about the circle in the following oriler: One 
started at the left of the door and was passed by the left to the middle; 
the other started at the middle and was passed by the left to the door. 
The oldest men sat where they would be the first to receive the pipes. 
The smoking was in silence. Every man was obliged to smoke, as 
the act was equivalent to taking an oath to obey the custom and 


to do one's duty even at the risk of life. At the conclusion of the 
ceremony of smoking, one of the leading men of the We'zlii°shte 
gens addressed the circle. He dilated on the responsibilities that 
rested on the scouts and reminded them of the necessity for truth- 
fulness in making their reports, as their words would be heard by 
the unseen powers which never permitted a falsehood to go unpun- 
ished. He recounted the results that would follow any untruthful 
statement — the man would be struck by lightning, bitten by a snake, 
injured in the foot by some sharp object, or killed by the enemy. 
At the close of this charge the young men returned to their tents, 
where their friends had made haste to prepare food for them, packing 
pounded corn or meat in bladder bags. Extra pairs of moccasins 
were also provided. With these preparations the men were sent oflf 
in small groups to scour the country in every direction for a radius of 
10 or 15 miles. Meanwhile the camp, thus protected, might move on, 
but the young men of the tribe were directed by the herald to wear 
their blankets in a given manner so as not to be taken for spies. 

Generally speaking, an Indian was fond of going upon an eleva- 
tion for the pleasure of looking over the landsca{>e, but he did so 
only in localities free of enemies. Wlien desirous of searcliing a 
region to ascertain whether or not it was safe, he might ascend to a 
vantage point, but while there he did not stand erect, making him- 
self a conspicuous object to attract the attention of a hidilen foe, 
but concealed himself that he might be able to see without being 
seen. It was accounted an honor to be called as a scout, the 
assignment ranking as high as participation in a war jjarty. To 
have smoked the war pipe was an honor that could be "counted" 
when the reciting of brave deeds was permissible. 

On the return of the scouts, the eldest, the one to whom the pipe 
had been offered first, went at once to the Tent of War, where the 
leaders of the We'zhi^shte gens were gathered to hear the report. If 
an enemy had been discovered, a messenger was dispatched to sum- 
mon all the leading warriors to a council of war. The report of the 
scouts was made known to the council and the necessaiy action 
determined. If the scouts reported that the enemy was in large 
force but was lingering about as if waiting for an opportunity 
to attack the camp, then it was debated whether it would be best to 
retreat or to send out warriors to attack them and meanwhile have 
the camp put in a state of defense. If the enemy was in small num- 
bers, then the council might determine to send out a party to give 
them battle or drive them away. In either case the departing war- 
riors would be led by a prominent warrior or perhaps a chief. It was 
only in defensive warfare that a chief of the Council of Seven could 
go to war. Such warfare was called ni'ka thixe, "to chase people." 



I KTII. ANN. 27 

If at any time eiicinics were sudclcnlj' discoveroil hy a man 
who might be outside the eainp looking after horses or otherwise 
employed, he hastened at once to a vantage point and waved his 
robe above his head. This sign was called we' pa ("to make a 
noise orgive an alarm"). In such case the camp was prepared at once 
for defense. The women threw up breastworks with their planting 
hoes i')W'fa, the word for "breastworks," later was applied to fences 
of all kinds). In the attack, if the warriors were hard pressed and 
there was danger of defeat, the men fell back to the breastworks. If 
the camping place was near timber, in case of disaster the women 
and children hastened to hide among the trees and the warriors 
sometimes followed. Instances have been related by old women of 
how, when the camp had been surprised, they thrust their children 
into holes and threw themselves on top as if dead. In one case a 
woman was stabbed with a knife while feigning death, but she made 
no movement and so saved her children; this woman recovered from 
the wound and lived to tell the story. 


When the warriors went forth to battle in defense of their homes 
there were no public ceremonies or dances but here and there the 
voice of a woman would be heard singing a song to inspirit the men, 
and at its close she gave the cry of the bird-hawk to evoke the 
supernatural power of this bird, which was associated with the god 
of war. 

The following is an example of these rally songs which are com- 
posed by women and sung solely by them to encourage their defenders 
on their departure to battle. Only vocables are used in the first part 
of the song, and these are employed to eke out the musical phrase 
of the second part. 


ya 1 

ya he i 

he a lie I ya 

r. U -0- ■*- ■»- 

-6— •—•-•■ --^ '-^i^L 


«- -^ «- 

-m-^-^ ^*^ — \ — 

■^H P^-; ^ 

-4- 1_^. 

a he i ya he 

he a lie thu 


i va he 

ya he the a 

Nu- do" • 




*: t:^* ± 


ho°-ga wa - tlii tlii" I<e wa - the - sliiia-zhia a- he- the V - ki 

=^-^^* — »^=^-0 •-•-—•- 




te thi n()''-o° 

ta ye 

he e - he the I 

ya he e ya he 

(Cry of the bird hawk ) 


P^— t-t_iE 

— !■ — < ' i 

n- ^ 

va lie the 


he the he tho 

N'OTK.— The pitch is takeu frotn the grapiiophonu record made by tlie young woman. 
Her voice was a clear, strong, bell-Iilie soprano, and her intonation reiuariiably true. The 
bird hawii is the war bird. The cry at the close of the soug was a call to the bird tu help the 
warrior going forth. 

Niido°ho''ga wathi thi^ke wathishna zliia ahe the 
Ukite thino°o" da ye he ehe the (vocables) 

Translation: Nudo^ho"<ja, leader; watlii, timid; thiH-e, who is; 
wa^Ais^/w, prominent, well known; zhia, not; ahe, I sny; i^e, vocable; 
ukete, the tribe; thino^o", hear you; da, let them; ye he, vowel pro- 
longation; ehe, I sa_y; the, end of sentence. "The timid leader never 
wins fame, achieves a promment place. Let the tribes hear of you!" 

In Omaha warfare there was no arrangement of the soldiers in lines, 
companies, or battalions. There was a recognized leader but each 
warrior marched and fought independently and although obedient to 
the leader's general orders he did not wait for any official command 
to take part in the fight. When a group of warriors moved out to 
defend the camp they did not go silently to the field of brittle. Each 
man sang as he went. There was a class of songs which belonged 
exclusively to these occasions; these were called na'gthe waa" 
{na'gthe, "captive;" waa'"', "song"). But the import of the term 
"captive" lies in the war customs of the people. If a man was 
taken captive, his fate was torture and death; therefore the captive 
song was synonymous with the death song. These songs were fre- 
quently composed by those who sang them, though occasionally one 
was handed down from father to son. Captive songs always ex- 
pressed the warrior's feeHng when contemplating the dangers of war 
and the facing of death. Other songs were sometimes sung by the 
men going forth, as an heihu' shka, or some favorite mystery song. 

The na'gthe waa^ afford an opportunity to discern the ideals and 
beliefs which a man calls up before him when he seeks strength and 
courage to meet death. The three songs following are fair examples 
of the na'gthe waa^ class. 



[kTH. ANN. 27 

(Snng in octaves) Harmonized by John C. Fillmore for interpretation on the piano 

, 7 U « m M ' - 


1 r 1* 

4 III 

/[ \,\y 4 ^ r 

•' 1 1 p 

Kh.''2_4. -L„J L 

.4. r — t- * * * • 

Uiii - ha e - 


na" ku-the 

— 1-^ 


- thi° be-ga, Um-ha e- 

•-A- i i i i ! < — 

^ * # _i _i « 


— 1 1 

tJ— ~ 1 1 1 — 

^ ^v\nt^- L_ 

.4-t 1= 



4 r 1 L . . . " 

da° ua°-ku-lhe hu"-thi°-be- ga He! Nu-do° -ho°- ga a 



H 1 1- 

-* 1- 


^— i— :r 

-I r 




zha a- ma - ta 

zha • 






Um - l)a e - da" 



n - ku the hii" - thi° - be 






_l 1 , 1 

Umba eda" na"kuthe hu°thi''be ga 
L'mba eda" na^kuthe hu''thi''be ga 
He! Nudo" ho" ga a a zha a ma a te 
Aye zhametho 
Umba eda" na"kuthe hu°thi"be ga 

Translation: Hel, an exclamation; umha, day; eda", approaching; 
na^kiUhe, hasten; hu"thi''be, lead me; ga, sign of command; nudo"- 




Tio^ga, leader; a a zha a ma a te, vocables; aye, thus; zliamethn, they 
may have said. " Have they not cried ! Day approaches. He! Leader, 
lead me!" This song is the voice of the young and eager man who 
remembers the valiant warriors of the past as he sings. 

(Aria as sung) Harmonized by John C. Fillmore for interpretation on tlie piano 
Floinngly, with feeling '=90 

-Vyezhame the 
Ayezhame tho 
Ayezhame tho 
Hi! wii,o''thu'' nu kede 
Ayezhame tho 
Ayezhame tho 

Translation: Ayezhame (an elliptical phrase), they may have said, 
or, have they not said? The repetition of this phase is similar in 
effect to the chorus of our old ballads — it forms the setting of the 



fETH. ANN. 27 

picture set forth in tlie I'ourtli line. Hi!, a woman's exclamation 
of surprise and delight; wifoHhu^, a term of endearment used by 
an elder sister to a young brother; nu, man; hede, lying. These 
words recall the birth of the man, the cry of joy of the elder sister 
as she enters the little secluded tent and sees that a man lies there. 
Now, as he enters the field of action, he is to prove himself a man 
worthy of the joy awakened at his birth. The music bears out the 
poetic feeling of the words. The climax of both poem and music 
is in the last phrase: "Have they not said, a Man!" This little song 
opens a rift into the inner life of the people and the social responsi- 
bility laid on the men of the tribe. 

Harmonized by John C. Fillmore 

The aria is as sung by the men. The harmonization translates the son^, and is 
preferred by the Indians when it is played on the piano 

Solemnly i^^^ 

be - ta" thi" - se tho . 

E - be - ta° thi° - ge tho. 

— — •-; — •■— • 

-•-= — t — • — '— f-? — S — *^ 

-9- ' -0- ■*■ ' ' -»■ 



I I 




-a ^^zjr 



E- be - ta° thi°-ge tho He Ish- a-ga-a- ma wa-ga" 5a be-da° 


-4— .2^ 

-•r-i---^— '-.r-^ 



:? ♦• 5: 


* •- 



-*-- ♦--■i.- 

-*— *- 

E - be - ta" she-a he - be - ta° 



ba - zhe - te. 

-••-•• -*■-»■ -#•■♦■-•• -#•■•■•-•■ 


-I— L- 

r'l.F.TriiKR-LA ri.Ksrnn] 



Ibeta" thi'ige tho 

Ibeta" thi°ge tho 

Ibeta" thi°ge tho 

He! Ishaga ma waga"(;abeda'' 

Ibeta" she ahibite abazhete 

Nudo^hu^ga texie tho 

Nudo^hu'iga texie tho 

Translation : Ibeta^, to go around, as around an obstacle, or to circum- 
vent or avoid a threatened disaster; thi^ge, none; tho, vocable; ishaga, 
old man; ma, plural sign; waga"fabeda^, when they tell; she, yonder; 
aJiihite, reached that (place) first ; aftaz/iete, have not said ; nvdo^ho^ga, 
leader; texie, the difficult, the hard to accomplish. "No one has 
found a way to avoid death, to pass around it; those old men who 
have met it, who have reached the place where death stands waiting, 
have not pointed out a way to circumvent it. Death is difficult to 

The words and the music are in feeling closely woven together 
around the thought of inexplicable birth and death. The serious- 
ness and dignity of tliis song make it a notable composition. 

Defensive warfare was graded higher than aggressive warfare 
and the man whose honors were won when defentling the tribe was 
accorded a higher rank than the man whose honors were gained 
otherwise. No act entitling a man to a war honor, whether per- 
formed in defensive or aggressive warfare, could be claimed by him 
or its insignia worn until the honor had been publicly awarded in 
the ceremony called Wate'gi?tu. 


An authorized aggressive war party was required to take a direct 
course toward its destination and after a battle to return by the 
same path. On the return journey of such war party, if successful, 
when a short distance from the village a fire was kindled, the rising 
smoke from which gave the signal of the victorious return of the 
warriors. If any of the party had been killed, a member stepped 
to one side and threw himself on the ground. This action indicated 
to the village the loss of one man. If more than one had fallen, the 



[KTH. ANN. 27 

number lost was signified to the watdiers by repeating this action. 
After this dramatic report, the leath'r designated a man to go for- 
ward and, when near enough to tiie village to be heard, to call out 
the names of those who had been slain. As the relatives of the 
dead heard the name of husband, father, or brother, they broke 
into wailing. Wlien, later, the victorious party entered the village, 
the place resounded with shouts of welcome to the living and cries of 
sorrow for the dead. 

The return of a defensive war party was less formal. Some one 
went in advance and reported to the camp the news of deaths or 
other disaster; the reception of the news, the shouts of victory, and 
lamentations for the dead were as already described. The victory 
celebration was the same in both cases. 

If the returning party brought back the scalp of an enemy, the 
young men of the tribe at once made preparations for holding the 
wewa'chi, or victory dance. The scalp was tied to a pole and arovmd 
it both men and women danced and sang together the songs belonging 
to this ceremony of exultation. The dance was a lively and exuberant 
motion. No dramatic episodes of war were acted out. The music 
was vivacious, and the words were frequently boasting or taunting in 
character. Sometimes they mentioned deeds that were heroic but they 
always referred to the acts of war. The following is a characteristic 
song of this dance: 

Harmonized by Jolin C Fillmore for interpretation on tlie piano 
Double beat ( Aria as sung in unison octaves b_v men and women) 

-tfi r~^'^~ g=^ 

,, -0- ■»■■»■ ■»■ ■*— 4— 

Rhythm of the ihiim Con Ped. 

■^ * * *- 

-* » *- 

he va he 

ya he the 
y -ff — ^ — •— -• — *— — ^ — ^ »■ 

he ye tlia ha U-the - zha-zhe • 










ga° i° - te - de tha xa - ge he ya the he tho - e U ■ 





-• — •-= — • — #- 

thaile u-tliisho" we - zhno" tiu" wa" shu-she he ya tha ha 

U-the - zha-zhe - ga° i" - te - de tha-xa - ge 

he ya tha ha tho 



! * ^ 











He a tha ha he ya he he a tha ha thoe 
He a tha ha he ya he ya he the he ye tha ha 
Uthazhazhega" i"tede thaxage, he ya tha ha tho e 
Uthade uthisho" wizhncyti u°wa°shushe he ya tha ha 
Uthazhazhega" i^tede thaxage he ya tha ha tho 

Literal translation: Uthazhazhega'^ , you emulatetl; iHede, and now, 
inconsequence; tJiaxage, you -weep; w</w;(^g, people, or tribes; uthisho^, 
surrounding: wizhnoHi, I alone; u"wa^shushe, am brave. These words 
are interspersed with groups of vocables. 

Free translation 

You emulated me, and now you are crying, he ya tha ha tho e 
Among surrounding tribes I only am the brave, he ya tha ha. 
You tried to be like me — behold, you weep your dead, he ya tha ha tho. 
83993°— 27 eth— 11 28 

434 THE OMAHA TRIBE [eth. ann. 27 

Sometimes after an attack on the camp, an arm, leg, or liead was 
broiiglit from the neiglihoring battlefield and boys were made to 
strike or to step on the mutilated portion of the dead enemy, as 
though they were taking honors. This tliscipline was thought to 
stimuhite a desire to perform valorous acts by familiarizing the 
youths with scenes of war. 

The Wate'gi^tu 

The word wate'giptu (composed of wafe, ''things accomplished," 
referring to the acts accomplished by the warriors; gi, sign of pos- 
session; and ffu, "to collect, or gather together") signifies "the gath- 
ering together of acts accomplished."' All the acts of the warrior, 
having been duly authorized by the Wai"'waxube (the Packs Sacred 
to War), belonged to and were possessed by the packs and until 
these deeds were ceremonially awarded to the warriors through the 
rites presided over by the packs they did not belong to the man to 
count or to claim as his own. 

For his use in this ceremony each warrior prepared and painted red 
a stick about a span long, for each of the honors he was to claim. 
The four Packs Sacred to War were used in this ceremony placed side 
by side in the midtlle of the tent pre])ared for the occasion, semicircu- 
lar in form and open so that the ceremony could be viewed by the peo- 
ple. The Pack from the Tent of War and that which had been carried 
by Wa'bafka were placed sitle by side in tlic middle, while on the sides 
were placed the packs from the Tapa' and I"ke'9abe gentes. At 
the present time only two of the four packs are known to exist — the 
one now in tlie Peabody Museum of Harvard University and that 
which formerly belonged to Giu"'habi, of the Tha'tada gens, which 
Wa'ba^ka carried in his battle with tlie Pawnee, already recounted. 
On this latter pack a piece of otter skin was tied, the string fastening 
it being so arranged as to fork. Into this fork the warriors aimed to 
drop their sticks at a given signal. 

At tliis ceremony, which took ])lace shortly after tlie return of the 
victorious warriors, the keepers of the Packs Sacred to War were the 
only officials. Wiile chiefs could be present, they were there merely 
as onlookers and had no authority or i)art in the ceremony. The 
four keepers stood behind the packs, facing tlie east, while the war- 
riors who were to claim honors stood before the packs. The claimants 
to the fu-st-grade honors were in advance, those who claimed the 




second grade slightly behiml these, the third grade behind the second, 
and so on. The keepers of the two middle; packs then sang the follow- 
ing opening song: 



-* — *- 

3= ' r J r—^-T-i - 


ba K -da-do" a-tliina gi 

be - iha 

She-tlma-gi - ba E- da -do" a lhi"a gi - be - tha 

She-lhua-gi - ba 

: 1 1 ' -S-?^ 
— ^ — tt « • j — 


E - da - do" a-Lhi"a 

^- 1 >-L 
gi - be 


P • 

-Mf^---. —-^——- : 

-^— t w^- 


=3— d — h->^^^ 

She-thua gi - ba E- da -don a-thiua gi - be - 
i> 11 » • '0 • P m ^ 


Ck-ir 0,1 ^ i' ' 

■ 1 

-9-?f^-=.J — =-' — '- — 

__i — T— ? — •— ^^- 


She-thiia gi 


E-da-ilon a tlii"a gi 



Literal translation: Shethu, yonder; ngiha, coming back here; 
edado^, things (their acts, or trophies) ; athi"(igib<tha , they are bringing. 

The keepers admonished the men to speak the truth without fear 
or hesitation, for the omniscient birds present in the packs would 
hear and report their words to Thunder, the god of war. The pen- 
alties for exaggeration or false statement were then recounted. 



[ETH. ANN. 27 

Then the keepers sang the following song referring to Thunder, 
who is spoken of as Grandfather: 

(Upper line Aria) Harmonized for translation by John C. Fillmore 

/• j, = 100 Solemnly- — - 

-i<— <— F< — ^— I — » — # 





Thi - ti go° 

no" - pe 

wa - the 


Thi - ti - go° no"- 


-#-T "^^ '-gr-. ' 







Thi - ti - KO" 

ti° ke gthi - ho" ki no" - pe- 

, — •- 

f -r' r" -f f -f 

r "r- 




ga. Till - ti - go" no" - pe - wa - the ga 


-»— *- 

-- K- 

-r- T 


♦• t^' 


Thiti'go" no"pewathe! ga 

Thiti'go" no°pewathe! ga 

Thiti'go" no"pe\vath('! ga 

Thiti'go" weti" ke gthi'ho" ki n(i"pewathe! ga 

Thiti'go" no"pewathe! ga 

Literal translation: T^ifi'^o", your Grandfather; no"pewat7ie,iesivhTl 

to behold; weti"^, club; l-e, long; gtlii'ho", lifts his; li, when. 

Free translation 

Behold how fearful your Grandfather appears! 

Your Grandfather is fearful, terrible to see! 

Behold how fearful is he, your Grandfather! 

He lifts his long club, fearful is he, your Grandfather gives fear to see! 

Behold how fearful to see, fearful to see! 

At the ciose of this song the man claiming the first honor stepped 
forward and began the recital of his deed, telling how he struck the 
body of the eneni}'. He held the red witness stick over the pack 
and all the people listened attentively to his words. At a signal from 
the keeper he let the witness stick drop. If no one had disputed his 
story and the stick rested on the pack, the people sent up a great 
shout of approval, for the omniscient birds in the pack had accepted 
his words as true. But if he was disputed and the stick fell to the 
grounil, it was believed that the man had spoken fa