History of the Umoⁿhoⁿ

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A Note on Sources

To give a glimpse into the history of the UMOnHOn (Omaha) people, I will rely heavily on historian Judith Boughter’s Betraying the Omaha Nation, 1790–1916. This is the first and, I believe, only comprehensive history of the Omaha to date, written and researched primarily as Boughter’s master’s thesis for the History Department at University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) under Dr. Michael Tate (Boughter xi). It is also the only book on the Omaha that Elsie Harlan endorsed. In addtion, I will draw from an interview with Robin Riddington (Omaha member), Dennis Hastings’ Blessing for a Long time: The Sacred Pole of the Omaha Tribe (on the history of their culture and recent events of cultural renewal), an interview with Alice Fletcher (nineteenth century ethnographer), and Omaha member Francis La Flesche’s unprecedented, comprehensive study, The Omaha Nation.

 

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Chief Blackbird, Waschinga Sahb

As this tribe was described as “friendly” and was situated on the banks of the Missouri, they came into a lot of contact with whites even in the very early days of trade on the river. According to Boughter, they had a good relationship with the French fur traders (4). In a 1794 account by French trader Jean Baptiste Truteau, the Omaha “were in a position to control all trade that passed by their village” (Riddington and Hastings 59). They were led by a great chief, Blackbird, described by Truteau as “a man who by his wit and his cunning has raised himself to the highest place of authority in his nation and who has no parallel among all the savage nations of this continent” (qtd. in Riddington and Hastings 59).  This strength put them in a position to “define