History of the Umoⁿhoⁿ

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Land Loss

In 1854, the Omaha “ceded to the United States their extensive hunting grounds” (Fletcher and La Flesche 33) and reluctantly moved north, closer to the feared Sioux, with promises of military protection that never came. Then in 1865, they were forced to sell “half of [their] reservation to the Winnebago” (Indian Relief Council 1).   Land predations did not end here. Boughter describes their predicament:

White settlers and speculators resented Indian ownership of fertile northeastern Nebraska lands               and, beginning in the early 1850s, used every means at their disposal to separate the Omahas               from their real estate. Unfortunately, Nebraska senators and congressmen worked closely with                land speculators to promote special legislation that –               little by little, law by unfair law– encouraged Indians        to lease and eventually sell most of their land. (3-4)

 

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Social Guinea Pigs

Frequent friendly contact with the white settlers, combined with the willingness of several Omaha chiefs to embrace white culture, resulted in the Omaha becoming “guinea pigs” for several disastrous Indian programs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Boughter 4).  These included land allotments, land leasing, and “competency commissions” (Boughter 4). Early ethnographer, Alice Fletcher, studied and lived with the Omaha for several years starting in 1881. In her report, she states, “their ancient tribal organization has ceased to exist, owing to changed environment and the extinction of the buffalo, and the immediate presence of the white man’s civilization” (Fletcher and La Flesche 33). Though sympathetic to the Indians, her enthusiastic support of land allotments, dividing reservation land up into individual parcels for each member, shows the limitation of her understanding of tribal ways. This disastrous allotment system was