Profile By: Robyn Tait


Part Three Cultural Renewal

These articles present a confident, self-directed young woman pushing against the university administration and dominant white culture to create a place for Indians in the academic world of UNO. She had her own strength and determination to draw on, and the climate was right. The late ‘60s and early ‘70s were a time of cultural renewal for the Indians fueled by the civil rights action of the ‘60s, improved government programs, and a climate of cultural renewal and hope. The American Indian Movement (AIM) grew out of this time, and the first intertribal actions to support Indian heritage and claim their rights occurred, such as the occupation of Alcatraz Island and the march on the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington DC. See contextual essay “Omaha Indians at UNO” to learn about UNO’s “Indian” mascot, “Ouampi,” removed in 1971 at the request of students and the Omaha tribe, and the Native resurgence that fueled its removal, Omaha Indians at UNO: White Novelty to Native Resurgence, 1934 to 1975.

What was the source of Elsie’s determination, and how was she able to sustain it? How did she deal with structural and overt racism in this predominantly white culture? These articles offer us a glimpse into the woman she was becoming in the early ‘70s, a snapshot of her life at that time.


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Part Four The Story of Elsie Harlan: Background

Elsie grew up on the Omaha Reservation on her dad’s allotment of 138 acres, eight miles southeast of Walt Hill. The challenges she overcame in her childhood prepared her to face the challenges of her life— the challenge of being a Native American Omaha woman in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

When I was a little girl, I lived nine tenths of a mile from the main road, and a bus wouldn’t go that far; so rain, sleet, or snow we walked to that bus . . .  We lived out there when we had to pump water, carry water, haul wood, and burn corncobs for heat . . . We had an outhouse . . . and we had to heat our water to take a bath.

People tell me, “I don’t know how you can be so determined when things get