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It was more than fifty years ago that Alice Cunningham Fletcher first recorded the songs of the Omaha.1 In 1941 I visited the Omaha on their reservation in Nebraska in connection with my study of Indian music for the Bureau of American Ethnology. I talked with three of Miss Fletcher's singers and obtained re-recordings of three of the songs which they had recorded for her.

Three groups of singers contributed to my work among the Omaha and seventy songs were recorded, with descriptions of their use. In the first group were those who had recorded for Miss Fletcher; in the second group were elderly men, who recognized many of Miss Fletcher's songs and recorded thirty-three interesting old songs with extended information concerning their use (they did not feel at liberty to record songs of societies to which they did not belong); the third group comprised younger men, who recorded songs connected with the first World War, in which they had served.

The three singers who had recorded songs for Miss Fletcher, and the only survivors of her work so far as could be ascertained, were Edward Cline, Benjamin Parker and Mattie Merrick White Parker. All were in excellent health and still active in various pursuits. The work with Cline was curtailed because the corn on his farm was ready to cut but he gave as much time as possible. He said that he "recorded for Miss Fletcher and Mr. La Flesche when they were together" and placed the time at the late eighties or early nineties. He re-recorded a "captive song" that he "sang for Miss Fletcher"2 and a song of the Tattooing ceremony.3 The words of the former are identical with those previously recorded but in the second-named song he used a different set of words from preference, explaining that he was, of course, familiar with the words in the published version. An adequate comparison of the renditions of these songs could be made only if the early phonograph records were compared with the dictaphone records made in 1941, but certain characteristics are readily noted. The captive song was sung much faster in the later rendition, with short phrases and frequent rests. This differs from the published version which resembles a solemn march, "words and music being closely woven about the thought of death." The opening phrase has the same intervals but the

1 Alice C. Fletcher and Francis La Flesche, A Study of Omaha Indian Music, with a Report on the Structural Peculiarities of the Music by John Comfort Fillmore (Archaeological and Ethnological Papers of the Peabody Museum, Vol. 1, No. 5. Harvard University, 1893).
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2Fletcher,ibid., p. 46 and No. 63.
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3Alice C. Fletcher and Francis La Flesche,The Omaha Tribe (27th Annual Report Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington, 1911), p. 504.
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principal tones are accented differently. The trend of the closing measures is the same and it is evidently a variant of the same melody. The second song shows a greater difference from the published version, though there is a resemblance in the opening measures and the general trend of the melody is the same. These songs have not been sung for many years and it was said that very few men remain who know them. This suggests that the early form of ceremonial songs is being modified and that the songs will soon disappear.

Cline's description of the Tattooing ceremony was extended and interesting. He recorded three other songs of this ceremony and an old song of the Haethuska society that he learned from his father. He also recognized a scalp dance song presented by Miss Fletcher and explained the translation which refers to "Little Sioux."4 According to Cline this is one of many songs addressed to "Little Sioux," and referring to all the young men of the Sioux tribe. He said this song was about Flying Crow and "that is how the Little Sioux songs started." He said further that these were songs of "woman's war dancing" and not connected with the Haethuska, which was an old society of warriors.

The subject of the Wawan ceremony, which comprised an important part of Miss Fletcher's work, was not broached in 1941.

Benjamin Parker is not a member of what might be termed the ceremonial group of Omaha. He is a leader of the hand game and the writer attended a game held under his general direction. More than fifty Omaha were present and a majority took part in the game. At a subsequent time Parker recorded ten songs of this game, one being a song that he recorded for Miss Fletcher.5 He said the song is in common use at the present time and that "everybody knows it." The two versions differ only in a few bytones that are included in the early transcription. These are of no melodic importance and might occur in the singing of any song. The same words are now in use but Miss Fletcher presented the translation as "Little stone, what are you making?" while Parker translated the words as "Little stone, what do you want?" Parker described the origin of the game, saying it began as a contest of magic power but that the modern form is simply a game of skill. He recorded the only "obligatory song," with the words "Wakonda, our father, gave this to us." This was sung at the game attended by the writer and was followed by "songs of play." Other game songs recorded by Parker were very old. He related a legend of a "miracle boy," and recorded the song that is sung with the legend, he also told a story for children, containing two songs, the second having the words "I am muskrat, crying, somebody has taken my tail away." His recordings were twenty-two in number, this being the largest number recorded by an Omaha and including songs of the Tokalo and Haethuska, old societies described by Miss Fletcher. He recognized a scalp dance song presented by Miss Fletcher6 and recorded a different song of the same class. From this observation it appears that songs in use by many people are being accurately preserved, and that the old men have a clear memory of the history and early connection of the old songs.

An interesting group of songs recorded by Parker comprised five songs connected with the first World War. One was an old Haethuska song with modern words, and two were melodies composed after the return of the Omaha soldiers. It is interesting

4Ibid., p. 48 and No. 69.
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5Fletcher, ibid., 34 and No. 26, also The Omaha Tribe, p. 369.
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6Fletcher, ibid., No. 70.
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to note they did not "sing for the safety of the soldiers," as the Pawnee did during that war, also that Parker did not recall the use of magic in connection with the implements of the hand game, a custom related among the Choctaw.

Mattie Merrick White Parker recognized a song that she recorded for Miss Fletcher, and her description of the song indicates it is the same.7 She said that she recorded for Miss Fletcher and Mr. La Flesche, that the recording was done at the home of Rosalie Farley, a sister of Mr. La Flesche living in Bancroft, and that "it must have been in 1890." She has not sung the song since that day, as she felt that she had given the song to them. The song belonged to her husband as a member of a certain sacred society, and he gave her the right to sing it because she shared with him a certain experience in a terrific storm, on the open prairie. She related the experience and described her husband's action, after which "the clouds broke as if cut with a knife and passed around us." Renewing these memories made her so sad that the questioning was not continued.

Four valuable old songs were recorded by Mattie Parker. One was a song that was sung when she underwent tattooing, in the ceremony described by Cline; another was a song given to her husband by a grizzly bear, this bear being the smallest of six that appeared to him in a dream; and another was a song that she composed about her dead brothers, who appeared to her in a dream. She said that she might sing this at a gathering and give a present, or someone else might sing it and she would give a present to the singers or to anyone she desired. In her eighty-ninth year, Mrs. Parker still "walks where she wants to go."

The custom of composing songs in honor of individuals is still observed by the Omaha. When John G. Miller returned from the first World War, his father composed both the words and melody of a song concerning one of his experiences. His father also gave him a name meaning Loud Thunder which occurs in the song. Miller does not sing this song himself and requested that it be recorded by his friend Robert Dale. When it is sung at a gathering, Miller rises, dances and gives presents.

Among the Omaha, as in other tribes, the opportunity for securing records and descriptions of old songs is rapidly disappearing but traditions still remain, with customs pertaining to tribal music.



7Fletcher, ibid., p.49 and No. 75. The words of the song refer to the gods "who are speaking of Thunder."
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