The Omaha Tribe is considered by some anthropologists to be the most important and comprehensive study ever written about a Native American tribe. First published in 1911 as a report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, this classic treatise is based on twenty-nine years of study and observation in the field. "Nothing has been borrowed from other observers," Alice C. Fletcher asserts. "Only original material gathered directly from the native people has been used, and the writer has striven to make so far as possible the Omaha his own interpreter."
Volume I is devoted to tribal origins and early history, beliefs about the environment, rites pertaining to the individual, tribal organization and government, the sacred pole, and the quest for food. Volume II, also available as a Bison Book, considers language, social life, music, religion, warfare, treatment of disease, and death and burial customs.
Alice C. Fletcher was the foremost woman anthropologist in the United Stares in the nineteenth century. Francis La Flesche, a member of the Omaha tribe, worked closely with Alice Fletcher for many years and in addition produced ethnological studies of his own. His autobiographical account The Middle Five: Indian Schoolboys of the Omaha Tribe is also available as a Bison Book.
In his introduction to this Bison Book edition, Robin Ridington focuses on the place of Fletcher and La Flesche's work in the history of anthropology and the history of anthropologists' relationships with the Omahas. Ridington is a professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia and the author of Little Bit Know Something: Stories in a Language of Anthropology (1990).