Dance Lodges of the Omaha People


Dance Lodges of the Omaha People

Building from Memory

Mark Awakuni-Swetland
Introduction by Roger Welsch
With a new afterword by the author

214 pages
7 figures, 18 halftones, 4 tables


June 2008


$22.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

After the Omaha Nation was officially granted its reservation land in northeastern Nebraska in 1854, Omaha culture appeared to succumb to a Euro-American standard of living under the combined onslaught of federal Indian policies, governmental officials, and missionary zealots. At the same time, however, new circular wooden structures appeared on some Omaha homesteads. Blending into the architectural environment of the mainstream culture, these lodges provided the ritual space in which dances and ceremonies could be conducted at a time when such practices were coercively suppressed.
Drawing on the oral histories of forty Omaha elders collected in 1992, Dance Lodges of the Omaha People provides insights into how these lodges shaped Omaha cultural identity and illustrates the adaptive abilities of the modern Omaha tribe. The lodges replaced the diminished pre-reservation tribal institutions as maintainers of tribal cohesion and unity and at the same time provided an arena for selective acculturation of outside ideas and behaviors. A new afterword by the author highlights advances in research on these unique structures since 1992 and speculates on the connection between these lodges and the spread of the Omaha Hethushka dance across the Great Plains.

Author Bio

Mark Awakuni-Swetland (1956–2015) was an assistant professor of anthropology and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where he taught Omaha language classes and coordinated the development of Omaha language curriculum materials.
Roger Welsch is the author of over thirty books, including Touching the Fire: Buffalo Dancers, the Sky Bundle, and Other Tales, available in a Bison Books edition.


“This volume is a success as both history and ethnography and presents a useful case study of Native cultural resistance and adaptation to pervasive efforts at detribalization and assimilation. It also emphasizes the research value of tribal oral history and illustrates how such histories might be collected and preserved for future generations.”—John M. O’Shea, Journal of Anthropological Research

Table of Contents

Introduction by Roger Welsch
List of Tables and Figures
Pronunciation Guide
I On This Ground They Are Going To Do [or create] Something, Before 1890
II From the Beginning They Had Sacred Dancing, 1890-1930
III I Had Not Asked About It, 1930-1960
IV Now They Want to be Indians, Since 1960
Appendix A - Roster of Sacred and Social Group Members
Appendix B - Oral Interview Transcripts: Tom C. Walker, June 18, 1992
Appendix C - Oral Interview Transcripts: Ramona Turner Greany, June 24, 1992
Appendix D - Oral Interview Transcripts: Gertrude "Emily" Parker, July 02, 1992
Appendix E - Oral Interview Transcripts: Joe and Irene Gilpin, July 07, 1992
Appendix F - Oral Interview Transcripts: Jacob "Zac" Drum, July 15, 1992

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