The Omaha Language and the Omaha Way


The Omaha Language and the Omaha Way

An Introduction to Omaha Language and Culture

Omaha Language and Culture Center, Omaha Nation Public School, Macy, Nebraska, and the Omaha Language Instruction Team, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

736 pages
191 illustrations; 193 tables; 1 map, 3 photographs, 19 figures


August 2018


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eBook (EPUB)
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January 2022


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August 2018


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eBook (PDF)
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October 2018


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About the Book

Published through the Recovering Languages and Literacies of the Americas initiative, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Omaha Language and the Omaha Way provides a comprehensive textbook for students, scholars, and laypersons to learn to speak and understand the language of the Omaha Nation. Mark Awakuni-Swetland, Vida Woodhull Stabler, Aubrey Streit Krug, Loren Frerichs, and Rory Larson have collaborated with elder speakers, including Alberta Grant Canby, Emmaline Walker Sanchez, Marcella Woodhull Cavou, and Donna Morris Parker, to write this book.

The original and creative pedagogical method used in this textbook—teaching the Omaha language through Omaha culture—consists of a structured series of lesson plans. It is the result of a generous collaboration between the Department of Anthropology at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the Umóⁿhoⁿ Language and Culture Center at Umóⁿhoⁿ Nation Public School in Macy, Nebraska. The method draws on the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of Awakuni-Swetland to illustrate the Omaha values of balance and integration. The contents are shaped into two parts, each of which complements the other—just as the Earth and Sky do.  

This textbook features an introduction by Awakuni-Swetland on the history and phonology of the Omaha language; lessons from the Umóⁿhoⁿ Language and Culture Center at Macy, with a writing system quick sheet; situation quick sheets; lessons on games; lessons on spring, summer, fall, and winter; an Omaha language resource list; and a glossary in the standard Macy orthography of the Omaha language. The textbook also includes cultural lessons in the language by Awakuni-Swetland and lessons from the Omaha language class at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

The Omaha Language and the Omaha Way offers a linguistic foundation for tribal members, students, scholars, and laypersons, featuring Omaha community lessons, the standard Macy orthography, and UNL orthography all under one cover.

Author Bio

Mark Awakuni-Swetland (1956–2015) was an associate professor of anthropology and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, principal co-investigator for the Omaha and Ponca Digital Dictionary, and a coordinator for the Omaha Language Curriculum Development Project. He is the author of Dance Lodges of the Omaha People: Building from Memory (Nebraska, 2008) and the editor of the Omaha and Ponca Digital Dictionary.


"Taken as a whole, the volume represents an active guide to the intertwined language and culture of the Omaha people. It is an essential tool for anyone who wishes to begin the path to a fluency in the Omaha language as well as for others whose goals may be less ambitious, but who wish to know and appreciate the people of this important Native American nation."—Michael J. Smith, Nebraska History

“This book, whose subject matter is critically important for any member of the Omaha Nation, can help a reader move from being someone who is simply looking to say a few words in Omaha to someone who can read, write, and speak Omaha at a conversational level. I consider it a major contribution to its field.”—Ryan Kasak, doctoral candidate in linguistics at Yale University

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