The Omaha Indians - True Nebraskans
The Omaha tribe
began as a larger woodland tribe comprised of both the Omaha and Quapaw. The original tribe inhabited the area near the Ohio and
Wabash rivers, near present-day Cincinnati, Ohio.
As the tribe migrated west it split into what
became the Omaha
tribe and the Quapaw tribes. The Quapaw settled in what is now
and the Omaha
tribe, known as "those going against the wind or current" settled near the
river in what is now northwestern Iowa. Conflict with the
Sioux and the
splitting off of part of the tribe into the Ponca, forced the
Omaha tribe to
retreat to an area around Bow Creek,
Their territory extended from near
south to Rulo, Nebraska, and up to 150 miles
west, an area of 35,600,000 acres. They had villages at Homer and
Bellevue, Nebraska and probably several
other locations up and down the river.
Omaha Scouts in 1865
Every eight to fifteen years
they moved their village of 50-100 lodges to clean ground and new
hunting areas. In the beginning, it was their custom to build
bark lodges; however, this was replaced with idea of teepees borrowed
from the Sioux and earthen lodges borrowed from their allies, the
The tribe usually wore breech-cloths,
buckskin dress, and moccasins. The men wore their hair in a
scalp-lock, usually having the rest of the hair braided and hanging
down on each side of their head. Polygamy was practiced, but the
maximum number of wives that any one man could have was three. They are also the originators of the picturesque Omaha
dance which soon became common to most of the plains tribes.
were thriving as hunters and farmers when they first encountered white
fur traders around 1750 in the Bellevue area.
Buffalo served as their primary provision, providing food,
clothing, blankets, rope, moccasins, fuel, shelter, and utensils. To supplement their diet, the Omaha also
planted gardens containing, corn, beans, squash and melons.
In 1780, the
tribe had almost 3,000 members but by 1802 they had declined to a mere
300 due to sickness and warfare. The
settled in what is now Dakota County, Nebraska when
Lewis and Clark came
upon them in 1804.
lived under the protection of the powerful Pawnee,
who claimed the whole Platte region. Since they occupied a subordinate
position, the Omaha have never been as prominent in tribal history.
disappeared from the plains the Omaha had to
increasingly rely upon the U.S. government and its new culture. They
joined with other tribes in treaties with the U.S. Government in 1830 and
1836. The treaty of March 16, 1854 ceded all their lands west of the
River and south of a line running due west from the point where Iowa river
leaves the bluffs, retaining their lands north of this line for a
reservation. More than ten years later, in another treaty on March 6,
1865, they sold part of their reservation to the United States for the use
of the Winnebago Indians.
Chief Big Elk was the last full-blooded Omaha Chief,
painting by George Catlin
The last full-blooded
was Big Elk who died in 1846 and is buried in Bellevue Cemetery in
Today, the tribe has about 5,000 members
with approximately 3,000 residing on the
Reservation at Macy, Nebraska.
of America, updated August, 2013.
For more information see the
Omaha Tribe Official Website.
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