Omaha Indians. Meaning “those going against the wind or current”; sometimes shortened to Maha. Also called:
- Ho’-măn’-hăn, Winnebago name.
- Hu-úmiûi, Cheyenne Dame.
- Onǐ’hä°, Cheyenne name, meaning “drum beaters” (?).
- Pŭk-tǐs, Pawnee name.
- U’-aha, Pawnee name.
Connections. The Omaha belonged to that section of the Siouan linguistic stock which included also the Ponca, Kansa, Osage, and Quapaw, and which was called by J. O. Dorsey (1897) Dhegiha.
Location. Their principal home in historic times was in northeastern Nebraska, on the Missouri River. (See also Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and South Dakota.)
History. According to strong and circumstantial traditions, the Omaha and others belonging to the same group formerly lived on the Ohio and Wabash Rivers. It is usually said that the Quapaw separated from the general body first, going down the Mississippi, but it is more likely that they were left behind by the others and later moved out upon the great river. The Osage remained on Osage River, and the Kansa continued on up the Missouri, but the Omaha, still including the Ponca, passed north inland as far as the Pipestone Quarry in Minnesota, and were afterward forced west by the Dakota, into what is now the State of South Dakota. There the Ponca separated from them and the Omaha settled on Bow Creek, in the present Nebraska. They continued from that time forward in the same general region, the west side of the Missouri River between the Platte and the Niobrara, but in 1855 made their last movement of consequence to the present Dakota County. In 1854 they sold all of their lands except a portion kept for a reserve, and they gave up the northern part of this in 1865 to the Winnebago. (See Winnebago Indians.) In 1882, through the efforts of Miss Alice C. Fletcher, they were granted lands in severalty with prospects of citizenship, and Miss Fletcher was given charge of the ensuing allotment. Citizenship has now been granted them.
Population. Mooney (1928) estimates that there were about 2,800 Omaha in 1780. In 1802 they were reduced by smallpox to about 300. In 1804 the estimated number was 600; in 1829, 1,900; in 1843, 1,600. Schoolcraft (1851-57) gives 1,349 in 1851; Burrows, 1,200 in 1857; and the same number appears in the census returns for 1880. In 1906 the United States Indian Office returned 1,228, and the census of 1910 gave 1,105. The Report of the United States Indian Office for 1923 showed an increase to 1,440. The census of 1930 gave 1,103, principally in Nebraska. The United States Indian Office reported 1,684 in 1932.
Connection in which they have become noted. The Omaha will be remembered particularly from the fact that its name has been adopted by the City of Omaha, Nebr. It has also been given to small places in Boone County, Ark.; Stewart County, Ga.; Gallatin County, Ill.; Morris County, Tex.; Knott County, Ky.; and Dickenson County, Va. It will be remembered furthermore as the scene of the humanitarian labors of Miss Alice C. Fletcher and the ethnological studies of Miss Fletcher and Dr. Francis La Flesche.
See Further: Omaha Tribe