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American Folklife Center Collections: Nebraska

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting expressive culture in the state of Nebraska at the Library of Congress.


John Gibbs, photographer. Hethu'shka dancer Charles Lonewolf at the Library of Congress Neptune Plaza Concert. August 22, 1985. 1985 Neptune Plaza Concert Series Collection (AFC 1985/015). Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

The American Folklife Center's collections include rich and unique collections from Nebraska. These are especially strong in documentation of American Indian peoples. Represented in these recordings are songs, music, and narrative collected from Omaha, Ponca, and Winnebago communities. From 1983 to 1986, American Folklife Center staff documented the annual powwows of the Omaha tribe. Collections also include documentation of Russian German American music in Nebraska.

Omaha Indian Music

This presentation provides selections from the American Folklife Center's collections documenting Omaha music traditions. The sound recordings include 44 wax cylinder recordings made in the 1890s (first published on a 1985 LP entitled Omaha Indian Music: Historical Recordings from the Fletcher/La Flesche Collection), 323 songs and spoken-word segments from the 1983 Omaha harvest celebration pow-wow, 24 spoken-word segments from an interview with an Omaha elder in 1983, 25 songs and speeches from a performance by members of the Hethu'shka Society (recorded at the Library of Congress in 1985), and 61 spoken word segments from an interview conducted with an Omaha musician in 1999. Included are 654 black-and-white and 436 color photographs that were made by Library of Congress employees during the 1983 pow-wow and 1985 concert. Additional documentation from the 1983 pow-wow includes 35 pages of fieldnotes, 30 pages of handwritten tape recording logs, an 8-page program, and two posters. A concert flier and a Hethu'shka Society membership document are from the 1985 performance at the Library of Congress. Also included is official correspondence pertaining to the publication of the LP, the pow-wow, and the 1985 concert.

In the 1980s, American Folklife Center folklife specialists made several visits to the annual Omaha pow-wow during which they returned copies of the wax cylinder recordings to members of the tribe in keeping with a goal of the Federal Cylinder Project. In 1985, the Omaha tribe gave permission to reproduce the wax cylinder recordings from the 1890s on the LP, Omaha Indian Music, and these recordings are also included here. Selections from the interview with John Turner provide advice and contextual information about the songs included on the LP. At the Library of Congress concert in 1985, copies of the LP were given to the participating members of the Hethu'shka Society. The songs sung during the concert continue to be sung at the annual Omaha pow-wow. Among the eight participants at the concert were Dennis Hastings, Morgan Lovejoy, and Rufus White, who served as informants for this project.

Additional Collections of Interest

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Public Programming

The River Boys Polka Band are Robert Schmer (accordion), Dave Beitz (hammered dulcimer), Jerry Hergenreder (trombone, vocals) and Steve Deines (bass, vocals). They perform music descended from the music of ethnic Germans who settled in the Russian Empire and then were forced out of Russia after the 1917 Revolution. Some settled in the United States, particularly in the Midwest. The River Boys have played traditional Dutch Hop dance music together for ten years. The term "Dutch Hop" can be used generically to describe all of the traditional dance music of the Germans from Russia in Nebraska, Eastern Colorado, and Wyoming. However, specifically, Dutch Hop is the name for their unique, quick-tempo polka dance that includes a slight hop that isn't present in the polkas of other ethnic traditions. That, and the inclusion of a hammered dulcimer, give the Dutch Hop its unique, lilting sound. In addition to the dulcimer, the other typical instruments in today's Dutch Hop bands are a piano accordion, a trombone, and an electric bass guitar.