Past events
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The name Umoⁿhoⁿ (Omaha) means “against the current” and stands for overcoming obstacles and doing things differently. At the same time, it describes an important historical moment preceding the colonization of the American Midwest, when the Umoⁿhoⁿ split from the Osage, Quapaw, Kansa, and Ponca and moved upriver.

Between 1894 and 1898, Francis La Flesche compiled a collection of around 60 objects from his “own” culture, that of the Umoⁿhoⁿ, on behalf of the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin. Their provenance is well-documented. La Flesche purchased the items over the course of four years on the reservation. If things weren’t available, he had new ones made. The collection was assembled at a time when the political, economic, and cultural independence of Indigenous nations in the United States was being drastically curtailed. Their lives were marked by land loss, racism, and violence. La Flesche hoped to preserve at least part of the Umoⁿhoⁿ culture by collecting objects. He straddled two worlds: as an umoⁿhoⁿ (Omaha) he fought for the rights of his community, and as an ethnologist he studied his own culture. He lived at a time when life for the Umoⁿhoⁿ was changing radically.

Today the collection is a link between past and present. It is the historical starting point for a new chapter in the relationship between the Umoⁿhoⁿ and the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin. Organised in cooperation with teachers and students of the Nebraska Indian Community College, descendants of Francis La Flesche, and representatives of the Umoⁿhoⁿ and the Ethnological Museum, the exhibition of the Humboldt Forum Foundation addresses current political and social issues.

Their core message is: „We are still here!“ But what does it mean to be Umoⁿhoⁿ today? With this question in mind a team from the Nebraska Indian Community College put together a contemporary collection. She will be on view from mid-November 2023 on. Side-by-side with the historical La Flesche collection the cultural belongings demonstrate the resilience of the Umoⁿhoⁿ people.

Against the Current
Portrait of Francis La Flesche n.d.
© National Anthropological Archives, Smithonian Institution, NAA INV 00688600


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