Blessing for a Long Time
The Sacred Pole of the Omaha Tribe
“For centuries the life of the Omaha people has centered around their Umon’hon’ti (Venerable Man), a sacred pole. Then, feeling the pressure to assimilate and adopt Christianity, in 1888 the Omaha surrendered the pole to Harvard’s Peabody Museum, where it remained for the next century. . . . This account demonstrates the complexities involved in the return of a sacred object to an Indian community. An important addition to anthropology.”—Library Journal.
Robin Ridington and Dennis Hastings ingeniously adopt the conventions of Omaha oral narratives to tell the story and convey the significance of the Sacred Pole. Portions of classic anthropological texts (particularly Fletcher and La Flesche’s The Omaha Tribe), Omaha narratives, and other historical and contemporary accounts are repeated—each time in a different, more enlightening context—in a circle of stories seamlessly woven around Umon’hon’ti. The result is an innovative account that effortlessly glides between past and present. This unique blend of Omaha poetics, ethnography, and ethnohistory is a significant contribution to our understanding of the religious life of Native Americans.
Robin Ridington is a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Trail to Heaven: Knowledge and Narrative in a Northern Native Community and other works. Dennis Hastings is the director of the Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project.
259 pp ~ illustrated — ©1997