On both sides of the Missouri River from the mouth of the Platte as far north as Little Bow River, in Cedar County, lived the Omaha tribe. They claimed Nebraska westward as far as the Elkhorn River and Shell Creek. Their great chief Blackbird was the first Indian of this region whose name is known to white men. The Omaha Tribe had about 3000 people.
The Omaha Indians were hunters and planters. During the planting season the men would clear the fields in preparation for planting, whereupon the women would actually do the planting. Hunting was the primary responsibility of the men, with buffalo, deer, bear and small mammals being the targets. Birds and fish were also a part of the Omaha diet. The women would also gather roots and plants like ground nuts, artichokes and mushrooms.
The Omaha Indians used roots and plants, game, birds and fish for food. Some of the roots and plants they used were ground nuts, artichokes, milkweed and mushrooms. They also ate antelope, badgers, bears, buffalo, chipmunk, rabbit, and squirrel. The birds they ate were boiled and roasted. Some birds used were the blackbird, crane, dove, duck, goose, turkey, swan and robin. They fished from streams and lakes. They ate trout, garfish, and pickerel.
They also ate beans, squash, corn and melons.
The Omaha tribe lived in tipis and earth lodges. They lived in tipi's during the fall and winter months when they were hunting buffalo. The tipi was made from 9 to10 buffalo skins and the frame was made from cedar poles that were 14 to 16 feet in length. There was only one black pole and the rest were white. The frame of a tipi could hold up against a fairly heavy wind. The entrance to the tipi faced to the west when the tribe was traveling. It was the women's job to set up the tipis.
The Omaha learned how to make earth lodges from the Pawnee. They lived in the earth lodges during the summer and spring. They stripped the bark of trees and used them as poles. The earth lodge was almost 8 feet high with a dome shaped roof. It was about 20 to 60 inches in diameter. There was an opening at the top of the earth lodge for smoke to go out and for sunlight to come in. They had a fireplace. The men and women built the earth lodge together.
The Omaha Indians wore leggings. The shirt was decorated with embroidery, fringe or paint. The moccasins were made without soles. They were made the same except the women's moccasins were not as decorated as the men's. The tunic was the woman's shirt. The shirt was held in place by the belt. The robe was also an important part of the Omaha Indian's clothing.
The Omaha men wore their hair long and also wore earrings. The women sometimes painted the part of their hair red.
The Omaha Indian used signs from nature to explain the things happening around them. When there were fireflies around them that meant it would rain during the night. When the birds sang in the morning it would be clear. Mist in the morning meant a hot day. When the horses played after long rains it probably meant the rain was over.
In the village, everyone had certain jobs. The men did the heavy work. They cleared the garden for planting and were responsible for the hunting. They also protected and defended the village. The women made the clothing and set up the tipis. They planted the gardens and made the food, tools and clothing. The children learned how to do grown up things. Girls took care of the babies and learned how to sew and cook. The boys cared for the horses and learned how to hunt, garden and become warriors. The children also loved to play games like keeping house or going on the hunt. Some of their toys were made of clay. The dolls were made with wood or corn cobs. The made drums, whistles and rattles. Other popular games were Follow the Leader and Cat's Cradle. During the winter, they made sleds from bones.
At first the Omaha Indians walked by foot. They used dogs to carry things around early on, then they used horses as a means to get around and carry things. They would use a
"Travois" which is two poles attached to the back of a dog or horse so they could carry things from one place to another.
The word Omaha means ‘those who go upstream’ or ‘against the current.’
Omaha women were skilled craftspeople. They made pots, wove baskets and made tools from bone and wood.