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Omaha Indian Sociology

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The real name of the Omahas is “Umanhan.” It is explained by a tradition obtained from a few members of the tribe. When the ancestors of the Omahas, Ponkas, Osages, and several other cognate tribes traveled down the Ohio to its mouth, they separated on reaching the Mississippi. Some went up the river, hence the name Umanhan, from kimanhan, “to go against the wind or stream.” The rest went down the river, hence the name Ugáqpa or Kwápa, from ugáqpa or ugáha, “to float down the stream.”

The tribes that went up the Mississippi were the Omahas, Ponkas, Osages, and Kansas. Some of the Omahas remember a tradition that their ancestors once dwelt at the place where Saint Louis now stands; and the Osages and Kansas say that they were all one people, inhabiting an extensive peninsula, on the Missouri River.

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