Aho! Dear reader: The following Umóⁿhoⁿ (Omaha) recipes are one of the "first fruits" of the Omaha language class at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). We are housed in the Department of Anthropology and jointly supported by the Native American Studies Program and the Institute for Ethnic Studies. Our Native language program currently offers a four semester series of Omaha language. Spring 2002 marks the completion of the first cycle of students (2000—2002).
The creation of this booklet is part of a larger, on-going Omaha Language Curriculum Development Project. This project seeks to address the need for quality, versatile teaching materials in the Omaha language. It is a concern for the UNL program as well as for many of the educators in the Umóⁿhoⁿ community. Because teaching styles and teaching goals may vary, this booklet is being produced in two formats. The original format does not contain any English on the illustrated pages. The Umóⁿhoⁿ language has been given the spotlight, with English translations only appearing at the end of each recipe. With this approach, students are encouraged to use the glossary at the end of the booklet, the Omaha dictionary (Umoⁿhoⁿ Iye of Elizabeth Stabler, 1977 or 1991), and any available Native Speaker to work out a word-for-word translation into English. Pencil the English equivalent below the Umóⁿhoⁿ word, then rearrange the English words into an appropriate English sentence. This exercise allows a person to learn Umóⁿhoⁿ from the Umóⁿhoⁿ perspective by providing insights into Umóⁿhoⁿ vocabulary, word order, and verb conjugation. The sentences have been intentionally chosen for their repetition and systematic construction. Do not be surprised if a Native Speaker offers an alternative way to say the same thing. That is one of the dynamics of a productive language.
This is an alternate edition of the original booklet. The printed version has a gold color cover and is marked "With English Subtitles." The English sentences are provided with their Omaha counterpart on each page. This approach is meant to assist persons wishing to learn Omaha by beginning from an English perspective, or who wish to use this booklet in their English literacy studies.
So, why the topic of food? It is better to write about something you know, and let's face it, we all like to eat! Food processing and food sharing remain as vital parts of the contemporary Omaha value system. How many times at the annual August Umóⁿhoⁿ Tribal Powwow at Macy have we all witnessed relatives, visitors, and complete strangers being invited to join Umóⁿhoⁿ families at their campsite to share a meal and fellowship? Food will be prepared and placed in front of the community in order to validate or commemorate a wide range of life's stages: birth, baby's first steps, hair cutting, school or athletic achievement, appreciation, military service, marriage, death, and memorial. Bringing food to a person's home and sharing a meal is the time-honored way to seek advice or counsel from a wiser, more experienced head. Whenever a visitor comes to the house, the Umóⁿhoⁿ custom is to share food even if all that is available is bread and water. With such an emphasis on food sharing and communal feasting, it is understandable that refusing an offer of food, or refusing to share food, is considered grievous insults.
All of the UNL students (male and female) learned how to make the food items described here. Each semester the students gathered at the instructor's home to practice their cooking and observation skills. Most contemporary feast food is cooked outdoors on a ground-level grill over an open wood fire. The students used the same method. The needed ingredients for the day's menu were gathered beforehand, with students encouraged to bring side dishes or soft drinks. The Native Speakers (Emmaline Walker Sanchez and Alberta Grant Canby), and the Instructor (Mark Awakuni-Swetland) assisted the students by demonstrating how to prepare the day's menu. Then the students had to jump right into the flour or the hamburger or the cabbage and repeat the process. Students also kept detailed notes of their observations, especially noticing the Umóⁿhoⁿ practice of measuring ingredients by hand, eye, and touch, rather than by mechanical teaspoons and cups. After all of the students had their opportunity to try their hand at cooking, the entire class would sit down to a communal feast. The first meal consisted of student-made cowboy bread and hamburger gravy, complimented by boiled red potatoes in their jackets, boiled coffee, cake, cookies, and juices.
In the classroom the students worked out the full order of the recipe instructions, first in English. Again, paying special attention to the Umóⁿhoⁿ tactile approach to cooking. Next, they began to puzzle out the translations of words into Umóⁿhoⁿ using the Umóⁿhoⁿ Iye of Elizabeth Stabler dictionary and other available texts. After roughing out a translation, the entire class worked with the Native Speakers for clarification, pronunciation, and more cultural details.
Finally, the class took a field trip to the Omaha Reservation at Macy, Nebraska to consult with the Native Speakers at Umóⁿhoⁿ Nation Public School's Culture Center (UNPS). Center Director Vida Stabler arranged for Native Speakers Oliver and Marcella Cayou to work with the UNL students. This process was repeated the following semester with additional recipes. Translation sessions were quite lively, and often lasted three hours or more. Other Speakers joined in as their schedules permitted. Out of these meetings has grown a pleasant feeling of collaboration and hope for the Omaha language programs at both institutions. Watching the UNL Students "click" with the UNPS Speakers was a joy. The response from the UNPS students, faculty, and Speakers has been uniformly positive. This emerging good rapport led to the decision to ask Denine Parker, UNPS Art Department, if her art students would be willing to help illustrate this booklet. She willingly agreed and the results are fantastic. The UNL program, through a Diversity Enhancement Grant, was able to purchase all of the illustrations used in this booklet perhaps making this the first paid commission for some of the young artists.
So, at last, this collection of recipes is offered to the Umóⁿhoⁿ community as a small token of appreciation from the UNL Omaha Language Class (2000–2002) for allowing us to come among the people, to learn, to socialize, and to become better human beings in the process. It is meant to be a language-learning tool.
Everyone has worked diligently to double-check translations. Any errors or oversights are the responsibility of the Instructor. Please forgive me. Wíbthahoⁿ
Print copies of this cookbook are available for purchase from:
Omaha Language Class
Department of Anthropology-Geography
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Oldfather Hall 810
Lincoln, NE 68588-0368