Women elders' life stories of the Omaha tribe: Macy, Nebraska (Eleanor Baxter, Alice Saunsoci, Hawate/Wenona Caremony)

Wynne L. Summers
Dept. of English, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
July, 2006


This dissertation focuses on life stories of three women elders of the Omaha Tribe of Macy, Nebraska: Eleanor Baxter, past-secretary and currently Vice Chair of the Omaha Tribal Council, political activist and reformer; Alice Saunsoci, Omaha language teacher at the Nebraska Indian Community College; Hawate/Wenona Caremony, past language teacher at the Omaha Nation Public School and present language instructor at Walthill Elementary, Walthill, Nebraska. These three women are making a difference in their communities---both tribally and individually. Eleanor Baxter fights to maintain and encourage not only political growth but economic growth that benefits the Macy community. Her political career began as secretary where she worked for three years to provide reform that benefited the tribe. As Vice Chair, she travels all over the United States to participate in meetings of the various tribes and nations, working to improve reservation communities. She is additionally a spokesperson and lecturer for the Omaha. Alice Saunsoci is developing language curriculum for NICC and is pivotal in language perpetuation. She sees her role as one who encourages learning the Omaha language and making sure that it is accurately spoken as well as written. Her enthusiasm and dedication bring her students to a new depth of understanding in both learning the language and recognizing the importance of language survivance to cultural preservation. Hawate, also, is one who works tirelessly to preserve the language. She worked with Vida Stabler at the Omaha Nation Public School/Culture Center, assisting in teaching the language wherever needed. Hawate now works with children in Walthill Elementary and encourages them to speak the Omaha language in class. She additionally uses curriculum support and is a role model to her students as an elder who both preserves and speaks the language into perpetuity.
All these women shared their life stories---lives spent outside of Macy, Nebraska, working and educating themselves in different areas of the United States to assist in community action programs and projects, then returning to the reservation years later to work within the tribal community in whatever capacity was necessary to assist in cultural, political and traditional preservation. They continue to provide tribal support and serve as generational role models.