by Alice C. Fletcher
Among the Omaha a ceremony was observed shortly after the birth of a child that on broad lines reflects a general belief among the Indians.
In the introductory chapter of this book the Indian's feeling of unquestioning unity with nature is mentioned. The following Omaha ceremony and ritual furnish direct testimony to the profundity of this feeling. Its expression greets him at his birth and is iterated at every important experience throughout his life.
When an Omaha child is born the parents send to the clan that has charge of the rite of introducing the child to the Cosmos. The priest thus summoned comes to the tent wherein the infant lies and takes his stand just outside the door, facing the East. He raises his right hand, palm outward, to the sky, and in a clear ringing voice intones the following ritual:
In this manner the child, the "new life," was introduced to the Cosmos of which it was now a part. All the powers of the heavens and of the earth were invoked to render aid to the "new life" in its onward struggle over the rugged path that traverses the four hills of life, typifying Infancy, Youth, Maturity and Old Age.
An infant was merely a "new life," it was wholly dependent upon others; no name was given it (only endearing terms were used), for the reason that a name implies either a sacred responsibility or a personal achievement, neither of which was possible to an infant. When, however, the child could go about alone, generally at three or four years of age, the time had arrived when it must be given a tribal name, one belonging to the rites in charge of its birth group. By means of this ceremonial act the child was inducted by sacred rites into the tribe and became a recognized member.