Alice Cunningham Fletcher (March 15, 1838, Havana, Cuba - April 6, 1923, Washington, D.C.) was an American ethnologist. She studied the remains of Indian civilization in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, became a member of the Archaeological Institute of America in 1879, and worked and lived with the Omahas as a representative of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University.
In 1883 she was appointed special agent to allot lands to the Omaha tribes, in 1884 prepared and sent to the New Orleans Exposition an exhibit showing the progress of civilization among the Indians of North America in the quarter-century previous, in 1886 visited the natives of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands on a mission from the commissioner of education, and in 1887 was United States special agent in the distribution of lands among the Winnebagoes and Nez Perces. She was made assistant in ethnology at the Peabody Museum in 1882, and received the Thaw fellowship in 1891; was president of the Anthropological Society of Washington and of the American Folklore Society, and vice-president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and, working through the Womans National Indian Association, introduced a system of making small loans to Indians, wherewith they might buy land and houses.
Fletcher and Chief Joseph at the Nez Percť Lapwai Reservation in Idaho
In 1888 she published Indian Education and Civilization, a special report of the Bureau of Education. In 1898 at the Congress of Musicians held at Omaha during the Trans-Mississippi Exposition she read several essays upon the songs of the North American Indians in illustration of which a number of Omaha Indians sang their native melodies. Out of this grew her Indian Story and Song from North America (1900), illustrating a stage of development antecedent to that in which culture music appeared.
In 1905, she became the first woman president of the American Folklore Society. In 1911 she published The Omaha Tribe together with Francis La Flesche, an Omaha Indian, which is still considered to be the definitive work on the subject.
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