Fletcher, Alice Cunningham

Fletcher, Alice Cunningham,

1838–1923, American anthropologist, b. Havana, Cuba. Originally interested in archaeology, she turned to the study of the Plains tribes. After studying informally with Frederick Putnam, head of Harvard's Peabody Museum, she went (1881) to Nebraska to do field work among the Omaha. Concerned for their potential dispossession, Fletcher worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the individual apportionment of Omaha tribal lands (1882–84), and then for the passage and implementation of the Dawes ActDawes Act
or General Allotment Act,
1887, passed by the U.S. Congress to provide for the granting of landholdings (allotments, usually 160 acres/65 hectares) to individual Native Americans, replacing communal tribal holdings. Sponsored by U.S. Senator H. L.
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 (1887), after which she oversaw the allotment process for the Nez Percé and Winnebago. In 1890 she was awarded a lifetime fellowship at the Peabody, becoming the first woman to be recognized as a fellow at Harvard. Fletcher wrote numerous monographs and articles on the music, language, dress, and customs of the Plains tribes. Her books include Indian Story and Song from North America (1900), The Hako: A Pawnee Ceremony (1904, repr. 1996), and The Omaha Tribe (with F. La Flesche, 1911).

Bibliography

See biography by J. Mark (1988).

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Fletcher, Alice Cunningham

(1838–1923) ethnologist, humanitarian; born in Havana, Cuba. Beginning with an interest in the archaeology of American Indians, from 1876 on she became active in working for better treatment of the living Indians of the West. This led to her becoming the first and best informed student of American Indian music. Her major scholarly work was The Omaha Tribe (1911) but her most popular work was Indian Story and Song from North America (1900). One of the more remarkable women of her era, she combined energetic activism with scholarly pursuits.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.