Alice Fletcher 18381923

Marcus Ormsbee (active 18631868)
Tintype, 1868

National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

A pioneer in the field of anthropology, Alice Fletcher believed that differing views between Native peoples and non-Natives could be reconciled. She devoted much of her fieldwork to studying the Omaha, a Nebraska tribe that in the early 1880s was threatened by the prospect of being relocated.

Politically active, Fletcher petitioned Congress to grant individual land titles to the Omaha. When the act passed in 1882, officials at the Bureau of Indian Affairs appointed her to divide reservation land among tribal members. For the next year, she lived on the Omaha reservation, where she carried out this work and continued her studies.

Given her opposition to the reservation system, Fletcher lent her support to helping draft the controversial Dawes Act of 1887, legislation meant to improve the welfare of Native peoples through property ownership and education.