Omaha has a rich history dating back to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. At that time, the territory that would eventually become Nebraska Territory, and later Omaha, was essentially occupied by Native Americans. The early Omaha Indians, arriving from the lower Ohio valley, were a part of the five tribes of the so-called Dhegiba groups of the Siouan family, the other four being Kausa, Quapau, Osage, and Ponca.
By the early 1800s, Lewis and Clark found that the Omahans had moved into the vicinity of the present-day Omaha and established their presence. Their name, Omaha (actually U-Mo’n-Ho’n), means “Dwellers on the Bluff” and has been frequently translated as “against the current” or “those going against the wind.” It has been speculated that the Omaha Indians took this name because of the difficulty they incurred moving northward against the current of the Missouri River.
Among the early legends of the Omaha Tribe is one that tells of a great battle waged during the early history of the state. Every warrior of an enemy tribe was killed, except one – who was cast, wounded, into the swift current of the river. He escaped by swimming against the current to a point far above where he had been thrown in. As he left the water on the opposite side, he lifted his right arm and defiantly exclaimed, “E-roma-ha.” His defiance was interpreted as meaning fortitude and courage.
Whether taken from “U-Mo’n-H’n” or “E-roma-ha”, Omaha was officially incorporated as a city by the state legislature in 1857.