Fletcher, Alice Cunningham
- Sue Carole DeVale
(b Cuba, March 15, 1838; d Washington DC, April 6, 1923). American ethnologist. She devoted herself to the study of the Great Plains Indians, so completely winning their confidence that she was privileged to gather data and record ceremonials and rituals not usually witnessed by non-Indians. While living on the Omaha reservation in 1881, she became interested in the education of the 24-year-old son, Francis, of Chief Joseph La Flesche. She took him to Washington where he lived with her, as her ‘son by adoption’, until 1910; with him, Fletcher wrote an important monograph on the Omaha tribe (1911).
Fletcher, who was an assistant at the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology from 1882, began collecting ethnological and musical data in 1883 among the Omaha and Dakota Indians. She also wrote about other tribes and kinship groups and transcribed hundreds of songs including the first complete record of the Pawnees’ Hako ceremony. Initially she notated melodies by ear, having her informants repeat each song until she was satisfied that she had an accurate transcription. Soon after the pioneer field use of the Edison phonograph by Jesse Walter Fewkes in ...