By: Roseanne McKee
Lou Brock, who is serving as the interim director of the Osage Tribal Museum following the recent retirement of director Kathryn Red Corn, was the guest speaker at the regular Pawhuska Kiwanis Club luncheon meeting held at Title VI on the Osage campus on April 22.
Brock shared that the Osage Congress had just that morning unanimously passed a resolution, ONCR 15-12, commending Kathryn Red Corn for her 17 years of leadership, dedication and service to the Osage Tribal Museum Library & Archives.
During his speech, Brock traced the history of the Osage people.
“Regarding history, we’ve actually been in this location as an Osage people long before the 1800’s. As a matter of fact, I have a map showing all of the places that we are or were in — almost a 100 million acres of land in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas.”
He listed three land treaties which the Osage entered into in the years 1808, 1818 and 1825. “The treaty in 1808, ceded acreage of the north half Arkansas, north of the Arkansas River, almost all of Missouri, part of Oklahoma and in 1825 part of Kansas.”
Brock explained that “where the Cherokee Nation is, right now, was the location of the Treaty of 1818 cessation of land. The three treaties, combined, ceded almost 100 million acres of land. The Osage received one penny for every six acres on average.
“When we moved, we had to move to southeast Kansas – during the 1800’s. During that time, we had about 8,000 people that moved,” he said.
However, sickness diminished the Osage population in the 1850’s, when “sickness hit the Osage and everybody that was in the area and probably scattered throughout [with] scrofula, black measles, and just everything under the sun,” Brock explained.
“We were losing people right and left and so were others as well. When we finally made a deal with the Cherokee we bought back our own land. We’re the only reservation to do so.
“And with that, we bought back the Osage Reservation, where we are today. And for that we had 2,229 people that were registered. My grandmother and my eldest aunt were two of these people. Each one would receive a full headright and that’s oil and gas rights, and today it’s still being used.
As the senior researcher at the museum, Brock has compiled records of the oil and gas payment to annuitants, also called allottees, for each quarter. These records are available at the Osage Tribal Museum and have been confirmed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, he said.
When he began working for the Osage Nation in 2005, the museum director asked if he would compile these records on spread sheets. There were some records from a book “The Golden Book of the Osages,” which listed every payment from 1880 to the late 1950’s, Brock said.
Brock had become an annuitant in the mid 1990’s and had kept a record of all of the quarterly payments from that date to the present. He used these records to continue the spread sheets.
However, Brock still needed to find the remaining records from 1950’s to the 1990’s.
The answer came during a previous administration, when Principal Chief Jim Gray’s assistant helped Brock by providing the missing records.
Describing the plight of the Osage annuitants, Brock said, “In the early years, the headrights were passed on to shyster lawyers and banks.”
He said that the Osage are working on recovering these headrights because a percentage of headrights checks are still going to non-Indians and organizations.
“It’s back in the court system,” Brock said, making reference to the federal case: Fletcher v. the United States.
“I want things to be very positive, but our history doesn’t show it always. Take the 1920’s. When I give a tour, I use the line from the book ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’ ‘It was the best of times it was the worst of times,’” Brock said.
“In the 1920’s $11,500 for that one year per person was being given. In today’s dollars, that’s $160,000, so a family of four was receiving $640,000 of 2015 dollars. Many people knew what to do with it. Some, unfortunately, didn’t and that’s were a young man who was a banker, who was not Osage, had a plan to try to get that away from the Osage; and a lot of people lost their lives during that time. In any event, it caught up with him.
“He was pardoned years later. Our Oklahoma governor pardoned the other one, Mr. Burkhart. That’s just a part of our history.”
The Osage Tribal Museum has compiled photos of many of the 2,229 Osage allottees, which has become one of the museum’s most popular exhibits.
Those of Osage descent are able to sign the Osage Constitution of 2006, which is on display at the museum.
The museum also has a large collection of Osage oil paintings, historic documents, regalia and busts of individuals from the early 1900’s called “The Osage Ten.”
The Osage Tribal Museum Library and Archives, the oldest tribally-owned museum in the U.S., is open Tuesday through Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and admission is free to the public. The museum is located at 819 Grandview Avenue in Pawhuska.
Special museum events are publicized on their website, https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/osage-tribal-museum/welcome.
A photo album of Osage history can be found on http://www.osagetribalmuseum.com/.