Jefferson’s westward expansion impacts Osage

Photo by Roseanne McKee of Exhibit at St. Louis Museum


By Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

In June during a visit to the Gateway Arch Museum in St. Louis, Mo., which opened July 3, 2018, I learned details of Thomas Jefferson’s desire for and efforts toward westward expansion in America. Jefferson’s endeavors had serious implications for indigenous people and African Americans.

He had a lifelong interest in the American West and knew much about the region based on personal study. Information in a museum panel stated that by 1803 Jefferson had one of the most extensive libraries on the subject and was very knowledgeable on American western geography. Jefferson’s father, Peter Jefferson, was one of the first farmers to move to western Virginia. He was one of those who surveyed the colony and created the Jefferson-Fry map published in London in 1755.

In 1749 Peter Jefferson, Dr. Thomas Walker, James Maury and Joshua Fry founded the “Loyal Land Company” to increase land purchases west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and send explorers all the way to the Pacific.

According to a panel at the museum, “Walker was the first non-Indian to cross the Blue Ridge into Kentucky.”

Jefferson compiled research on American Indian tribes in well-organized tables and charts. He listed quadrupeds, and their weights, that were in North America — listing bison, bear and red deer.

According to a panel at the museum, Jefferson authorized the Louisiana Purchase and developed the idea for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Before Jefferson became the third U.S. president, he asked four men to lead expeditions westward, but for various reasons none of these plans came to fruition. Time was of the essence to claim these lands because Alexander Mackenzie, from Montreal, was also seeking to explore the west to secure the Pacific Northwest for Great Britain.

This news prompted Jefferson, then president, to again organize an expedition. Meriwether Lewis, 29, a career army officer, agreed to lead a U.S. expedition to establish claim to western lands. Lewis, who was also Jefferson’s personal secretary, used Jefferson’s extensive library on the subject to prepare for his journey west. However, a museum panel stated that he “later discovered on his expedition with William Clark that much of what was written in these books was untrue.”

A panel at the museum stated that Jefferson was curious about the ancestry of indigenous people in North America. He gathered vocabulary lists of Indian words in 1780 and sought through comparative linguistics to determine their origins.

Jefferson wrote to John Adams June 11, 1812, ”[As a boy] I knew … the great Outasseté, the warrior and orator of the Cherokees … his sounding voice, distinct articulation, animated action, and the solemn silence of his people at their several fires, filled me with awe and veneration.”

In a June 7, 1785, letter to the Marquis de Chastellux, Jefferson wrote, “I am safe in affirming, that the proofs of genius given by the Indians of North America, place them on a level with whites.”

However, in later years, Jefferson became less positive about American Indians.

Another historical panel said, Jefferson wrote to Adams “that despite the progress of some tribes, like the Cherokee, many ‘will relapse in barbarism and misery, lose numbers by war and want, and we shall be obligated to drive them, with the beasts of the forest into the Stony mountains.’”

In another revealing passage, Jefferson wrote to Henry Dearborn the Secretary of War Aug. 13, 1802: ”[We obtain American Indian land] by letting them get in debt, which when too heavy to be paid, they are always willing to lop off by a cessation of land.”

Jefferson continued a practice begun by other European explorers to appease indigenous people — giving peace medals.

American Indian chiefs wore peace medals given by Jefferson while he was president.Per the official Monticello website, “the Jefferson Indian peace medal was designed and engraved by John Reich and was the first to bear the image of an American president. Thomas Jefferson was depicted in profile on the obverse side of the medal, with the inscription: “TH. JEFFERSON PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. A.D. 1801.” The inscription on the reverse, “PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP,” was symbolized by the image of clasped hands and a crossed tomahawk and peace pipe.

“Thomas Jefferson, the first Secretary of State, described the policy in 1793 as an ancient custom. He went on to write: ‘The medals are considered as complimentary things, as marks of friendship to those who come to see us, or who do us good offices, conciliatory of their good will towards us, and not designed to produce a contrary disposition towards others. They confer no power, and seem to have taken their origin in the European practice of giving medals or other marks of friendship to the negotiators of treaties, and other diplomatic characters, or visitors of distinction.’”

The medals were very useful in diplomatic situations.

In fact Lewis and Clark gave peace medals to Indian chiefs on their expedition, carrying a large supply with them.

A museum panel said, “Missouri chiefs who visited the city of Washington in the winter of 1805-1806 wore their Jefferson peace medals on their chests, and were given silver chains to suspend them by the governor of Massachusetts.”

So great was Jefferson’s influence on westward expansion, that this period came to be known by historians as the Jeffersonian period — tied to the Doctrine of Discovery — a time when American settlers and bureaucrats used this doctrine to justify taking lands of the west.

A panel at the museum said, that the doctrine had its roots in international law, which gave Europeans who “discovered” a region the first right of purchase from the occupiers of the land (instead of outright conquest). Ownership was to come from purchasing the land from the original inhabitants. This is why treaties were made with American Indian tribes, the panel explained.

The Osage were the most powerful tribe in the lower Midwest in the late 1700s because of its established relationships with French fur traders and Spanish government officials in St. Louis, which enabled them to trade for firearms. Intermarriage between the French fur traders and the Osage women also strengthened those alliances.

“The United States, unlike the French and the Spanish, had little desire to partner with the Osages in the deer hide trade. By 1830 the Osages were the first western tribe dispossessed of their ancestral homelands as new settlers searched for available land in Missouri.”

Another panel stated that by the 1830s, [shortly after Jefferson’s death in 1826], the U.S. government abandoned the Doctrine of Discovery and began dispossessing eastern tribes from their lands.

Over time, the Osage fell out of favor with white men.

One historical museum panel stated: “Although the Osages were key to the early commercial success of St. Louis, in 1808 Gov. Meriwether Lewis suddenly suspended trade with them accusing them of killing white settlers. Threatening to send their many Indian enemies against them in a war, Lewis forced several Osage chiefs to sign the Treaty of Fort Osage, which ceded over 52 million acres of land. By one of the provisions of the treaty, a government trading post, called a factory, was established at Fort Osage.“The United States, unlike the French and the Spanish, had little desire to partner with the Osages in the deer hide trade. By 1830 the Osages were the first western tribe dispossessed of their ancestral homelands as new settlers searched for available land in Missouri.”

One more aspect of Jefferson’s westward expansion efforts was a place for African Americans.

According to a museum panel, “Jefferson believed that slavery was unnatural and degrading for the enslaved as well as the enslavers. He wished for an end to slavery, yet he also thought that free blacks should not live along whites, and they should not be citizens. …

“Jefferson’s Ordinance of 1784 called for a ban on slavery in the west, not necessarily as a beneficial measure for blacks, but as an attempt to set geographical limits on the institution. Although his proposal was rejected, it was later adopted by Congress for territories north of the Ohio River in the Ordinance of 1787. This measure created tensions between slave states and free states tested many years later with the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Dred and Harriett Scott decision of 1857.”

Archaeological digs at Cahokia Mounds

Cahokia Tools on display at Cahokia Visitor’s Center/Museum
Photo by Roseanne McKee


By Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

Last week’s article provided an introduction to Cahokia located near St. Louis, Mo. This week’s column details past archaeological digs at Cahokia.

Archaeologists at Cahokia excavated an area that had previously been used as a drive-in movie theater in the 1980s. They dug down until they reached the level of the Mississippian period over an area covering several hundred square miles. There were many houses there. When the archaeologists find something it is called a feature, such as a circular area of discolored soil that indicates a storage bin, the museum’s archaeology exhibit video narrator explained.

“At Cahokia the small arrowheads found in mound 72 … we have an idea that these materials are from an area near the Spiro site in Oklahoma — some hundreds of miles away,” the archaeologist on the museum video said, which shows Cahokia’s link to Oklahoma.

“Over the years there have been many field investigations at Cahokia, including the excavation of mound 72 and the dig that revealed Woodhenge,” the archaeologist on video said. “In the 70s a highway project led to the most massive field investigation ever conducted in this region. Many communities from Cahokia’s time were found allowing scientists to study how these smaller towns interacted with their much larger neighbors. Field investigations of a site, which occur just before a site is to be destroyed by construction, are called salvage archaeology.”

Another example of salvage archaeology is the location of the Cahokia museum itself.

“A thorough investigation of this site had to be conducted before construction of this site could begin,” the video narrator explained.

Because it is some distance from Monks Mound, the greatest mound, the excavation of mound 72 revealed information about how ordinary people lived. The careful collection and excavation was meticulous work, but necessary to increase knowledge of Cahokia, the video narrator said.

Monks Mound (mound 38) received its name from the group of Trappist Monks who lived on one of the nearby mounds, according to the Cahokia website. “The Monks never lived on the biggest mound but gardened its first terrace and nearby areas,” the Cahokia website states.

Once archaeological finds were gathered, follow-up work took place in the laboratory, which included: identifying, cleaning, labeling the fragments found and preparing them for analysis.

The archaeological remains from the dig were highly fragmented, even stone tools, the video explained. Tools, such as hoes and spears and arrowheads, were studied to determine the time period they are from and what they were used for.

Bones from the site are compared with modern animals to help identify them — for example a white-tailed deer’s bones are compared with the bones found in the dig.

Similar work takes place in the botanist lab where plants/seeds found are compared with today’s plants and seeds.

In this excavation, archaeologists learned that the diets of people had declined as their intake of carbohydrates increased over time.

The reason Cahokia began to decline sometime in the 13th or early 14th century remains a mystery. The society may also have declined over many years as Cahokia’s authority was challenged.

According to the video overview of Cahokia, “poor nutrition and disease were growing problems. Weather changes and climate, dwindling resources and a growing population or perhaps growing class warfare, conflicts within the group, or from the outside also contributed to the decline.”

Present-day archaeological digs are ongoing and so continue to reveal information about the people who inhabited the 2,200 acres known as Cahokia.

To learn more about Cahokia or to plan a trip, visit the Cahokia website at https://cahokiamounds.org/.

Cahokia Mounds reflect ancient Osage life

A Birger figurine (shown left) was found in the Cahokia area near St. Louis, carved from Missouri flintclay depicting a kneeling woman hoeing into a snake, symbolic of fertility, life forces and the lower world. Photo by Roseanne McKee

By Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

Recently, I visited the Cahokia Mounds near St. Louis, the largest earthen monument in the Americas, with links to the Osage people, whose sovereign nation is headquartered in Pawhuska.

According to an article “Osage Cultural History” by Dr. Andrea Hunter, published on the Osage Nation website, “[d]uring the latter part of the Late Woodland (A.D. 900) and Emergent Mississippian, (A.D. 1000) periods, larger groups of the Dhegiha Siouan tribes focused their settlement strategy in the Cahokia/St. Louis area. … Those who would later become the Osage were the last remaining Dhegiha Siouan tribe in the Cahokia/St. Louis area.”

A panel about the late Charles Arthur Pratt (1944-2015) was on display at the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center and Museum. The panel included a photo of Charles Pratt, an Osage Elder, wearing regalia. The panel stated that Pratt had been the Hominy Drum Keeper in the Osage Hominy Village during the 1960s, and he never forgot his obligations to his people. Pratt was a college graduate and scholar of both Dhegihan language and culture.

“Charles epitomized the Hominy community. After all, they were the full bloods. … they were always eager to save their great heritage as well as being generous in sharing with others,” the panel said.

I was fortunate to have met Pratt at a traditional Osage dinner at his own camp, during the Hominy In-Lonshka dances in 2014, a year before he passed. My friend Mark Simms, a retired Osage congressman, and his wife, Linda Simms, took me to the dinner.

What I learned at the museum in St. Louis was that up to 20,000 people lived at the more than 2,200-acre Cahokia settlement.

While the settlement originally began more than 12,000 years ago — 1,000 years ago the culture evolved into what is known as the Mississippians. At that time, residents built various types of mounds, plazas and a unique wooden sundial, now called Woodhenge. Regarding the mounds themselves, some were flat-top — where temples and other structures were built. Others, called ridge-top mounds, marked the community’s boundaries. There were also burial mounds.

However, the tallest, most prominent mound was the location of the chief’s home, where a sacred fire was kept burning, the narrator said.

It is interesting to note that the practice of keeping a sacred fire burning was continued by the Osage.

In the book “Osage Life & Legends” by Robert Liebert, he wrote, “the fireplace served as light, warmth, and … any time that the People were gathered around the fireplace was a time of communion; for the fire was symbolic of the divine spark of life and the power that resided within the Sun. In the lodges of the Grand Chiefs [sacred fires] burned eternally, as they had in the temples of the Ancient Ones that erected the great earthen mounds.”

According to the video presentation at the center in St. Louis, the chief was said to have ruled the earth and spoke to the sky.

The chief’s “wealth was immeasurable, his wisdom profound, his authority unquestionable. The chief was responsible for maintaining balance between the spiritual forces of the upper world and the low world. … and for maintaining order and harmony among the people,” the video narrator said.

“Service rendered to him was as to the gods. With his wisest advisors, the chief directed construction of the great mound, the site of his temple. For the thousands of laborers, building the mound was an act of loyalty on faith. Building it in stages, they dug the earth with stone hoes and carried [the earth] in woven baskets 50-60 pounds at a time, 15 million times over a 300-year period,” the narrator said.

The community was “the seat of power, vitality, wealth and security. It prevailed for several hundred years. … Each area had a function. There were enormous plazas for games, ceremonies and great gatherings. There were miles of stockade wall protecting the central ceremonial area,” the narrator said.

The community was so large that individuals specialized in tasks such as toolmaking, farming and basket weaving. Goods and services were exchanged and the population became interdependent.

The people were able to grow a surplus of corn so it could be saved for years when crops were poor, the narrator explained. “With a steady food supply, great numbers of people could make Cahokia their permanent home.”

This surplus in crops allowed the chief to engage in trade with other tribes.

“The leader of the community could trade corn for rare goods such as copper or sea shells. Mississippian communities traded in this way over a network that spanned thousands of miles from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico — from the Atlantic ocean to the Ozarks,” the narrator said.

Osage marriage customs of the past

By: Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

Historically, Osage people had a very different approach to marriage than they do today. Marriages were arranged through a formal, negotiation process between the families over four days.

Author Robert Liebert describes the process in his book “Osage Life & Legends.”
He states that young men could not interact with young women. Instead, “young men could only express their love and frustration as they sat at some distant point on moonlit nights and played a melancholy tune on a flute made of cedar,” Liebert said.

According to author Francis La Flesche, marriageable age was reached shortly after puberty.

“If a boy was interested in a certain maiden, his maternal uncle went to the girl’s side of the village and spoke with her uncle; uncles took a special interest in the care of their nephews and nieces. If the girl’s uncle did not refuse the offer, it showed that he was open to the arrangement. The boy’s relatives prepared a great feast of buffalo, elk, deer, turkey, fish, corn, nuts and other delicacies, and came in a procession to the girl’s lodge. After the feast, the girl’s relations would wash the utensils and return them, showing that they accepted the boy as a suitable husband. On the next day a number of horses and other gifts were sent to the girl’s relatives, and if the gifts were thought worthy of the bride, there would be another feast, and the utensils would once more be washed and returned.”

The University of Oklahoma’s Western History Library has historic photos showing this negotiation process during the early 20th century.

Dr. Daniel Swan, a University of Oklahoma professor, collected over 100 Osage wedding photos over five years for an exhibit at the Osage Nation Museum in 2015. At a presentation for the exhibit’s opening, he said, “[o]ne of the things we learned was that each day the family would eat the food and put the dishes out at the end of the driveway and if those dishes were put back out washed, that meant that the negotiations were still open and they would expect for food to be brought again the next day. If those dishes were put out at the end of the driveway and they weren’t cleaned, it was over. Everybody packed up and went home. The negotiations had broken down.”

If the negotiation process proceeded with clean dishes on all three days, the couple would finally get to see one another and marry on the fourth day, Liebert wrote.

“The girl and her bridesmaids then stepped out of the lodge and her relatives would place piles of gifts at their feet. The boy relatives would line up, and at a signal would race toward the gifts. … the girl’s relatives would apportion out the gifts to the winners … until everyone had received something. There was a large wedding feast, and the groom was finally called to take his place beside the bride. The boy went back to his lodge, where his bride was carried to him on a robe, and they were left alone.”

The groom presented the bride with a sacred burden strap — something used by women to carry wood and items for hunting, Liebert said.

The sacred burden strap was made by the groom and his relatives for the bride and represented the groom’s respect for his bride and all of the hard work she would do as his wife. This one was not used, but was hung in the lodge above the doorway.

The formalities seemed to have changed over time. The Osage wedding exhibit shown in 2015 indicates slightly different customs, which are described in an article by the Osage News published on their website Feb. 20, 2015 by Shannon Shaw-Duty entitled, “Museum collaboration to showcase Osage weddings in exhibition.”

In her article Shaw-Duty describes a transfer of clothing worn by the women in the wedding party to the women in the groom’s family. This was followed by a gathering under the arbor or a tent with food and the marriage ceremony. Once the marriage had taken place a new family was formed.

By the 20th century, the clothing worn by brides had become military jackets and hats, originally given to the Osage by U.S. dignitaries from Washington, D.C.
Swan shared that Romaine Shackelford, had conducted research of government documents on microfilm at the Osage Nation Museum, and made a significant discovery.

“Low and behold, he turns up a letter from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs writing the Superintendent of the Osage Nation, the agency, in which he said, ‘we received your letter requesting a chief’s coat for 17 Osage chiefs. We’ve received their measurements and on our next visit, we’ll bring them.’ This shows this continuous process of using these coats as symbols of authority and respect — that there was this continual supply coming in to them,” Swan explained.

“It’s clear that eventually that supply of old military coats exceeded the demands of the community and that people up here started to make these coats. These are stories that we’re working on right now — the different mechanisms that Osage people have employed to build their inventory of coats.

“Lastly, we’ve undertaken a series of interviews about more modern times and the construction of coats and their use in paying for the drum,” Swan said.
Osage military-style wedding regalia are on display at both the Osage Nation Museum and the Osage County Historical Society Museum in Pawhuska.

Recordings of interviews of Osages interviewing other Osages about the wedding arrangement process are at the Osage Nation’s Wahzhazhe Cultural Center in Pawhuska.

Osage mark months with moon references

By: Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

Calendar months for the Osage were marked by references to the moon. For example, the month of February was “Light of Day Returns Moon,” according to the book “Osage Life & Legends” by Robert Liebert.

After the winter, in February Osage people resumed food gathering. The men when to hunt deer, elk and bear, whose fur was sleeker at this time, Liebert said.
March was the “Whimsical Moon,” when women gathered new greens to add to soups and stews, he said. Wild onions are still gathered in the spring and are served with scrambled eggs and ham at wild onion dinners held by the Osage and other tribes.

April, when the Osage began their new year, was referred to as “Deer Giving Birth Moon” and “Planting Moon,” said Liebert.

Sweat baths were taken at the year’s start — to purify the mind and body, he said. Also at this time the two grand chiefs would go to “the lodge of a man who owned a shrine” to pray for peace and health in the tribe.

April was a time of planting seeds. Corn, a staple crop, was planted in a very particular way.

Liebert wrote, “it was the planting of corn that kept them anchored to their villages rather than being continual nomads, as were some of their relatives out in the plains.”

The planting was done by women, but men could help under their direction, because it was the women who were considered wise to the ways of earth and in tune with Grandmother Earth, Liebert said.

“There was a class of men who, usually in response to a potent dream or vision, … excelled at gardening. … They were called mi-xu-ga, which translates “instructed by the moon,” said Liebert.

Family gardens were located in bottomlands along rivers and were about one-half acre in size, he said.

When they planted, the women would paint the part of their hair red, something the women did when they came of age, and painted blue lines down their faces to signify the sun and the rain, Liebert explained.

Corn, saved from special, sacred ears of corn, was planted in seven hills. As the women planted they sang and kept time with their planting sticks. The song told of the sacred act of planting and the significance of her tamping the soil.
“Poking a hole into the south side of the hill, she planted a seed and tamped the earth with her foot. She then placed two kernels in the second hill, three in the third and so on,” Liebert wrote.

After the sacred corn was planted, the women went on to plant the rest of the field with hills for squash between the corn hills. They also planted beans, which climbed the corn stalks. Later, pumpkins, gourds, sunflowers and melons were planted, Liebert said.

This planting method reminds me of the method being used by Osage tribal member Scott Lohah who grows Osage corn specially for the In Lonshka Dances held each June in all three Osage Villages — Hominy, Grayhorse and Pawhuska. Lohah is from Hominy.

Lohah plants more than one seed in one hole. This is called clump farming. He shared an article with me from the Sept. 2011 issue of Progressive Farmer Magazine, which bears out the advantages of this planting method.

Although the article doesn’t credit the Osage, this is the way they have planted the corn for generations, Lohah said. The article states that experiments conducted in 2003 at the USDA ARS conservation and Production Research Laboratory in Bushland, Texas, showed that the grain yields for both corn and sorghum were 70 percent, to more than 100 percent greater, when clump-seeding was used compared to the single-seed planting method.

Liebert’s account seems to agree — “Osage corn was famous among many tribes, for it often grew ten feet tall and could have as many as eight or nine ears to the hill.”

After planting, the focus shifted to bison hunting.

The month of May was referred to by the Osage as “Little Flower-Killer Moon,” because this is when “little flowers that poked up from the forest floor and brightened the prairies disappeared as the trees leafed out and the grasses grew,” Liebert wrote.

This Osage reference to the month of May became the inspiration for the title of David Grann’s bestselling book about the Osage Murders entitled “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Next week’s column will focus on Osage courting and arranged marriage customs.

A Rare Look at Osage Before First Contact

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Nicholas with an elder at Archie Mason’s camp during In’Lonshka at Grayhorse Village. Photo by Roseanne McKee


By Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

Before Europeans arrived in North America, the Osage people were organized into a complex society with well-formed traditions. However, the Osage elders decided not to speak of the time before first contact and that is why little is known about it.

The former Osage Nation Museum Director, Hallie Winter, told me during an interview that the journey of the Osage to Oklahoma greatly diminished their numbers, and the Osage elders decided it was best not to speak of the way things had been because they could no longer be.

Osage Ballet Director Randy Tinker Smith, who consulted with elders when creating her ballet about the Osage people, said in traditional Osage society every clan had a specific role, but once the once the population diminished, there were not enough people to maintain their previous way of life.

The population decreased when the Osage left Kansas to move to the Oklahoma territory. There were about 8,000 Osage at the start of their journey, said former Osage Nation Museum Interim Director Lou Brock.

In the 1850s “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. When the Osage finalized the deal to purchase land from the Cherokee, their population had dwindled to just 2,229.

A book once sold at the Osage County Historical Society Museum, “Osage Life and Legends,” written by Robert Liebert, published by Naturegraph Publishers (1987) provides a window into the little-known world before first contact. In the next few columns, I will share some of what the book said about Osage life before first contact.

The Osage refer to themselves as “the Little Ones” to show humility toward the Great Spirit, Wah-Kon-Dah. They also have a name for Mother Earth, the Sacred One, HunKah, according to Liebert.

The tribe is organized into two groups the sky people, called Tzizho, and the earth people, called HunKah.

Having interviewed several Osages, I have been told that traditionally Osages only married into the other group, not their own group, and marriages were arranged.

There were grand chiefs for both groups, Liebert said, and the Osage lived in one main village with smaller villages nearby.
In the layout of the main village, the Osage sought to echo the natural order of the universe, as they did in all aspects of their lives, he said. The Tzizho occupied the north part and the HunKah lived in the south part of the village.

Dwellings were in groups of seven with broad streets between them. At the center of the village were the homes of the Tzizho chief and the HunKah chief. Their doors opened to the east and west and a fire always burned inside each home.

The Osage homes, called lodges, were “built by setting center poles in the ground with a ridge pole laid across and long hickory poles bent over. Wall posts were set along the sides, and cross-poles attached to the framework,” Liebert wrote.

The homes were covered in woven rush mats overlapped to prevent water leaks. The slender rush (probably horsetail or spikerush) were a vital part of Osage homes. The mats were also used as beds, which were covered in bison hides. These sleeping mats were arranged around the fireplace in cold weather and along the walls in warmer weather.

“The fireplace was always at the center of the lodge, the symbolic center of the universe of which the lodge was a microcosm. The fireplace served as light, warmth, and was used to cook their meals,” Liebert said. “The fire was symbolic of the divine spark of life and the power that resided within the Sun. At any important council and in all ceremonies the sacred fire was lit. … Before every meal, the Little Ones spoke a prayer of thanksgiving and a portion of food was placed in the fire as an offering.”

Inside the homes there were small fire pits, covered with deer and bison hides to dry and smoke food.

Storage places were dug into the floor of the homes to store food and hides.

The walls had mats, utensils, bows, quivers, strings of dried roots, ears of corn and medicine bags.

Each person had one wooden bowl from which to eat. Hands and a knife were used to eat food.

Wooden spoons were used to serve the food. Cooking pots “were made of clay tempered with shell and fired in pits.”

During the winter, the Osage visited and feasted, Liebert said. A crier would invite guests to someone’s home. When guests arrived, they would smoke, eat and play guessing gambling games. “Sometimes the betting would be quite heavy, and spectators would place robes and other valuables beside their favorite player,” Liebert wrote.

The way the author described the game, it sounded similar what I know as Osage Hand Games, which involve guessing the location of a small object.

There is an article on the Osage News website dated Feb. 18, 2015, by the late Charles Red Corn, which describes Hand Games in detail.

According to Liebert, sometimes the host would have an elder storyteller attend to entertain the guests. Storytelling happened in winter when snakes were asleep. It was considered unwise to tell stories in the warmer seasons because snakes were considered by the Osage as guardians of the truth — taking revenge if an untrue tale were told, the author said. Kathryn Red Corn, retired former Osage Nation Museum director, and her daughter have also told me this. There is actually a word in Osage for women to tell tales out of season —something considered very unwise.

At these gatherings in old times guests, invited or not, were given the seat of honor and given food, a smoke and could remain as long as they wished, Liebert said.

My son and I were invited to visit the camp of Osage Congressman Archie Mason at Grayhorse Village, near Fairfax, during the InLonshka Dances in June 2012, and we were indeed honored.
We dressed in church attire for the occasion as had been recommended to us because the InLonshka Dances are not like a powwow, rather they are more spiritual in nature.

Following the prayer, we were instructed to go through the food line first. We were welcomed and had a great day at their camp watching the women cook over an open fire in the traditional way and visiting with Moira Red Corn as she did meticulous beadwork for an eagle fan.

My son, Nicholas, who was about seven at the time, played at the feet of one female elder in the kitchen and got to know the children at the camp. I was very humbled by the experience, and it is a cherished memory.

The Osage Nation, based in Pawhuska, Okla., continues the traditions by having two regular sessions of the Osage Congress — Hunkah Session in the spring (late March) and Tzizho Session in early September, as per the 2006 Osage Constitution. And, every Congressional session, committee meeting and every meal still begins with a prayer spoken in Osage, if an Osage speaker is present, and in English.

16th Annual Battle of the Plains Powwow

By Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

DEWEY — The 16th annual Battle of the Plains was held at the Washington County Fairgrounds on Jan. 19. Programs compete for best dancer bragging rights at the all-youth powwow. Photos from the event are at the end of this article.

The powwow is co-sponsored by Operation Eagle, a program for Native American youth, and the Royal Valley Boys & Girls Club of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, from Mayetta, Kan. Royal Valley was not able to attend this year due to the weather.

Some of the other programs competing were Johnson-O’Malley in Osage County and Indian Intertribal Club of Tulsa, which is known by the acronym IICOT.

The head singer was Geramey Cable; head man was Kwowee Potts; head lady was Jewell McDonald, the master of ceremonies was Kilan Jacobs, the arena director was Dude Blalock and the coordinators were Dennis LittleAxe and Anita Evans.
Before the powwow began, several of those involved spoke to the EE about the event and Operation Eagle.

At other powwows, the youth dancers are grouped into juniors, age 6 to 12. At this powwow ages are broken down into smaller age groups, said Quannah LittleAxe, an adviser and one of the dance instructors.

“I teach the girls [to dance],” LittleAxe said. “We meet monthly for about an hour to practice during the academic year.”

“This is a dance that’s just geared solely on the children for them to get together, meet new people, have a good time and dance,” LittleAxe said.

Each youth receives a participation ribbon and then points are accrued by each dancer in each category. Winners in each category receive ribbons. At the end of the day, the program whose students have amassed the most points, wins the Battle of the Plains Powwow.

Other activities at Operation Eagle are crafts, regalia making classes and educational field trips, LittleAxe said.

“Our students and their families identify as Native American/indigenous, President of the Operation Eagle Parents Jessie Haase said.

Every year there is an Operation Eagle Princess and this year it is her daughter, Kele Haase. There are responsibilities for the role, including greeting people at events and being introduced at powwows. At every powwow the princesses sign in so they can be recognized. At Saturday’s powwow, three other 2018-19 princesses were in attendance — Delaware Powwow Princess Skye Scimeca, Delaware War Mothers Princess Hailey Griffith and IICOT Princess Alexis Madden.
“We have upwards of 1,000 carded students in Bartlesville Public School system and so they probably are from tribes from all over the country. I can name several kids who belong to five different tribes so I think we have a pretty good representation in this one little group,” Haase said.

According to its website, Operation Eagle Indian Education Program oversees two federal programs for American Indian/Alaska Native students in the Bartlesville Public School system. Johnson O’Malley is funded through the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and provides services for students who have a CDIB
card or tribal membership card from any federally-recognized tribe. Title VII services are available to students who have a 506 (Indian Eligiblity) form on file with the Indian Education Office of Bartlesville Public Schools, and have a parent or grandparent who has a CDIB or is a member of a federally-recognized tribe.

The powwow began with a grand entry in which all of the dancers entered the dance area single file.

After Grand Entry, there was a memorial song during which all the dancers stood in place in the circular dance area around the drum and singers in the center and did not dance.

This was followed by a song in which the boys danced in a circle around the drum and singers while the girls formed an outer circle moving more slowly.
Then the competition began with tiny tots dancing first — some with their parents and some took the courageous step of dancing on their own.

Haase said she enjoys seeing the different generations of participants as the youth grow up and have children of their own in Operation Eagle.
The next event sponsored by Operation Eagle is a powwow in April at the Washington County Fairgrounds on a date to be announced.

“That is open to everyone, but it is sponsored by Operation Eagle. That is more of a traditional dance. We will crown our princess. We will have gourd dancing,” Haase said. “We will have a children and adults contest and in that contest they will get a payout like they do at other powwows. If you win your category, you will get a cash prize.”

To learn more about Operation Eagle, call 918-337-0130 or visit its Facebook page called Operation Eagle Title VII Indian Education.

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Osage artist creates façade for Crystal Bridges arts complex

By Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

Osage artist Addie Roanhorse took inspiration for the design for the facade of the Crystal Bridges Museum’s new performing and visual arts complex from a finger-woven belt, which is part of Osage women’s regalia.

Roanhorse was the guest speaker at the first ArtNight of 2019 Tuesday at the Bartlesville Art Association Design Center, 500 S. Dewey Ave.

The complex, Roanhorse said, is located between the Crystal Bridges Museum and the town square in Bentonville, Ark.

“Closer to the town square is an old Kraft cheese plant. They’re keeping the structure … but they are completely gutting it,” she said. “I was asked if I could design a pattern to be etched on glass that would go on the façade of this building. … I’m honored to do it.”

She went to Bentonville, and the director said, “I just want to honor the people who were here pre-colonial. … It felt really good that they wanted to honor Osage people. That was our hunting territory way before any of this.”
She named the design “sway,” explaining her intention that the design would suggest movement and be based on the finger-woven belt worn in Osage women’s regalia.

The belt is fixed at the waist of Osage women’s regalia, and flows down the back.

“Women wear it, and when you dance, it starts swaying. When I was a little girl, I used to think that was the coolest thing. I’d be with my aunties, and we’d be dancing. … it’s just this moment and this feeling that, again, only Osages would truly understand,” Roanhorse explained.

In creating the design, Roanhorse used graphic art principles, simplified the design in the belt and created the suggestion of movement.

“The entryway of the design will actually go up and over in a very large scale. Then there’s the façade on this side, and it goes up five stories. So, it will have the design, really tiny, going all the way up. … At night they’ll shoot movies on it,” Roanhorse said. “When I went and saw it, it was amazing what they’ve done. I got to work with architects in Chicago. … It’s just been a great experience. … They plan on opening February 2020.”

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Addie Roanhorse at Bartlesville Art Association’s ArtNight, February 2019.


Roanhorse is a graphic designer and photographer for the Osage Nation.

Roanhorse delivers on gallery experience

By Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

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Addie Roanhorse at Bartlesville Art Association’s ArtNight, February 2019.

A few months before the P.W. Mercantile opened, Osage artist Addie Roanhorse purchased a two-story, 105 year-old building in downtown Pawhuska with a business partner.

Roanhorse converted the first floor into event space called “Partake,” which she used to create a youth art event in 2018. The second floor is an Airbnb called “The Little Rainsong Loft.”

Roanhorse decided to use the space to have an exhibit featuring the work of children and on the second night an art auction of work by her artist friends to raise money for teachers.

Roanhorse delivered 100 12-by-12 canvases to the elementary and high school students and said, “get these back to me in the next four weeks, and we’re going to have a gallery showing with every one of you.

“We called it the gallery experience,” Roanhorse said.

Because so many wanted to participate in the elementary school, the teachers suggested having the students write paragraphs about why they would like to participate. She received 68 paragraphs from fourth- to sixth-graders.

On the second night they held the art auction. The Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce director, who is also an auctioneer, auctioned the pieces. “It lasted 18 minutes, and we raised $1,875,” she said.

With the funds raised, Roanhorse gave Amazon gift cards to the 57 teachers at the public schools in the area.

“We don’t have art in our schools, and I think that’s a big reason why kids have anxiety. They have stresses in those paragraphs. I started crying when I read them. … you have football and then, you have basketball. But, what about the kids that don’t get that stress reliever out of that or are not very good at it. I know I was terrible. I think it’s important for our kids. Our society is producing very one-sided kids. We can’t send them out into the world and say ‘be successful’ with one-side of your brains.

“But, again, I grew up in this environment where I just, I don’t want to say I took it for granted, but I just didn’t realize. When I had a kid say, ‘well, where do you paint?’ At my studio. ‘Well, what’s a studio?’ ‘What’s this?’ ‘It’s a paint brush.’ ‘Well, where do you get this?’ They really didn’t know. So, just slowly kind of trying to spread the event where we can.

“We’re definitely doing the event again this year,” Roanhorse said with a smile.

Addie Roanhorse speaks about the importance of family, her connection to Osage murders, her art and work for the Osage Nation

By: Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

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Addie Roanhorse at Bartlesville Art Association’s ArtNight, February 2019.

Artist Addie Roanhorse spoke for the first ArtNight of 2019 in February at the Bartlesville Art Association’s design center.

Roanhorse, who works for the Osage Nation as a graphic designer and photographer, gave a slide presentation highlighting the breadth of her work in graphic design, painting, photography and mixed media.

She covered too much ground to be written in one article, so in the E-E, the articles were split into several columns. Here, three are combined into one. However, there will be one more to be published next week.

Roanhorse began with the importance of family.

“My family is obviously number one for me. My family is why I’m an artist. The Killers of the Flower Moon book — I have a relation in the book,” said Roanhorse.

Slides provided examples of her work in progress and completed pieces.

“Family is the most important thing as an Osage. We’re always taught that our elders and our children are the most coveted thing. They’re precious and we can learn from both. So, of course I would start out with my family.

“My mom, her name was Gina Gray. She went to the Institute of the American Indian Arts, and she also went to CalArts,” she said.

Roanhorse grew up mainly in Santa Fe but traveled back to Pawhuska to see grandparents.

She moved back to Oklahoma to finish her degree at Rogers State University in Claremore. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Roanhorse moved in with her to care for her. Gina Gray died three months later.

“I believe everything happens for a reason. … I would never in a million years think oh, I live in Pawhuska, but here I am living in my mom’s house.

“It was kind of therapeutic in a way because I got to work on the last projects in college. It was bittersweet. …”

Upon graduating she went to the Osage Chief and pointed out that the tribe had no artistic position — no graphic artist. Chief Standing Bear agreed that there was a need.

“He said, ‘when do you graduate?’ I said, ‘on Saturday.’ He said, ok, be here Monday and I started work on Tuesday. They literally created the position for me, and I’ve been there ever since,” she said with a smile.

She showed slides of her mother’s art. “She did watercolors,” Roanhorse said. “She did a lot of warriors. … Now I actually do a lot of strong women. … She always represented parts of our culture — different bands and clans and just kind of brought our people into our artwork. That’s a huge indicator of my artwork too. It’s who I am. If I were a writer, I’d be writing about the Osage people and our culture.”

She described her daughter, Anya, age 11, as the Tiny Indian. “That’s her nickname.”

She showed her work at the SantaFe art market. She got a ribbon and sold out and this was at age 10. Anya has also taken up photography.

“The local newspaper pays her $40 per print so any big event she’s always out there being the on the beat person.”

“This is [Anya’s] latest venture. She’s doing embroidery on canvas. She put a little bit of black paint on the canvas and said, ‘it’s mixed media.’ So, she’s learning, but I’m super proud of her.

“My brother Danté, he’s an artist as well. He’s an oil painter. It’s almost like if you took my mom’s artwork and split it in two. I took one side, and my brother took the other. His artwork is very — it’s dreams.

“He’s a combat vet from Afghanistan, and we’ve had him home now for four years so it’s really nice that he’s started to paint again. I believe Pendleton Blanket has picked up this piece. …”

Her grandfather, who passed away when she was about 10, was a full-blood Osage.

“Everything I remember about him is just so vivid. Everything he taught us about Pawhuska, our culture and being a small business owner. He was a really great guy.”

She showed a photo of him in regalia during the In Lon Shka dances held each June in Pawhuska.

Her grandmother was mostly Osage but a little bit French, she said.

“Her mother was Grace Roan and Grace’s father was Henry Roan. … that’s the connection to Henry.”

He was one of the Osages written about in the book “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann.

“We went to the book signing of David Grann in Pawhuska … he looked up at me and said ‘…I just want you know there are going to be things in this book you probably have never heard’ and he was absolutely right. It took me several months just to get through the first section of it. I’m glad the story is finally out there.

She saw a friend in who had read the book and said, “I’m sorry. … Being just in Bartlesville, this close, and nobody’s ever talked about this. No one knew about this. …”

Recently, while acting as the Osage Museum’s acting director, museum she received questions about her great-great grandfather.

“It’s uncomfortable sometimes … because people want to know uncomfortable things about what happened. … I want to educate them, but it’s gone a little too far sometimes with the questioning. I just try to be polite, and do the best I can.”

She shifted topics to her paintings.

Roanhorse has integrated oil lease maps into her art.

She showed a painting of an Osage woman and said, “There’s nothing more of an indicator that connects Osage people to their land then oil. I’m also a seamstress so I decided to cut the maps up … I’m making a shirt out of it.”

The forehead of the woman’s face was red. Roanhorse used red tissue paper to create this effect. She used molding paste and acrylic paint applied in beads from a cake-decorating bag to give the art more dimension.

Roanhorse showed a slide of another piece that she said was reminiscent of screen printing.

She showed another portrait of a woman with Prismacolor on canvas with ledger paper from 1897 utilized for clothing.

“It’s pretty delicate but when I get it down, it’s nice.”

She showed another portrait containing actual Pawhuska phone book strips.

She explained, “in Pawhuska the first three digits are always 287. Growing up visiting Pawhuska, I just thought it was the funniest thing when somebody gave their phone number — they’d just give the last four digits.”

She showed a painting of her grandfather, which included Osage orthography.

“I created stencils and spray paint to kind of give it a different effect. And then that’s an actual photograph. …”

On the next slide, she showed a painting of her grandmother, which she described as “more calm” than the one of her grandfather. At the bottom of the painting were red hand prints in a row.

“Those are my daughter’s handprints from when she was five. “The red hand represents friendship on our blankets that we make,” she said.

She showed a painting of her great-great grandfather, Henry Roan.

“Now that you get access to everything on the internet, I stumbled upon the FBI files. You can literally pore through documents and so I started printing off documents … there are actual pieces of the story. Western Union communication back and forth with Hoover. So, I thought that was an interesting way to present it, and you have to get up close to it to see it — to read it.”

For another of her paintings she went to her elders committee to ask for permission to depict tattoos.

“My biggest fear is that someone will see it and be like, ‘oh yeah, I’m going to go get tattoos,’ but these are warrior tattoos. I got the clearance from them. … It’s another opportunity for me to talk about my people and get firsthand information. … With the internet people just assume they know what they want to know about us but if you open a dialogue with people that ask questions about it — I think that’s the best way you can.”

In another painting she uses stippling to create the look of a lazy stitch used in Osage beadwork.

“I just liked the effect … when we were in Santa Fe there were people who thought it was real and they came up and tried to touch it — like real beadwork.”

Regarding her graphic design, she said she does a lot of logos.

“There’s a lot that I have access to so I started to incorporate the photography in and again this is a flyer but if you look closely it’s actually the back of a girl’s shirt. There’s the stitching. It’s a ribbon that goes down and there’s the button that holds the ribbon together. So, it’s just kind of always trying to weave my culture into it.

She said that when Osages see it they recognize what is being depicted.
“It makes me feel good.”

For the Osage Attorney General’s logo she incorporated the scales of justice into the Osage orthography.

For the Oil and Gas Summit she included Osage ribbonwork.

“I get access to moments that most people don’t get to see. When the Killers of the Flower Moon production company came they were cedaring off everybody. She photographed a moment when Chief Standing Bear was being cedared off.

Another photo she had taken was of an eldest son, phonetically “ee-low-mpa” in the Osage language, going to the arbor to dance at In Lon shka for the first time.

“He had a little skip in his walk, and he was proud.”

One day she accompanied the Wildland Fire Department as they fought spring wildfires in the Osage.

She was in a fire truck between Hominy and Skiatook.

“There were fires all around, and it was quite the scene. It was exciting. This was kind of the aftermath.” Fire Chief Ross Walker was in the photo and through the landscape and smoke there was an oil rig in the background.”

Finally, she showed a photo from behind of Chief Standing Bear with his grandson talking to him about getting ready to enter the arbor and be roached, a ceremony in which an eagle feather is placed on the headdress. His uncle Joe Don Brave’s hands are shown assisting with the placement of the headdress.
Another photo she showed was of the first time they brought in the bison on Bluestem Ranch, which is owned by the Osage Nation, and prayed over them, she said.

“The sun was setting and the natural light worked with it.”

“This was at our dance as well. This is one of our elders about to lead all the men into the arbor into our dances — every June.”

Another photo was of the drum being brought to the arbor.

“Each district had their own drum and so it’s very poignant moment to see all the men coming with the drum.”

Crystal Bridges is building a new performing and visual arts complex. Closer to the town square is an old Kraft cheese plant. They’re keeping the structure … but they are completely gutting it.

The director contacted her.

“I was asked if I could design a pattern to be etched on glass that would go on the façade of this building. … I’m honored to do it,” Roanhorse said.

She went to Bentonville, Ark., and the director said, “I just want to honor the people who were here pre-colonial. … It felt really good that they wanted to honor Osage people. That was our hunting territory way before any of this.”
She named the design “sway” explaining her intention that the design would suggest movement and be based on the finger-woven belt worn in Osage women’s regalia.

The belt that is fixed at the waist of Osage women’s regalia, and flows down the back.

“Women wear it, and when you dance, it starts swaying. And when I was a little girl, I used to think that was the coolest thing. I’d be with my aunties, and we’d be dancing … it’s just this moment and this feeling that, again, only Osages would truly understand.

She simplified the design in the belt and created the suggestion of movement in the design.

“The entryway of the design will actually go up and over in a very large scale. Then there’s the façade on this side and it goes up five stories. So, it will have the design, really tiny, going all the way up. … At night they’ll shoot movies on it.

“It’s way bigger than I could ever … and when I went and saw it, it was amazing what they’ve done. I got to work with architects in Chicago. … It’s just been a great experience. … They plan on opening February 2020.