Osage Wedding Clothes featured at Tribal Museum

The University of Oklahoma and the Osage Tribal Museum collaborate on Osage wedding Regalia Exhibit

By: Roseanne McKee

On the evening of Feb. 19, the Osage Tribal Museum and Library hosted a presentation about a new exhibit undertaken in collaboration with the University of Oklahoma, which will open in December 2015.

The exhibit, which has taken five years to create, will include of a collection of over 100 Osage wedding photos of from several sources and the display of Osage wedding regalia.

Dr. Daniel Swan a University of Oklahoma professor gave a presentation with photos about the significance of Osage wedding clothing past and present.

“It seemed to us that this was an opportunity to undertake a project that’s still relevant to the community today. It’s close enough in the past that we’re not going back to the nineteenth century. We’re talking about the early twentieth century here.”

According to Dr. Swan, the significance of the regalia is twofold. First, the clothing was worn as wedding attire.

Second, “these wonderful wedding outfits have come to be incorporated into the passing of the drum or the paying of the drum,” Dr. Swan explained.

As he showed photos, he added, “you’ll notice that people have made identifications on the photos, which makes these collections stronger also.”

Because of the many requests to see the photos, a website has been created called http://www.osageweddings.com and over 6,000 people have visited the site, Swan said. “I really encourage you to visit the website to piece together these important stories of Osage history.”

The sources of the historic photographs gathered were: the Osage Tribal Museum, the University of Oklahoma’s Western History Library and a number of private collections.

The exhibit also provides a window into some of the customs associated with Osage weddings in the early twentieth century.

“We basically have the photographs to tell the story of a traditional Osage wedding from the very beginning of the negotiative process between the families, all the way to the completion of the wedding and the formation of a new family. It’s just tremendous,” he said.

Explaining this negotiation process, Swan said, “one of the things that my colleague, Jim, has turned up is a wonderful set of photographs that document the taking of food to the bride’s family, so for four mornings we have this procession where they’re taking the food every day as part of this negotiative process.”

In addition to showing photos, Swan played a silent film of an Osage wedding in the 1920’s and described additional details of the wedding.

“One 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.”

In gathering information for the exhibit, “the Osage people and members of the community, have been incredibly generous and forthcoming in sharing these resources,” he said.

Swan was impressed with the abundance of information people had shared for the exhibit. “We have the words of the Osage people themselves…. To me it’s just amazing that we have the voices of the Osage people to tell the story.”

“There are wonderful oral history materials,” Swan said, citing the Doris Duke collection, which funded a number of oral history projects around the country in the 1960s with Native American communities, which are kept at the University of Oklahoma. “It’s one of the few collections where community members interviewed community members,” he added.

“Our own Kathryn Red Corn did some interviews for this. She did some really important ones. Leonard Maker, Sr., did a lot of these and his wife did a lot of these interviews.”

“Vann Bighorse at the Wahzhazhe Cultural Center has a complete set of the recordings, which is really important,” Dr. Swan said.

Whereas in the past only transcripts were available, Swan explained that now, “you can go over there, any time the library is open, and listen to those recordings” at the Wahzhazhe Cultural Center in Pawhuska.

Another oral history project that provided helpful information for this exhibit was the White Hair Memorial, located between Hominy and Fairfax in a 1920s-era home which had belonged to Lillie Morrell Burkhart, a descendant of Osage Chief Pawhuska (White Hair).

A past project also provided helpful material. Beginning in 1983, Dr. Swan worked with Maurice Lookout to take on a project in which Osages interviewed Osages. Lookout and John Henry Mashunkashey had interviewed all of the members of the Pawhuska Committee “about the dance and the passing of the drum and the responsibilities of the drumkeeper and the other committee members,” Swan said.

“This was the year that Vann Bighorse took the drum, so it’s this wonderful resource – this glimpse into the workings of the committee and how you put a committee together and how you get ready to pay for the drum.” These recordings are available for listening at the White Hair Memorial, Swan added.

“There’s a wonderful recording in the series he did with his Aunt Mary Standing Bear Lookout in which she talks about a wedding outfit and she goes through and discusses each and every piece and the care that she took when she put these outfits together to help someone pay for the drum,” he said.

There are many archival sources and “an incredibly rich body of material out there” on the subject of Osage wedding regalia, including the Bartlesville Historical Society, Swan said.

“They have wonderful materials. We’ve been able to find great documentation over there. A lot of these weddings were written up in the newspapers of Tulsa and Bartlesville.”

Swan shared that Romaine Shackelford, had conducted research of government documents on microfilm at the Osage Tribal 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.

Swan encouraged guests to visit the University of Oklahoma’s website: http://www.ou.edu for digital collections such as Doris Duke’s, the Indian Pioneer Papers, the Native American Manuscripts, photographic archives, which are all free and available to be downloaded from the website.

Delaware Tribe Hosts Housing/Loan Seminar — All Tribes Welcome!

On Tuesday, Aug. 19, the Delaware Tribe will host a Housing/Loan Seminar at the Delaware Tribal Complex, 170 NE Barbara, Bartlesville, Okla., in Forsythe Hall at the Community Center at 6 p.m.

The seminar, presented by Legacy Tribal Consultants, will provide details of the Section 184 Native American Home Loan program. This event is free and open to the public. A question and answer session will follow the presentation.

The Section 184 loan program offers competitive, low mortgage interest rates for: home purchase, refinance, rehab or construction including double-wide and modular homes — and loans are not limited to property on tribal lands.

Approved borrowers must be members of a federally recognized tribe with photo I.D. and tribal registration card.

Unlike traditional loan programs which are credit-score driven, Section 184 loans do not require a particular credit score. Instead, borrowers must demonstrate a pattern of good rental or mortgage history for the past two years, have all credit collections, judgments and tax liens paid, and have two years of work history in the same line of work and/or school enrollment.

Approved borrowers must be currently employed with verified income and those with past credit problems must provide written explanations of derogatory credit.

The loan program, guaranteed by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), has lower down-payment requirements than traditional loan programs. The Section 184 loan program offers borrower down payments of only 2.25% for mortgages over $50,000 and just 1.25% for mortgages under $50,000.

In addition, the source of down payment funds may be: borrower’s own funds, gift funds, secured loan funds or tribal down payment assistance.

Another attractive feature of the Section 184 loan program is that in purchase scenarios, contracts may specify that sellers pay prepaid fees, such as taxes and insurance, and other costs at the home closing. For more information, call the Delaware Tribe of Indians at 918-337-6590.

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Osage Ballet to hold July performances in Skiatook and Miami

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(L-R) Sean Steigerwald, Arthur Rocha, Sasha Kotelenets and Chad Jones. Photo by: Bill Riley

By: Roseanne McKee

“Wahzhazhe” an Osage Ballet will again grace the Oklahoma stage. The Osage Ballet will hold six July performances of “Wahzhazhe, an Osage Ballet,” at two Oklahoma venues — Miami and Skiatook.

Three performances will be held at the Skiatook High School: July 18, 19, at 7:30 p.m. and July, 20, at 2:30 p.m. at 1000 W. 4th St., Skiatook, Okla.

In addition, there will be three performances at the historic Coleman Theater in Miami, July 25, 26, at 7:30 p.m. and July 27, at 2:30 p.m. at 103 N. Main St., Miami, Okla.

The director, Randy Tinker Smith, made the decision to hold these summer performances following the warm reception by audiences in 2013 at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Bartlesville Community Center and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

Smith said that the ballet “Wahzhazhe” tells the story of the Osage people from their first encounters with European visitors to the present day. Called the “Masters of the Battlefield” and sometimes referred to as the happiest people in the world, the Osage people monopolized trade because of their organization and order. Highlights of “Wahzhazhe” include: the Osage’s journey to Oklahoma territory, their wealth through the discovery of oil in the minerals estate, and the manner in which they now walk in two worlds.

The Osage Ballet operates under the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, 101 E. Archer St., Tulsa, OK 74013, as a non-profit organization.

“We appreciate donations from the Osage Nation Foundation, Iron Hawk Energy Group and other area oil businesses,” Smith said. “These donations help us continue to bring the story of the Osage people to the Oklahoma stage.”

Tickets are available at to door for $10 for children and seniors and $12 for adults.

For more information, or to make a donation, contact the Osage Ballet at 918-704-4668 or via e-mail at osageballet@gmail.com.

Donations to the Osage Ballet may be mailed to: the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa at 101 E. Archer St., Tulsa, OK 74103.

Visit the Osage Ballet Facebook and the website at: http://www.osageballet.com for photos and updates.

Osage Ballet holds Art Auction and Fashion Show

(L-R) Madeline Pennington, Emily Pennington and Jenna Smith model designs by Wendy Ponca and Terry Wann inspired by Native American clothing.Image

By: Roseanne McKee

The Osage Ballet held an art auction and fashion show on April 25 at the Harwelden Mansion in Tulsa.

Native-American fashions by designers Wendy Ponca and Terry Wann were inspired by the Osage creation story, which tells of sky people, called Tzi-Zho, coming to earth from the sky and marrying the earth people called Hun-kah.

“Two of the models represented the sky people and one the earth people,” Ponca explained. “The earth model is clothed in buckskin, otter skin, copper and shells just as those found at the Cahokia Mounds.”

The sky models were dressed in Mylar® with crystal necklaces and Eagle headdresses, Wann said. According to Wann, she chose to use Mylar® because a similar substance was found at the UFO crash site in Roswell, NM.

“It’s my interpretation as an artist,” Wann said.

Models Madeline and Emily Pennington hail from the GrayHorse Village near Fairfax and Jenna Smith is from the Pawhuska Village.

Following remarks by Osage Ballet Director Randy Tinker Smith, Native-American art was auctioned to benefit the Osage Ballet. “It’s very expensive for us to continue this,” Smith said, explaining her desire to continue to offer opportunities for audiences to see Wah-Zha-Zhe an Osage Ballet telling the history of the Osage people.

The proceeds of the evening will go toward summer performances of Wah-Zha-Zhe in Skiatook and at the Coleman Theater in Miami, Okla.

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Educators, Parents and Students attend Rally on Capitol Steps

(L-R) Osage Hills Elementary School teachers Jennifer Gilkey and Mindy Englett at the Rally for Education held at the state capitol on March 31, wearing the tee-shirts Englett designed which read “In it for the outcome…not the income.”
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By: Roseanne McKee

For the first time in over two decades, an estimated 25,000 educators, parents and students gathered on the steps of the state capitol on March 31 at 10:30 a.m. to rally for public school education in Oklahoma and the children it serves.
“We were not there for ourselves. I was there for Osage Hills, for my students, for your child and my children,” explained Osage Hills Elementary School Math Teacher Mindy Englett. “It really bothers me that there are legislators out there who thought it was selfish for us to be there.”
To bring attention to their true purpose, a group of teachers purchased and wore tee shirts designed by Englett, which read “In it for the outcome — not the income.”
In describing the highlights of the rally, Englett said, ‘the most amazing speaker I heard was a high school student who compared herself to a flower and teachers to gardeners.” According to the speaker, teachers have the power to help students blossom or wilt depending on the resources they have, Englett said.
Explaining how the rally came about, Pawhuska Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Landon Berry said, “Several months ago the Education Coalition contacted me saying that there might be a rally.”
Berry, who has been in education for over 22 years said, “the last big rally was over House Bill (H.B.) 1017.”
H.B. 1017 sought to lower class sizes and increase funding, explained Osage Hills Schools Superintendent/Principal Jeannie O’Daniel, an educator for 25 years.
A recent House Bill has gained ground since Monday’s rally. H.B. 2642, provides for “small, guaranteed increase each year through the state funding formula,” O’Daniel explained.
The conundrum is that even if H.B. 2642 becomes law, it will take time to gain the ground lost.
“They’ve been cutting us for years, they can’t replace it all in one year,” O’Daniel said.
Those interviewed echoed concerns with a central theme – the state mandated curriculum has changed and those changes have not been facilitated through funding or curriculum.
Pawhuska High School Principal Joe Sindelar: “There’s a whole new philosophy of education, but we can’t even get the textbooks and resource materials to implement it. Where is the funding for those materials?”
Osage Hills Superintendent/Principal Jeannie O’Daniel: “We’ve had reform after reform coming very rapidly and there’s no funding to back it up; and if there has been it is because they’ve taken funding away from somewhere else. We adopt textbooks on a six-year cycle, one subject per year, but we’re supposed to implement Common Core all at once.”
The resulting budget challenges are only part of the problem because textbooks containing the Common Core curriculum simply don’t exist in many cases.
“We’re scrambling to find resources that really teach the Common Core content and concepts,” O’Daniel said. “The cover of the textbook changes, but that doesn’t mean the content of the textbook has changed.”
“I agree with the general objective of Common Core, analyzing and critical thinking, but how are we going to get there? We’re not being given the tools to get there” Sindelar observed.
To complicate matters, the name of the Common Core curriculum has changed recently. Math and language arts are still referred to as “Common Core Curriculum,” but the other subjects have been renamed “Oklahoma Academic Standards,” O’Daniel explained.
One might wonder without textbooks how schools are informed about the mandated Core Curriculum and Oklahoma Academic Standards.
“The standards are provided by the state education department and tell what concepts should be taught in what grade,” O’Daniel said.
With legislation to revoke it being considered, some wonder if Common Core will remain in place. “There is talk of repealing Common Core standards so districts are now up in the air as to what the required standards will be,” O’Daniel said.
Understanding what her district faces, Math teacher Mindy Englett works to conserve resources for the benefit of her students.
“With budget cuts, resource funds are limited and it’s tougher to justify the purchase of new textbooks for a curriculum that may be repealed,” Englett said.
No matter what challenges her district faces, O’Daniel’s attitude is positive.
“I have good teachers and that makes all the difference in the world,” O’Daniel said beaming.
Describing the situation his school district faces, Dr. Berry said, “This comes down to a lack of money to educate kids. I’ve been a superintendent for 12 years and the money goes down every year. You have to reduce staff and class size increases…It’s getting to be a critical stage,” Berry said that Pawhuska Public lost over half a million in revenue for the 2013-14 school year. “We’re going to cut $200,000 more from next year’s budget,” he added.
Summing up the reason for the rally, O’Daniel said, “we’ve all reached a breaking point and that’s why we went. We’ve had major changes in the educational system in the past four years. None of these is bad, but they’ve all come at the same time without the funds to implement them.”
Dr. Berry shared a statistic: “Since 2009, percentage-wise we’ve gone through more cuts than any other state in the nation. In 2013, we were number three, and this year we’re number one according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute.”
Berry said he spoke to three state legislators on March 28 at the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce Gala about the problem. Berry’s message to the legislators: “It’s a hard choice, but we make hard choices every day. You have to step up and do what’s right for kids.”
Sindelar said that he spoke to State Representative Dennis Casey recently about his concerns. “He’s very pro-education. He gets it,” Sindelar said. “I asked Dennis, ‘does this make an impact?’ He said, ‘actually, it does.’ Teachers and administrators have an impact, but parents also make an impact…If parents call legislators to say, ‘we don’t have textbooks, or resources, it really has an impact.’”
Educators are asking their legislators important questions that deserve answers. What are the ripple effects of state legislators placing education low on the list? Are teachers drawn to work in Oklahoma public schools if the state doesn’t pay competitive wages?
“When I first went into teaching there were hundreds of applicants for each job. Now there are just two or three and schools advertise early for positions,” Englett said.
“My niece went to Missouri to work as a teacher and makes $10,000 more there,” said Osage Hills Support staff member DeDe McMillan.
Another ripple effect could be a reduction in tax revenue in the years to come.
Dr. Berry said, “We’ve got kids out there who need to be educated so they can work, pay taxes and pay in to social security for those retiring.”
It took a lot for educators to get to the point that they felt a rally was necessary,
Englett said, but “If we don’t stand up now, what’s going to happen to future generations?”
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Osage Ballet to Hold Fundraiser Art Auction and Fashion Show April 25th

By: Roseanne McKee

The Osage Ballet will hold its second annual fundraiser on April 25, from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the historic Harwelden Mansion in Tulsa. In addition to an art auction, this year’s fundraiser will feature a fashion show inspired by Native American clothing by designer Wendy Ponca. Tickets will be $15 at the door. Hor D’Oerves and wine will be served. The Harwelden Mansion is located at 2210 S. Main Street in Tulsa.

“The Harwelden Mansion provides a beautiful backdrop for this elegant evening,” Director Randy Tinker Smith said. “Last year’s fundraiser exceeded our expectations and with the addition of the fashion show, we expect this year’s event to be a great success.”

Attendees may bid on the silent auction or the live auction, featuring renowned artists, including Native Americans. Works by: Anita Fields, clay figure, Ken Foster, oil painting, Joseph Chamberlain watercolor painting, Black Dog Creek, turquoise necklace, Charles Chapman, gilcee, and Jim Red Corn, print, are among the paintings and fine jewelry to be auctioned.

The funds raised will help fund the summer performances of “Wahzhazhe: an Osage Ballet,” which was well received at 2013 performances at Tulsa Performing Arts Center and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

The summer performances are planned at the Skiatook High School July 18, 19 and 20, and at the historic Coleman Theater in Miami, Okla., July 25, 26 and 27.

“These summer performances continue our efforts to provide opportunities for area residents to experience the story of the Osage people through ballet,” Smith said.

For more information call Randy Tinker Smith at 918-704-4668 or email at osageballet@gmail.com

Donations may be sent and made payable to: Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, 101 E. Archer St., Tulsa, OK 74013. This is a non-profit organization and donations are tax deductible. Also visit  the Osage Ballet Facebook page and website at: www.osageballet.com.

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Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy prepares for upcoming Open Houses March 30 and April 6 from 2-4 p.m.

By: Roseanne McKee 

Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy will hold two Open Houses on consecutive Sundays, March 30 and April 6, from 2-4 p.m. in Pawhuska at 200 Palmer Avenue. The academy is located just south of the police department in the building which previously housed the senior center.

The Open Houses will provide an opportunity for prospective students to learn the class schedule, the dress code, meet instructors and sign up while sharing light refreshments.  

Evening and day classes will be available serving students from age three to adults, Dance Director Jenna Smith explained. Classes for younger students will meet once per week, while classes for older students may meet twice or more per week.

Ballet is not just for girls. Boys are also welcome and encouraged to sign up, she added.

Initially, only ballet classes will be offered, Smith said. Later, jazz and modern dance classes and other performing arts education instruction will be added:  musical theater, drama and painting.

Smith, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Dance Performance from Oral Roberts University, is an accomplished artist and teacher. Smith has taught ballet at the Tulsa Ballet and the Jasinski Dance Academy for the past two years.

Smith began dancing when she was three, and began pre-professional ballet training in the sixth grade with Pavel Rotaru.

During her senior year of high school she studied with Prima Ballerina, Maniya Barredo, in Alpharetta, Ga., and attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts her freshman year of college as one of only eight accepted from across the U.S. into the college ballet program.

In 2012, Jenna choreographed Wahzhazhe: An Osage Ballet, which premiered in Tulsa, Bartlesville and at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the Native American in Washington, DC, in March of 2013. 

Smith, who is Osage and Cherokee, said she sees the academy as a way of giving back to the community.

“Because of the great success of this ballet, the interest in ballet is very high,” Smith said. “We look forward to serving the people of Pawhuska and the surrounding communities at our performing arts academy.”

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