Osage woman writes novel on captivity during 1820s

Osage writer Ruby Murray is making her mark in Oregon, Washington State, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

Murray was selected to read from her novel in progress, The Heart Stays People at a Celebration of Washington Artists on Sept. 7 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.

“The book reading was inspiring,” she said. “About 50 people attended according to the Artist Trust – In addition to the reading, an excerpt was posted and it was good to see people pausing to read my story.”

The event featured the work of nearly 200 films, literary and visual artists who have graduated from Artist Trust’s EDGE Professional Development Program since 2003. Murray participated in the program in 2010.

Murray’s novel is progress is set in the 1820's. It explores the lives of Osage children who were taken captive when the Cherokees were raiding Osage territory.

Murray said it is interested in what it was like for those children in that chaotic time. 

“Children always want to be with their parents, and they do what they have to in order to survive,” she said. “Captivity narratives about whites captured by Indians were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, but there has been little attention paid to the inverse situation.”

She first became interested and inspired to write about Osage captives when she heard the stories from her father.

“I began gathering research and interviewing people at least 10 years ago,” she said. “I took an intensive writing project with novelist Jane Vandenburgh through 2011, which gave me the form of the novel.” 

Murray is a licensed counselor who studied anthropology at the University of Texas and Marriage & Family Therapy at the University of San Francisco.

She’s written news stories for tribal, regional and daily newspapers. Murray’s essays focusing on loss have appeared in American Ghost: Poets on life after Industry, Oregon Humanities Magazine and National Public Radio.

She has been awarded residencies at Hypatia-in-the-Woods and Playa for her novel-in-progress. Hypatia-in-the-Woods and Playa is a retreat center for women in the Arts, Academe and business fields.

Her story, Children of the Forest, features an excerpt from The Heart Stays People.  It won first place in the historical novel category at the 2012 Oklahoma Writers' Federation Inc. (OWFI).

Murray also received an honorable mention at the 2012 Rising Star Creative Writing Competition for Joy Among the Angels, an excerpt from The Heart Stays People.

The competition is sponsored by the University of Oregon and draws submissions from Oregon, Idaho and Washington in poetry, fiction and literary nonfiction in three age categories.

Most recently, the Jentel Artist Residency Program awarded Murray a 4-week fellowship. Murray will travel to Jentel in October which is located 20-miles southwest of Sheridan, Wyo., on a working cattle ranch.

“Jentel provides communal space designated for research, recreation, food preparation and dining…here artists and writers experience unfettered time to allow for thoughtful reflection and meditation on the creative process in a setting that preserves the agricultural and historical integrity of the land,” according to a news release.

Murray hesitates to predict when her novel will be finished. She said she is revising it and is interested in making the story as beautiful as possible.

“I am grateful to be able to share my perspective and the stories I have heard,” she said. “We, Osages, have a powerful story. Many Osage have been very generous with me, and I want to honor that. I think the more tribal voices speaking, the better.”  

Murray’s grandmother is the late Jennie Mae Murray, and her father is the late Ted Murray, who born in Pawhuska.

In recent years, she has visited her cousin David Arthur Murray in Bartlesville. She is also related to Leonard Maker, and Preston Morrell from Hominy.

Murray currently lives in Cathlamet, Wash.