Pawhuska committee unveils proposed dance arbor

The Pawhuska dance arbor committee stressed one thing to architects when planning began for a new arbor: It’s about the dance.

The committee unveiled the design for the proposed structure to more than 100 members of the Pawhuska District on Aug. 16 at Wakon Iron Hall. Pending appropriations from the Fourth Osage Nation Congress, the arbor should be finished by next year’s dance in June.

“We’ve been meeting for several months, meeting with the committee every week and something I hear every week is ‘it’s about the dance,’” said Whit Todd, architect for Tulsa-based Kinslow, Keith & Todd, Inc.

Todd, who also worked on the Grayhorse District’s dance arbor, said Pawhuska’s current arbor is 18,200 square feet and the proposed arbor is 36,100 square feet, nearly double in size. The new Grayhorse arbor is 23,400 square feet.

“The new Grayhorse arbor can fit inside the new Pawhuska arbor,” Todd said.

On the arbor committee is Head Committeeman Herman “Mogri” Lookout, Eddy Red Eagle Jr., John Henry Mashunkashey, Bruce Cass, Drumkeeper George Stabler Jr., Jon and Ryan Red Corn, Osage Congressman James Norris, Congressman Otto Hamilton, George Stabler Sr., Eli Red Eagle and Berbon Hamilton. The Five Man Board is also on the committee and consists of Paula Stabler, Paula Farid, Jodell Heath, Harrison Shackelford and Ryan Red Corn.

Stabler Sr. said the planning of the arbor has been discussed for the last 20 years, as different areas began breaking down and the dance grounds deteriorated. He said the design wasn’t the final design and everything depended on how much funding they would receive from the congress and wanted to keep the project under $2 million.

Cass, who is the director of the Properties Department for the Nation and will be the lead for the construction of the arbor, said once the funding has been made then construction will progress quickly. Cass said the Grayhorse arbor was built in four months.

Todd said the main areas they focused on with the design were the singers, dancers, acoustics, benches, bleachers, access and site improvement. The committee also hired an acoustics specialist from Texas to make sure the sound quality stayed the same as the current arbor.

The arbor peaks will run north to south, allowing for more ventilation. The outside ridges of the arbor will be extended to block out the evening sun. There will be air vents at the top of the arbor to allow heat to escape. Industrial ceiling fans have been proposed and Todd said the fans selected do not make sound.

“All things that affect acoustics are being discussed,” Todd said.

Handicap access will be available to the bleachers by ramp access. Sidewalks to the Grayhorse and Hominy camps, as well as the new restrooms, are planned. Light posts are also planned to light the sidewalks after the dance ends. Many people over the years have twisted and broken angles while walking back to their camps in the dark.

Family benches will consist of four rows circling the dance ground, there will be 3-4 times as much bleacher space and because the design doesn’t have any permanent structures within the arbor, the committee can expand or shrink the dance ground as they please, Todd said.

Red Eagle Jr. said the committee has worked very hard to anticipate everyone’s needs and the project hasn’t been finalized yet. He noted that for 200 years, Osages have kept their traditions, “same concepts, the same movements.”

“This new dance complex does not disturb the dance,” Red Eagle Jr. said. “At 3 O’clock, on Thursday afternoon, we’ll dance.”


Editor’s Note: The arbor committee has asked that no photos or videos of the proposed arbor be published until after their presentation has been made to the Fourth Osage Nation Congress.