Columns

Wakon Iron

I often spent time with my Uncle Wakon Iron. He always kept a small drum by his chair and when nearing his front door one could hear him singing with the drum. I know he had many things and many people in his life that he cared about. Two of those were the Osage People and the Osage Baptist Church located north of the Pawhuska Indian Village, also known as Indian Camp. I have always thought of him as a sincere and caring person who supported those things he cared about in a private and non-public way.

He was born in 1891 on the south bank of Cedar Creek, a small stream a few miles north of Pawhuska. One crosses Cedar Creek after turning east, going to Bartlesville. It is a perfect setting for a camp. The site has a natural high rock wall on the South and Cedar Creek on the North. With a natural artesian spring just a few feet from the edge of Cedar Creek.

His Osage name was Wa ko’n tia’n, he was the son of Wa e’g la’n ka, also known as Red Corn.

One evening Uncle Wakon told me of an experience he had as a young boy sitting on a blanket on the ground, listening to an old Osage Man of Knowledge. He and the other young boys sat in a semi-circle facing the Old Man. The Old Man placed several small sticks, side by side in front of himself. The Old Man picked up one of them, and while holding the stick he explained to the boys what that stick represented. 

When he finished explaining the meaning of the stick the Old Man laid the stick down and picked up the next stick and told the boys what that stick represented. 

He said in the one session he remembered very well the sticks represented different Clans in the complex structure of the Osage People,

He told me we are a part of the Tsi-zhu  Wah-shta-ge Clan. He said the Tsi-zhu Wah-stah-ge are peaceful people.  He thought that is why our family has so many artists. 

Most Osage families that I know of have had elders they got to know. I suppose some of them, for various reasons, did not get to know their Elders as well as they wanted to know them. Those who did know their Elders have an appreciation for them. 

I, like others who grew up in Osage Country, have known some older Osages who were not closely related, and in all of those instances those Older Osages treated them with a respect they appreciated. I know that was my experience. I remember as a child being surprised at how many of those Older Ones remembered my name, and who I was. 

Uncle Wakon told me and that he and our Grandfather were full brothers and because Grandfather was no longer with us that Uncle Wakon’s role was to take Grandfathers place as our Grandfather, and he took that responsibility seriously.        

I believe that view of life to be the reason those Older Osages knew who I was when I was a child, even if I did not know who they were. Also, I know that is a very good way to build a life.