Culture , Columns

At one time, Osages were like stars in the heavens

Every Tribe of Indians that I am familiar with has a story to tell and each Tribe has its own way of telling that story. That is something to be respected. Today’s generation of Osage People are fortunate to have a tribal social life and government that grew out of ancient Osage teachings.

Today the technology available to continue telling the story of a People is also found in music or a movie, a book or told through television. While those can be helpful, the key to understanding an Indian life here on earth continues to be an awareness of the values of the group of People involved.

Like all People, Osages have faced important challenges over the centuries. We are grateful that those Ancient Osages through generations of oral history left us enough of a historic trail for Osages of today to maintain a strong confidence in a need and desire to continue being Osage, and of learning how to become more like who we want to be.

Those Ancient Ones combined centuries of existence and could understand an organized society of Osages based on clans that are made up of families.

It has been handed down by word of mouth that at one time Osages were like stars in the heavens. The People and their leaders determined they should descend to Earth. During that time following the descending to Earth there was a period of roaming the Earth.

The People learned the skills and strategies of existing on Earth. They learned of the weather and the seasons of flooding and tornados, as well as cold, icy, and mild weather. They got to know the movements and habits of the animals who they called their brothers. It is a beautiful story of how those stars came to earth.   The People walked the earth searching for the answers to their basic questions. It was during this period when the People learned ways of survival through generations of oral history and the use of our sophisticated clan systems. 

These sophisticated clan systems and our oral history passed down from generation to generation and helped our Osage leaders make decisions when a new found wealth was discovered on our Osage Reservation. During the 1890s when petroleum had become a vital part of the world economy, oil was discovered on the million and a half acres of what we call the Osage Reservation.  The leaders of the Osage People found a way to include every individual who had a reasonable claim to being a descendent of those ancient ones to share in the enormous wealth of the tribe. Osages at that time were considered in terms of monetary value to be the wealthiest group of people in the world. 

From my point of view I think our ancient ones would have considered the Osage People in terms of our clan systems and how they worked in our Osage society as the wealthiest group of people in the world even before the oil was discovered on our reservation.

Also, included in our wealth, was that in well over a century ago the Osages received the gift of a Drum. With this new cultural wealth came the teachings and procedures associated with the Drum that is called In-Lon-Shka. As most Osages know the Osages are divided into three districts. Those three districts are called Grayhorse, Hominy and Pawhuska, and traditional Osages are from one of those districts.

Osages are blessed with our cultural wealth and with this we are able to celebrate every year during the month of June with our fellow traditional Osages where we gather for four days at each of the three villages. This is a dance with roots that have endured the centuries where traditional foods are served and the drum provides the beat of centuries old songs. The Osages cultural wealth is a good thing.