Community , Culture

Three Osages to be honored at 9th Annual AARP Indian Elder Honors Oct. 3

Osage elders Jerri Jean Branstetter, Rosemary Wood and the late Charles Red Corn have been selected for this year’s 9th Annual AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors. The event will take place at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oct. 3.

The Elder Honors is the largest recognition program of its kind and honors elders for their contributions to their tribes, communities, state and nation. Since its inception in 2009, AARP Oklahoma has honored more than 400 elders from all 39 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma, according to a release.

“The AARP Indian Elder Honors recognizes the extraordinary contribution of Indian elders – many of whom have never been recognized before,” said AARP Oklahoma Volunteer State President Joe Ann Vermillion in a prepared release. “Last year’s honorees included teachers, veterans, nurses, artists, tribal leaders, language and culture preservationists and even a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.”

Branstetter served a six-year Osage Nation Congressional term after she was elected to the First Osage Nation Congress in 2006. She was also a member of the Osage Government Reform Commission prior to the ratification of the Osage Constitution in 2006. During her tenure as a Congresswoman, Branstetter served on several Congressional committees including the governmental operations and rules and ethics committees. She was elected Speaker by her Congressional colleagues in 2010 and served until her term expired in 2012. Branstetter is retired from working in Oklahoma state government where she worked at the Dick Conner Correctional Center north of Hominy. She currently serves as the chair of the Osage News Editorial Board and has served in that capacity since 2013. She is of the Hominy District and is the mother of the late Hominy Drumkeeper Marvin Lee Clark II. She resides outside Wynona with her husband Johnny Branstetter.

Wood served two four-year terms on the Osage Tribal Council from 1994-2002. She graduated from St. John Hospital School of Nursing in 1963, the University of Oklahoma in 1965, and from Rutgers University in 1971 with a Master of Science in Psychiatric Nursing. Along with her partner, Janice Kekahbah, Rosemary co-founded the American Indian Alaska Native Nurse’s Association (AINNA). She taught at the University of Oklahoma College of Nursing and worked as a Psychiatric Nurse Specialist at Central State Hospital in Norman, Okla. Wood was the first American Indian to hold the position of Chief of the Nursing Branch IHS. She later became Special Assistant to the IHS Director. She was detailed to upgrade Haskell’s Practical Nurse program to a Registered Nurse program. Her Osage name is Ho^-Be Do-Ka (Wet Moccasins), and she was born Sept. 4, 1939 to John Mosier Wood, full-blood Osage, and Lois Hunter Wood, Choctaw. She lives on originally allotted land and raises white face Hereford cattle in partnership with her nephew Justin Carr, grandson of T. J. Mercer.

AARP is posthumously awarding Charles Red Corn with an Elders Honor this year. Red Corn passed away peacefully at his home on July 23. Red Corn was the author of “The Pipe for February,” a story about murder, lawlessness and fear during the 1920’s, told from an Osage point of view. He was also the culture columnist for the Osage News since 2012, and was the author of numerous award-winning works. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Master’s in Education from Penn State University. He was a U.S. Army Veteran, lifelong participant of the In-Lon-Schka Dances, the first Dartmouth Tribal Fellow Scholar, Indian Elder in Residence at the University of Illinois, Rockefeller Fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago, Director of the Oklahoma Indian Association, Director of the Indian Oil and Gas Association and he was an educator. He was a member of the Tzi-zhu-wash-ta-ghi, Gentle Sky Clan and his Osage name was Wah-ni-un-tah which is Giver of Life. Charles was also a name giver for his Tzi-zhu-wash-ta-ghi clan which was passed down to him by his Uncle Wakon Iron. 

For more information about the AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors, please contact Mashell Sourjohn at (405) 715-4474 or msourjohn@aarp.org.