Photo caption: Participants of the 10th Annual Cultural Encampment gather for a group photo before breakfast on Oct. 21. SHANNON SHAW DUTY/Osage News
As 8-year-old Stellah McKinley put it, the WahZhaZhe Cultural Center’s 10th Annual Cultural Encampment was the “Best. Night. Ever.”
More than 150 participants traveled from Oregon, Washington, California, Texas, Kansas, Missouri and across Oklahoma to attend the encampment, which was being hosted for the first time at the Nation’s Bluestem Ranch.
“I thought it went really well. It was hot, then it was cold, but my favorite part was the different location. For nine years we’ve done the Cultural Walk [at the Cross Bell Ranch] and I think it was just symbolic that since we’ve purchased this land now that we actually get to be here and make use of it,” said WahZhaZhe Cultural Center Director Addie Hudgins. “It also gives the Osage constituency that participates an opportunity to experience the ranchland as well.”
The day began early with a 10 a.m. departure time for the ranch, which produced a caravan of vehicles and two buses snaking their way across dirt roads to the camp’s location. Once everyone arrived they unpacked and got to work setting up camp. A lunch of sandwiches, chips and desserts was served buffet style. The location of the camp sat next to a creek bank where children played for most of the day. Participants took advantage of workshops hosted on herbal remedies and archery provided by Jaime Clark, a public health nurse, while others helped to cut meat, peel potatoes and help with preparations for dinner.
The evening brought everyone back together for a prayer given in Osage by Language Department Director Vann Bighorse, who is also the former cultural center director and who began the Cultural Walk in 2008. A delicious dinner of boiled potatoes, meat gravy, steam fry, frybread and squash was served.
Singers arrived after dinner and cultural center staff hosted two handgames, with participants round dancing and playing into the evening hours by firelight. Children played around the camp with their flashlights while others watched the games.
Afterward, participants made s’mores and roasted hot dogs over the fire while children lined up to make hot chocolate as the temperature began to drop. The fire was kept going as one by one participants told ghost stories and Osage language instructor Christopher Cote told stories in Osage and then translated them afterward.
For Dori Biggerstaff and her husband, who is from Kansas City, it was their first time to the Osage.
“This is our first time to ever do anything related to the Osage Nation,” she said. “My favorite part was around the campfire, the stories, and the dancing and the drums.”
Breakfast was served in the morning and the participants gathered for a group photo. Children and adults alike talked excitedly about the trip and talked about plans for next year.
Adam Hannah, who is originally from Pawhuska but now lives in Edmond with his family, said he went on the Cultural Walk two years ago and the participation has nearly doubled.
“I thought it was really nice. There are a lot more people here than the last time we came. The songs and the dancing were really nice and instructional,” he said. “There were some people who were from California and it was their first time to be around the culture and they were absorbing the information and it made it fun, teaching them about everything.”