Community

Pawhuska Village breaks ground on Wakon Iron Park

Photo caption: Pawhuska Village Committee members, along with Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear (back center) and Osage Congresswoman Paula Stabler (back right) celebrate the groundbreaking for Wakon Iron Park on March 18. BENNY POLACCA/Osage News

Pawhuska Village residents celebrated its forthcoming Wakon Iron Park with a March 18 groundbreaking for playground equipment to be installed at the park.

Village Committee members, residents and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear attended the commemoration at the planned park site west of the Wakon Iron Community Building. Located at the corner of Wakon Iron Boulevard and Thunder Fear, the park will include two children’s playground sets for older and younger age groups.

Marjorie Williams, village committee chairwoman, said she revisited earlier years with Osage Congresswoman Paula Stabler (a former committee chairwoman) and she said there was a former park at the location in the mid-1990s before it rotted away. Williams said, “it’s been a dream to provide a newer park” for the residents that will last a long time.

Pending favorable weather conditions, contract workers will start digging the ground at a later date to install the used playground equipment sets purchased as surplus items from the City of Bartlesville. The equipment sets will be secured in the ground with concrete with plans to have the park ready for the June In-Lon-Schka dances, said committee member Fawn Cheshewalla.

“I hope you bring your babies out to enjoy it this summer, we’ll have a 5-12 year-olds’ playground set that will be for the older kids and a smaller set that will be for 2-5 year-olds,” Cheshewalla said.

The committee selected the park name Wakon Iron (1891-1967), whose name is also on the village community building after considering name suggestions from fellow village residents. During an early March village committee meeting, discussions stated the park name should focus on the historical part of the village.

A brief history of the community building is published on the www.pawhuskaindianvillage.com website, which reads: “The communal spirit of Village residents is how the Wakon Iron (building) came to exist. In the Osage tradition, families bring their loved ones home for wakes and funerals. Village resident Lilly Cunningham offered her home to host wakes and funerals for families, which didn't have a home in the village. It became clear a dedicated space for funerals was needed to accommodate the crowd and dinners. A Village resident, Wakon Iron, called a meeting to order and created a board to build a chapel for funerals and wakes. Later, a grant was obtained to build the shell of the current day Wakon Iron. The community came together to finish the inside. Wakon Iron is the center of Pawhuska Indian Village.”

Stabler said the milestone is a sentimental occasion for her and those who grew up in the village because others have said they want a place for the children. “It goes back beyond us, and even goes back to my dad (the late Paul Stabler) because he always said they didn’t have anything out here in those days, their basketball goal was an ‘X’ on the side of a building.

“But the main thing is when I told him a long time ago that we were going to put up a playground, he was not only excited we were trying to raise money for it, he brought a tape measure and made me go out and measure everywhere where everything was going to go and how big the basketball court was and he drove me around to look at basketball courts because it meant that much, so this is a good day.”

Standing Bear also agreed the park will be a great place for children to go especially when the dances are held, and he applauded the Village Committee’s work.

“What you are all doing is keeping this our home place because all this land that used to be Osage has went out, so now we have to find places where we can still live and here it is … Congratulations to all of you, I know our folks are real proud of what you’re doing.”