Coming Home to Grayhorse

"A lot of work happens around the arbor to make each session flow seamlessly into the next. Clothes are sewn, camps set up, meals prepared and served. Yet, there’s a feeling that time slows down in this place separate from the everyday world."

The Mason Family camp in the Grayhorse Indian Village on June 3, 2022. STEPHANIE IVISON/Osage News

Before the Thursday afternoon session of the Grayhorse Inlonshka, I stood in my friend Terry Mason Moore’s house in Fairfax with my arms raised, while she pulled at the tie circling my waist to hold a broadcloth skirt in place. “Hold it here,” she said.

I was a little anxious, but also excited. I haven’t worn a broadcloth skirt before. I worried I’d melt in the heat. I remembered my cousins talking about dancing in Hominy and being wringing wet afterward. It’s not that I mind sweating, but I didn’t want to look like a bedraggled rat. Oklahoma Osages have the talent of being hot and looking beautiful at the same time.

I stood in moccasins and a new tank top and short leggings I’d bought when I remembered we’d be dressing outside, while Terry adjusted. Then, she showed me how to hold the finger-woven belt in place.

There’s a good feeling in having help getting your clothes properly settled, of women working and laughing together. Carol Arata dressed with us, while Terry showed us the technique she and her sister Tammy Mason Lux have developed to get their skirts on straight when they’re alone. Dressing sounds like a small thing, but it’s a big part of our Inlonshka and our culture, and no detail is too small.

A lot of work happens around the arbor to make each session flow seamlessly into the next. Clothes are sewn, camps set up, meals prepared and served. Yet, there’s a feeling that time slows down in this place separate from the everyday world.

I’m grateful to family and friends who welcomed me and shared Osage generosity, including the Mary Osage Green camp, Archie Mason, and Shaw/Pipestem camps. I’m also grateful to my Osage language class friends and teacher Tracey Moore—yes! to our conversation in Osage—and to those friends who talked to me about my writing. That was a surprise and a gift.

I’m one of few in my family dancing, so it was good to be under the arbor with Clark Batson and Traci Phillips. We’re from families who were disconnected from the tribe by violence. My great-great-grandmother was taken by the Cherokees, and, of course, she wasn’t alone. One hundred women and children were taken in those battles around Claremore Mound. She came back to the Osage late in her life and connected with her brother at Grayhorse. I wish I could have heard their reunion, seen their interactions.

Finally, there are good books coming out of Oklahoma Indian Country. I’ve written about Osage author Chelsea T. Hicks’ A Calm and Normal Heart, out in June from Unnamed Press, which is getting attention in Native literary circles and prompting conversation among Osages. For those Osages who are also Cherokee, as I am, check out Cherokee Andrea L. Rogers’ Man-Made Monsters, a YA story collection coming from Levine Querido in early October. Each story features a Cherokee version of a classic monster appearing in the Cherokee world and starts with beautiful art by Cherokee artist Jeff Edwards incorporating the Cherokee syllabary. Rogers says that readers can learn up to sixty Cherokee words. Reinforcing our sovereignty, while reading scary stories is the self-care we need during these stressful times.


  • Ruby Hansen Murray

    Title: Culture Columnist

    Twitter: @osagewriter

    Topic Expertise: Columnist, Literary Arts, Community


    Languages spoken: English, Osage language learner

    Ruby Hansen Murray is a freelance journalist and a columnist for the Osage News.  She’s the winner of The Iowa Review and Montana Nonfiction Prizes awarded fellowships at MacDowell, Ragdale, Hedgebrook and Fishtrap. She has been nominated for Push Cart prizes and Best of the Net. Her work is forthcoming in Cascadia: A Field Guide (Tupelo Press) and appears in Shapes of Native Nonfiction (University of Washington Press) and Allotment Stories (University of Minnesota Press). It may be found in Ecotone, Pleiades, High Desert Journal, Moss, Arkansas International, River Mouth Review, Under the Sun, the Massachusetts Review, The Rumpus, Colorlines, and South Florida Poetry Journal. She has an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and has written for regional and daily papers across the Northwest and received multiple awards from the Native American Journalist Association and the Oklahoma Pro Chapter of Professional Journalists. She’s a citizen of the Osage Nation with West Indian roots, living in the lower Columbia River estuary.