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Elders Series: Frances Ann Hight Wetselline

The Osage News sat down with Hominy District elder Frances Ann Hight Wetselline as she shared stories about her life

On a sunny afternoon in September, Frances Ann Hight Wetselline was sitting on the front porch of her family’s home in the Hominy Indian Village. A white Pendleton blanket shawl with vivid blue stripes and fringe was folded behind her and laid across the back of the bench. She looked beautiful sitting there as she talked about her life. A nice breeze blew through, rustling the leaves of the pink rose bush by her front porch.

“It’s a beautiful day today,” she said. “I love it out here.”

Frances was born at Hominy Hospital on June 24, 1947, to Vivian Marie Hamilton Hight (Osage) and Bill Hight. She is the granddaughter of Ira Hamilton and Elizabeth “Big Momma” Pratt Hamilton and the great-granddaughter of Henry and Josephine Pratt and Amos and Marie Hamilton. She is from the Hominy District and her Osage name is Me Tse Xi, which means oldest daughter in the Deer Clan.

She graduated in 1965 from Hominy High School (where articles were written about her beauty and long hair) and went on to attend the University of Oklahoma. She transferred to Draughon’s Business School where she was named the “Dorm Dream Girl,” according to a 1968 article in the Tulsa Daily World. She went on to graduate with a business administrative degree from the school.

She worked in Tulsa and then moved to Dallas for work. After she got married to her husband of 25 years, the late Kenneth Joe Wetselline (Kiowa/Apache), they moved to Laguna, N.M. for a brief time. They moved back to Oklahoma and settled in Anadarko where she worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a Realty Specialist. In 1998, she became the Kickapoo Realty Director until she retired in 2008 after 34 ½ years working for the BIA. After her retirement, she moved back to Hominy to live in the house where her mother was born.

She has two daughters, five granddaughters and five great-grandchildren.

A rare childhood photo of Frances Ann Hight Wetselline, age 3, given to the family by a relative. All her childhood photos were lost when her mother’s home burned down in the 1970s. Courtesy Photo

Osage News: What are some of your favorite memories from your childhood?

Frances: “My years with my grandmother when I was young and growing up. And then my grandfather, those were very special years, being around them. I have a lot of fond memories of playing here, in the village. This was where I grew up, this is our family home, right here. My mother was born in this house. It belonged to my grandmother and grandfather first and then my mom and dad took it. Now, I’m living here. I’ve come back home. Momma said I could come back here and live in this house. It’s old, but I love it. All the memories here, we used to play out in this field over here (points south). I used to play a lot with my brother, I didn’t have many girls to play with around here. It was mostly boys, my cousins, Amos Shadlow, R.R. Brown, and my oldest brother Bill Hight. He had some friends from school that would come down and I played with them, I was a tom boy. I played football with them out there. Played basketball over there, we had our own little court, and we ran foot races around there, bicycle races, we just did many things. We built a fort on that hill back here, us kids, we just didn’t watch TV much. We were busy playing and being around each other doing things. Those things like that are very special to me. I loved to go to football games, my uncle Curtis Dobbins, played football. My cousin Amos Shadlow played football and my brother Bill Hight played football. And now, my great-grandsons are playing football and I am so proud of them. We had so much fun going to the games with my mom, dad, grandmother, grandfather, just different ones, but we always attended the games. I was a little cheerleader when I was in junior high, in Glee Club in high school, I sang, participated in speech contests.”

News: What was the village like back then?

Frances: “A lot simpler in many ways. My grandfather’s house was there (points across the road to the south). It burned down a couple of years ago. That was the Hamilton homeplace and my grandfather lived there for many years right before his death, but he sold that to his sister and she left it to her daughter Mary Frances Kidder, and so the Kidder kids owned that at the end, but it burned. Anyways, this house still stands. There used to be a house there (points across the road to the north), it’s gone. There was nothing here, nothing at all. On my Pratt side over here (points to the north), George Pratt and Henry Pratt Jr., they lived in that house off and on and we grew up with those kids. Aunt Lucille (Roubedeaux), the Matin house was over there on the corner (points to the south), April Mitts lives there now. And then aunt Marguerite (Matin) lived over there where Everett Waller lives now. We didn’t have the big arbor at all. We had our dances in the roundhouse, that’s where I started dancing, in the roundhouse. We didn’t have an outside arbor then. We had a little community building on the side, it was little, but that’s where they used to have the committee dinners, if you can believe it. Now, you see lots of people! Woo! (laughs)

“Our peyote grounds were right in the back over there (points across the street to the south). The Hamilton peyote grounds, and those houses down there, that used to be all empty. We used to ride horses down in that field.

“We had Native American Church down there, my grandfather ran that, for almost all my time. I was named in that church, my oldest brother, brothers and sisters.”

A high school photo of Frances Ann Hight Wetselline. Courtesy Photo

News: How much has Hominy changed since you were young?

Frances: “When I was growing up, the city of Hominy was a pretty busy little town. There were a lot of stores, kids were always around up there. Most of the kids here I went to school with, now there’s a lot of them that have gone on. But we had a really big band, the football games have always been the #1 thing for Hominy. We just had a bustling little town here and when I came back in 2008, there were no more stores, and we don’t even have a grocery store here anymore. It’s really sad to see it has gone downhill so much. But of course, our families are still here carrying on, that’s how we were taught. We were taught to carry on the best we can.”

News: Who are your heroes?

Frances: “My grandfather, Ira Hamilton. He stepped in as a father after my dad died when I was a teenager and took that place. I really did look up to him. He helped found the Hominy Indians. I’m also very proud of the fact that Henry Pratt, Nom Pa Walla II, he was my great-grandfather. Anyways, I’m very proud of those facts.”

News: What was the happiest time of your life?

Frances: “I think when I had each of my daughters, they were almost 10 years apart, my two girls. Which made them both very special in their own way, because there was a big difference in their age. I was always happy to see my grandchildren being born and I’ve also got to see my great-grandchildren being born and I’ve been very blessed to have them. Also, growing up here, I have the dances that I’ve participated in from when I was little. I told the kids that I remember, right here in the front room, I was young, and momma was dressing me. You know the oldest, we wear red, and mom was putting my skirt on and belt, and the Town Crier walked by. He used to walk by in those days, anyways he walked by, was hollerin, and goin. Momma said, ‘Oh, we’re gonna be late, hurry’ and she was jerkin me around, trying to get me ready. (laughs) Those things, and when my daughters, granddaughters were born. My grandpa used to tell me it was a blessing to have so many daughters, I heard him say that.”

Frances Ann Hight Wetselline working as a Realty Specialist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Anadarko, Okla. Courtesy Photo

News: What do you love most about being Osage?

Frances: “For me, it was my simple life. I was taught to be simple. Of course, I was raised with the peyote way, over here (points south), to believe in God, and be good to one another. I love the dances; they really make me feel good when I get out there and dance. Of course, now, I can’t hardly dance but I love it. I always have and I like being taught our peyote way and I was being raised to know how to carry on with that way. Being the oldest, I was being taught to carry that on. So, those things I love because of that. I love it because I was also a cook.”

News: What’s your favorite dish to cook?

Frances: “Chicken and dumplins, that’s my favorite. And frybread. My grandkids just love it. My mom loved it, she would say, ‘fix the chicken and dumplins’ and that was my dish.”

News: What is something people don’t know about you?

Frances: “When I was at school at OU, I was the Indian Club princess. I was voted as the Outstanding Student at Draughon’s Business School and was interviewed by the Tulsa World. I was a cook when M.L. Clark II was a Drumkeeper. I had cancer. My surgery, they were able to get all the cancer and I’ve been cancer free over a year now. Lot of people didn’t know those kinds of things, but I’m not one to go out and say something. I’m thankful and I feel blessed that I’m here today, can’t ask for anything better.”

News: What is on your bucket list?

Frances: “I’m not one to do a lot of traveling, I did when I was working, I traveled a lot. I think my bucket list would just to be able to see my grandchildren and great-grandchildren graduate, that’s important to me.”

News: Who are the greatest loves of your life?

Frances: “My children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

A newspaper clipping of an article about Frances Ann Hight Wetselline being crowned as the 1965 Sequoyah Indian Club Homecoming Powwow Princess. Courtesy Photo

News: What is your favorite Osage meal?

Frances: “Chicken and dumplins, frybread and meatpies. Growing up, Shipp Taylor, she was a white lady, but she could make the best meatpies. She was a cook and you know, white ladies back in those days could really cook Indian food. Papa used to hire Ms. Mose to do his cookin over there and her frybread would come out so fluffy. I love hominy, and you know a lot of people don’t fix that. I remember when Papa would have peyote meetin over there and he would have that hominy, would have that oil cloth laid out there, put that hominy out there, wash it, get it in those ashes and wash it, get it ready, put it all out, roll it, and he would have to go out there and sprinkle water on it, roll it again, until it gets its certain tenderness and then you cook it. Aww. My uncle Fred Hamilton, momma’s brother, he used to fix barbecue out there and then you put that barbecue inside that frybread, best sandwiches!”

News: What is your motto?

Frances: “I told my kids to be respectful of other people, that’s the way I was taught. From a very young age I was taught to shake hands, say hello, be kind, be good to people. I always tell my children to trust in the Lord, it’s very important. I tell them to pray.”


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Shannon Shaw Duty
Shannon Shaw Duty is the editor of the Osage News. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a master's degree in Legal Studies, Indigenous Peoples Law from the OU College of Law. She served on the Board of Directors for the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) from 2013-2016 and served as a board member and Chairwoman for the Pawhuska Johnson O’Malley Parent Committee from 2017-2020. She is a Chips Quinn Scholar, a former instructor for the Freedom Forum’s Native American Journalism Career Conference and the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute. She is a former reporter for The Santa Fe New Mexican. She is a 2012 recipient of the Native American 40 Under 40 from the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED). In 2014 she helped lead the Osage News to receive the Elias Boudinot Free Press Award, NAJA’s highest honor. An Osage tribal member, she and her family are from the Grayhorse District. She currently resides in Pawhuska, Okla., with her husband and six children.

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