Julia Lookout is known for her boisterous personality, her fierce love of family, her devotion to the Osage Nation and her incredible singing ability. She sat down with the Osage News to tell us about her life.
Lookout was born in 1948, shortly after WWII to F. Morris Lookout Jr. and Kathryn Colleen Orrill, both of Hominy. Her father had been in the Army and returned to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, to finish his degree. She was born in the OSU infirmary and lived in Quonset hut student housing that housed returning WWII veterans.
She is the granddaughter of Fred Morris Lookout, the oldest grandchild of the Osage Nation’s last Hereditary Chief, Fred Lookout and his wife, Julia Pryor Lookout, her namesake. Both her great-grandparents attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Her great-grandmother Julia was 12 years old, and her great-grandfather Fred was 14 years old when they left for Carlisle.
“I am the oldest daughter, oldest granddaughter, and oldest great-granddaughter. When I was born, there were four other Julia Lookout’s either by birth or by marriage. I am now the oldest living female of the Lookout family,” she said. “The oldest Lookout male is Herman ‘Mogri’ Mongrain Lookout, our Osage Language Master Teacher and founding director of the Osage Language Department.”
Osage News: Your family has a famous history among the Osage. Nearly every Osage knows the story of Chief Fred Lookout. Tell me about your grandparents and great-grandparents.
Julia Lookout: My father’s father Fredrick Morris Lookout Sr. “Freddie” was from Pawhuska; he married his betrothed, Mary Entoka Wilson who was from Fairfax, Okla. My grandpa Freddie was betrothed to his wife Mary as children (yes, an arranged marriage). He courted her in Fairfax and then Hominy.
My mother’s parents were Richard and Pauline Graves Orrill, they divorced, before I was born. My grandmother Pauline remarried a full blood Osage, Carl Kemohah. I had two full blood Osage grandfathers on my maternal and paternal sides.
ON: What is your Osage name, clan, and band?
JL: My Osage name is Me-Tsi-Xhe (Sacred Sun). Nettie McCarty, one of Black Dog’s daughters, named me. I am so honored to have such a prestigious cultural Osage give me my name. Me-Tsi-Xhe is a common name in Osage culture, as it also represents the first daughter.
It used to be the tradition for the child to take the name from the father’s clan and band. That does not always seem to be the case in present day, as there has been so much intermarriage. My dad was adamant about following longstanding tradition. When my sons were born, he insisted that my white husband be adopted by someone of an Osage clan which would enable my sons to take a clan through their father. My grandfather Carl Kemohah (Elk clan) had passed; so, we asked my grandpa Carl Kemohah’s half-brother, Jess Townsend (Bear clan). They had the same mother but different fathers. Thus, my ex-husband was given an Osage Bear Clan name which makes our sons Bear Clan. This was my father’s understanding of our traditional ways. Please do not take what I have said as what should always be done. My dad came from very traditional Osage family, so I always did my best to follow my father’s beliefs. It is a new Osage world today! Many Osages are doing some things differently.
ON: What is your district?
JL: Belonging to a district is a complicated question. I consider myself to be fortunate to be from all three districts. I followed what my father and grandparents told me: My father believed you belonged to the district of your mother. My father’s mother Mary Wilson was from the Grayhorse district. My father’s Lookout family is from the Pawhuska district where he eventually became a Drumkeeper. Although my father was born in Hominy, my grandfather Freddie Lookout, moved to Hominy when he married my grandmother, Mary Wilson Lookout.
My grandmother Mary wanted stay close to my great-grandmother, Grace Butler Wilson, who was originally from Grayhorse. She was a widow and married John Abbott; thus, moving to Hominy. Directly after college, my father Morris Lookout and my mother lived with my grandfather in Pawhuska. Later, they decided to move to Hominy near his sister Julia Lookout Red Eagle (I told you it was complicated). I spent my formative years in Hominy where I lived in Black Dog’s daughters’ (Aunt Nettie McCarthy and Aunt Kate Barker) home which my father purchased. The house is across the street from the historic Drummond homes. I often wonder why if the Drummond homes have such historical significance, why isn’t the home of Black Dog’s daughters considered a historical landmark as well? After all, our history on these lands supersedes the Drummond family’s arrival by hundreds of years. As I grew older and would encounter certain elder Drummond men, they would tell me, “We always thought you were just the cutest little half-breed girl.”
To answer the question, when my sons were old enough to dance, I was perplexed what district to choose. I was close to my sister, Liz Ricketts so I chose Pawhuska!
ON: How many children do you have?
JL: I have three sons. Brian Lookout is my E’lom pah! Michael and Joseph Lookout are my twins. The boys’ births are 2 years apart. Brian and Joe have a catering business, Ah Tha Tse “We Eat” Catering in Pawhuska, serving the Osage Nation as well as the public. Brian and Joe have an extensive background and education in the culinary arts. They have been invited to many out of state events and prepare Native foods and other culinary delights. Michael lives in northern Illinois and works refurbishing fireplaces and chimneys.
A dear friend of mine passed on so I took her daughter as my own. She was too young to not have a mother. This a Native tradition. Her name is Libbi Revard Gray and she is a strong champion of women who are battered and abused, missing and murdered Indigenous women. She worked for the Osage Nation for many years and now has moved on to start her own organization called “Noise!”
ON: How many grandchildren do you have?
JL: I have 13 grandchildren. There are eight boys and five girls. Libbi Gray and her daughters have given me four great-granddaughters.
ON: I know you have lived many places. Can you share that with us?
JL: I spent my formative years in Hominy and moved to Tulsa for my junior high and high school education. I lived in Miami, Oklahoma, where I attended Junior College and Stillwater where I was born and went to school at Oklahoma State University. I spent many summers in Pawhuska staying with my grandparents. I left college to become a flight attendant with American Airlines and was based in Chicago, Illinois. I later married and moved north of Chicago to Gurnee, Illinois. My husband and I moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as he was promoted with Outboard Marine Corporation. My sons were born in Baton Rouge. Later, we moved back to northern Illinois outside of Chicago. I divorced and moved to Santa Fe, N.M. I married a doctor with the Santa Fe IHS Indian Hospital and lived there for 11 years. My company was sold to a larger corporation, and I was asked to move to Dallas, TX. Also, for business purposes, I kept an apartment in Mishawaka, Indiana, home of Notre Dame University. My father, Morris Lookout became ill; so, I moved back to Hominy for a year to care for him and ease his passing. I then moved back to Pawhuska.
ON: What are some of the places you have worked? I remember when I first met you in 2007, and I was amazed at your extensive resume.
JL: I have worked and traveled the world but like a homing pigeon, I always returned to the Osage in June. I have worked as a ballet dancer, flight attendant, model, station talent for television commercials, an NBC affiliate, senior administrator, and a marketing executive. Many corporations like American Airlines, Premore Productions which produced the Sonny & Cher and Carol Burnett shows, MMI Companies, Executive Board Liaison who insured major hospitals and physicians, Abbott Laboratories Worldwide for the Chief Operating Officer and Pecos River Learning Center which became AON Corporation (both Fortune 100 Corporations), our Osage Nation as the Special Assistant to Principal Chief Jim Gray for eight years, and as the Executive administrator and procurement for our Osage Wah-Zha-Zhi Health Center under Ron Shaw, M.D. and the Clinic Manager.
After 6 years at the Wah-Zha-Zhi Health Clinic, I recently left due to changes in leadership.
ON: What are your fondest memories as a child?
JL: Playing with the Osage Barnes girls whose parents were Angie and Jerome Barnes who lived on the corner from my parent’s home in Hominy. Their sister Mary and I were such tomboys. Also staying with my grandparents who raised my sister Mary Elizabeth Hopper Ricketts in Indian Camp USA. Growing up Osage but didn’t realize it at the time! (laughs)
ON: Where did you obtain your education?
JL: I put a lot of emphasis on my high school education as I attended a prestigious college preparatory school, Monte Cassino. I had no idea at the time, how much value and impact it had on my life. It took the financial support of my parents and grandparents to have this education. I attended Northeastern Oklahoma College and Oklahoma State University. Flight Attendant school and training with American Airlines. Along the way of my life and the people I have chosen to surround myself during my employment have lifted me to heights I never dreamed. I tell my grandchildren to surround yourself with smarter and wiser people to learn.
ON: How much has the world changed since you were young?
JL: I will only speak about how our Osage world has changed. I was born in the late 1940’s and our Osage world was small and far more intimate when I was a young girl. Osage families and events happened much more often because our families were closer. Hand games that celebrated birthdays, holidays, etc. were often celebrated in what we called “summer houses.” Summer houses were a small building with many windows so the air could be recirculated when it was summer. Our people also slept in those small houses as their larger homes were not air-conditioned in the heat of the summer, thus called a “summer house.” I had many birthday celebrations in Aunt Netti McCarthy, Black Dog’s daughter’s summer house. So many Osages spoke our language fluently. Celebrations were always spoke in Osage. Our elder women still dressed traditional. I rarely if ever heard my father speak Osage, but distinctly remember an elder woman came up to my father speaking Osage to him, and he answered her, and I was like astonished as I guess times were changing! I was used to my grandfathers’ speaking Osage to us kids and him speaking with his siblings though. I miss our full blood elders but when you are a child you just don’t think anyone will ever die.
ON: What was the happiest time of your life?
JL: I have lived a full life, traveled the world and it is difficult to say what were the happiest times. My sons have brought so much happiness and joy to my life. With patience and time, it has brought great happiness. It is all about family!
ON: Tell us about growing up in a house full of singers and champion dancers?
JL: To be truthful I did not really think much about singing or dancers in my youth. With a father who was the first to be head singer at all Inlonshka districts, it was what I thought was the norm. When your father sings in the car everywhere you go and sings at our home, it becomes second nature. I knew no difference. Without trying, you absorb the music and not realize it. You name the singers and composers of our music, like Joe Rush, Sylvester Warrior, Russell Rush, Lamont Brown, Jack Anquoe, and so many more. Singing was a calling for my dad, much like a religious calling. His dream was to have an all-Osage drum. It was not to exclude other tribes but for our young Osage men to understand their accountability, for nothing more to give our Osage men a better understanding of our music at the deepest level which was brought to us from the Poncas. My dad would often comment, look at so many of our Osages dancing round and round the drum, with many not knowing what songs were being sung at the drum. I only know now, how significant and what a privilege it was!
As far as champion fancy dancers at my home, they would flock to my parents’ home in Tulsa to practice and dance behind some of the best singers out there. Again, it was the norm to see such champions as John White Cloud, Willard Brown, Darryl Wildcat and Norman Kaubin, Anthony Lookout to name just a few. I hate to tell it, but I would put on my brother’s bells and dance with them at times. Way too much fun.
ON: What do you love most about being a lady singer?
JL: I do not think I ever started out in life thinking I wanted to be a lady singer! It was not till I got to go to my first 49 that I realized how fun it was to sing. You would think it would have been a natural progression with all the singing that went on around me growing up. At 49’s I could sing at the top of my lungs, and it was a blast. It was then I realized how great it was to sing. I was hooked. My father loved to tease so I was not always keen on telling him about my new discovery or passion. We always used to camp at Tulsa Pow-wow and one afternoon someone brought a 49 tape, and we were all listening to it. Someone said to my dad, Morris do you know who that girl is singing loudly? He said, I have no idea! He was shocked to hear that was his daughter! I never dreamed I would ever have a place at the Inlonshka drum. Morris Lookout was clear about the etiquette or protocol at the Inlonshka and the drum. Since my dad was head singer it seemed to me it would be unlikely, I would ever get to sit at the drum. It is not like you can take your chair and go sit out there. You must be asked initially when the Drumkeeper selects his committee. The head Singer although can make exceptions sometimes and asked as it is such an honor. In the late 1980’s as fortune would happen, two of the lady singers were not able to sing that weekend. If it was not for others at the drum, they asked my dad to let me come out. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I have been out there for over 35 years so it must have been meant to be. I get emotional talking about it because I have sat out there among the greats. Genevieve Oberly Satepauhoodle was right by me all the way. She always used to sit behind my dad. Others were the Anquoe sisters. My great-grandmother Julia Pryor Lookout was a lady singer. I am blessed to be there as you don’t get any closer to heaven than there. It is a view that few Indian women will ever have, or the view of the Inlonshka from the inside out. So many stories to tell! LU LU LU!
As a young child, I never gave it much thought about being Osage. I thought living amongst the districts was just how life was. I just know I was loved and was loved by so many from each district. I just know that being Osage is not your blood quantum. It is about living it that it becomes the norm. My life has gone full circle and I returned home and will never leave now. There is a lot to be said about living in the Osage. I am fortunate to have also worked in the Office of the Chief for eight years and the Wah-Zha-Zhi Health Center for six years. I am a champion of the Nation’s employees as they are the backbone of the Nation and the services that serve Osages all over the world. As our elders have told us, be kind to each other and those Osages who have not had the fortune to live here, it is up to us to be kind and educate them so they feel welcome. “Be the Change you are trying to Create!”