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Elders Series: Kenneth Bighorse

Kenneth “Kenny” Hemphill Bighorse, 81, was born in Pawhuska, Okla., on Aug. 24, 1935 to Pete and Florence Bighorse. He is the grandson of Andrew and Laura McDougan Bighorse. He attended school in Indian Camp, then Franklin Grade School till the sixth grade, then to Pawhuska Junior High and then High School where he met his wife Toby Theresa Brown Bighorse. They have been together since their junior year in high school and have been married for 61 years. Together they have four sons: Kenny Jr., Scott, Vann and Pete. They have eight grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren. He attended Tulsa Junior College where he took engineering classes. He worked for Land Operations for the BIA for 35 years. He sat on the 28th and 29th Osage Tribal Councils and was Assistant Principal Chief of the 31st Osage Tribal Council. He took over as Pawhuska Drum Warmer for the Pawhuska In-Lon-Schka District after his father passed away. He passed that responsibility to his son Pete, who has been Drum Warmer for the past 31 years for the Pawhuska District.

Osage News: What are some of the most important lessons you have learned in your life?

Kenny Bighorse:  To be patient, thoughtful, loyal and speak when you have something important to say.

ON: What would you say are the major values or principles that you live by?

KB: Honesty, Integrity. Don’t be a liar or thief, be on time or early. I believe in my Catholic faith.

ON: How has the Osage Nation evolved in your lifetime?

KB: The dances and working for the Tribe on the hill. When working in Land Operations there were eight of us, downsizing of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

ON: Do you like the new government? What do you think the Osages of your youth would think about the new government?

KB: There are parts of it I like and parts I don’t like. I like that we all as Osages get the right to vote. I think the Minerals Council should retain their independence. Some of the of the Osages would like it, some would not like it.

ON: What are the differences in the In-Lon-Schka today from when you were young? Do you like the changes?

KB: There used to be more fancy dancers. They used to have about 25 dancers. Now we have close to 300.

ON: What District are you from, what is your Osage name.

KB: Pawhuska District, Mah-Zha-Ki-Tah,

ON: Who roached you for the In-Lon-Schka?

KB: Ed Red Eagle Sr.

ON: What is your favorite thing about the In-Lon-Schka and why?

KB: Camp, family reunion, family time.

ON: What is your favorite Osage food?

KB: Meatpies

ON: Who are your heroes?

KB: Ted Brunt Sr. I really liked him, he was my best friend. We worked together till he passed away.

ON: What was the happiest moment of your life?

KB: Going down to our dances and being with my wife and children.

ON: What are you most proud of?

KB: My four sons. They are real good men.

ON: What is your earliest memory?

KB: Going to the softball field and watching the older people play ball and playing with my cousins out in Indian Camp; and when we all moved to town. Fishing with Anthony.

ON: Who or what did you love the most?

KB: My wife, we were high school sweethearts.

ON: What was your favorite thing to do for fun?

KB: Golf and football, baseball, basketball – I love all sports.

ON: What was your favorite decade and why?

KB: The60’s, when I helped build the golf course with Lawrence. We built it and maintained it. We would mow the grass but then the Osage leased it.

ON: How would you like to be remembered?

KB: Good, faithful man, humble, honest.


Tara Madden

Original Publish Date: 2016-10-28 00:00:00

Osage News Staff
Stories that are not primarily written by an Osage News staff member will have a “Osage News” byline. These stories include press releases and other community content that was drafted by someone externally but reviewed and approved for publication by Osage News. As an independent news organization, we strive to report news and information with fairness and balance. While being the official news organization of the Osage Nation, we base our news judgements on our loyalties to our readers and Osage citizens, and we are not directly beholden to the Executive, Legislative, or Judicial branches of the Osage Nation.

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