The University of Missouri hosted five Osage high school students this summer in the inaugural MU-Osage Summer Experience Week, “Learning from Our Land.”
The weeklong program provided hands-on learning opportunities, place-based experiences and land-based research on Osage ancestral heritage and culture.
“The summer experience for Osage students is the first in what is planned to be an annual program supported by the Osage Nation Education Department and Natural Resources Department and the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry as recipients of the USDA NIFA New Beginning for Tribal Students grant program,” according to a release.
In 2019, a partnership between the Osage Nation and MU created the Land of the Osages Research Center, a facility and program dedicated to providing an outdoor classroom for students studying agroforestry.
This year, students Vada Cass, Justin Maker, Conner Boyd, Shaley Boyd and Krislynn Maker, reaped the benefits of that partnership. The connection between the Nation and MU began years ago when the ON Historic Preservation Office partnered with the university on multiple projects.
Located just west of the Lake of the Ozarks, the research center sits on more than 500 predominately wooded acres. Ancestors of the Osage and other tribes resided in present-day Missouri during the Mississippian periods before their moves west toward present-day Oklahoma, according to the ONHPO website.
Accompanied by Osage Food Sovereignty Coordinator, Harleigh Moore, the students spent several days on the MU campus. They lived in a dorm and visited with students and faculty to learn about research and education opportunities relevant to their interests. Activities included a tree-ring science and forest ecology lab, seed saving from native fruits and herbs, a silvopasture forage study, a food science lab with elderberry juice, hiking and kayaking with birding where eagles, kingfishers, least bitterns, and herons flew close by along the water, Moore said.
Additional community events included a farm and market tour with connections to the Osage Nation’s Harvest Land activities and a Missouri River boat trip to Osage petroglyphs above a cave on the river.
The NIFA-funded project, titled “MU-Osage Food and Agriculture Program for Tribal Student Recruitment, Engagement, and Success” grew from expressed Osage interest in youth education at the MU Land of the Osages Research Center and a goal to increase Osage presence and involvement in MU’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (CAFNR) and MU Center for Agroforestry activities, according to a release.
“With leadership from the Osage Nation Education Department staff, students have been informed and advised about this opportunity in addition to a scholarship for three Osage students to attend MU in a CAFNR degree program. Partnership with the Education Department has been critical to accomplishing the project’s goals, and the first scholarship recipient will begin her undergraduate studies at MU this fall,” according to the release.
Students also had a chance to connect with other Native students at MU during their welcome dinner and beading circle with the Four Directions Native and Ally student group. Kilan Jacobs, a researcher with ONHPO, joined the group at the research center to share about the importance of the area for the Osage people, according to the release.
“As the collaborative project continues, organizers hope to sustain the relationships established through this program and grow more opportunities for MU and Osage partnership,” according to the release.
Osage students interested in the MU CAFNR scholarship or the summer experience program may contact Robynn Rulo, ON Education Dept. at firstname.lastname@example.org or Hannah Hemmelgarn, Univ. of Missouri Center for Agroforestry at email@example.com.