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Five students reap benefits from Osage Nation and MU partnership

High School students Vada Cass, Justin Maker, Conner Boyd, Shaley Boyd and Krislynn Maker study agroforestry at MU’s inaugural Osage Summer Experience Week

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.

Students provided hands-on learning opportunities, place-based experiences and land-based research with Osage ancestral heritage and culture at the inaugural MU-Osage Summer Experience Week at the University of Missouri. Courtesy Photo/University of Missouri

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.

Students took a tour of the Missouri River as part of the inaugural MU-Osage Summer Experience Week at the University of Missouri. Courtesy Photo/University of Missouri

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.

Kilan Jacobs, a researcher with the Osage Nation’s Historic Preservation Office, joined the group at the research center to share about the importance of the area for the Osage people. Courtesy Photo/University of Missouri

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 rrulo@osagenation-nsn.gov or Hannah Hemmelgarn, Univ. of Missouri Center for Agroforestry at hemmelgarnh@missouri.edu.

Students provided hands-on learning opportunities, place-based experiences and land-based research with Osage ancestral heritage and culture at the inaugural MU-Osage Summer Experience Week at the University of Missouri. Courtesy Photo/University of Missouri
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Shannon Shaw Dutyhttps://osagenews.org
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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