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KOTFM bus tour offers audience a chance to engage in Osage history

Sold out tour brought movie fans and history enthusiasts beyond the Oscar-nominated film. Participants spoke with Osages about history, culture and politics during the period before and after the Osage murders

Even the threat of cold and February rain didn’t deter Nadine Nunez from getting in the car and driving to Wakon Iron Hall in Pawhuska.

She and about a hundred others experienced the Osage News, KOSU Bus Tour, exploring some of the history beyond the groundbreaking book “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann and Oscar-nominated film directed by Martin Scorsese.

“I had a wonderful time and I learned so much,” Nunez said.

Shannon Shaw Duty, editor of Osage News said she was excited to offer the tour to those interested in a part of Oklahoma history that needed to be brought to light.

Osage News partnered with KOSU, the local National Public Radio affiliate to produce the tour-which included tour guides from the Osage community. They visited sites in Fairfax and outside Ralston that held significance in the book and film. Advertisements for the tour appeared right before the winter holidays last year and quickly sold out.

Participants learned about how the Osage Nation purchased their reservation, fought against the allotment act and some of the history leading up to the reign of terror.

Osage citizens who participated in the tour included Tara Damron, who is the site manager of the White Hair Memorial, the former home of Lillie Morrell Burkhart. The White Hair was one of the four stops on the tour.

Damron spent time curating some of Mrs. Burkhart’s collection of Osage ribbonwork, broadcloth blankets and broaches for guests to see.

“More people need to see her collection and know that this place is a resource,” Damron said. 

Billie Ponca is Lillie Morrell Burkhart’s great niece and worked at White Hair Memorial showcasing her great aunt’s extraordinary collection. 

“This is what Lillie wanted was to showcase her home as a museum,” Ponca said.

Ponca spoke with visitors on the tour bus and spoke with visitors at White Hair.

Other stops on the tour included Danette Daniels’ Fairfax Osage Reservation Museum and Water Bird Gallery; the Tall Chief Mansion and the Tall Chief Theater and exhibit about the reign of terror, organized by Carol Conner and the Fairfax Community Foundation organization she ran with her late husband Joe Conner.

Conner and Owen Hutcheson, an Osage citizen and writer and photographer for The Fairfax Chief told visitors some of the storied history of the theater, including a story about why the theater was built – to cheer up the community after all the murders occurred in the community and a shootout outside the theater.

Visitors also stopped outside the mansion and former home of Alex Tall Chief. Russ Tall Chief talked about some of its history and what it used to look like when he lived in it as a boy. The mansion is currently abandoned and there are questions about whether or not the structure can be saved due to sustained damage.

Daniels, who purchased and renovated the First National Bank building in Fairfax, talked about the importance of building the community of Fairfax back and wanting to own a piece of history. The building once housed the Shoun Brothers’ office; the two doctors accused of covering up the murder of Osages, including Anna Brown.

The evening ended at Wakon Iron with a dinner cooked for guests by Brian “Da Chef” Lookout, which included meat gravy, frybread, corn soup, squash, salad, lemon drop and chocolate cake.

Participants also got to hear from Osages involved in the film, including Talee Redcorn, Dr. Moira RedCorn, Dana Daylight, Margaret Sisk and Osage Nation Princess Lulu Goodfox. They spoke about what it was like to audition and how parts of the film were drawn from the book, “A Pipe for February,” a book written by the late Charles H. Red Corn, which was published in 2005.

Those who came and rode the bus said they hoped there would be another tour and they were so grateful this was happening.

“More people need to hear these stories,” wrote one participant of the tour.

Check out Osage News’ Flickr page to see photos and details of the tour.

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Allison Herrera
Allison Herrerahttps://osagenews.org
Title: Freelance Reporter
Email: aherrera@osagenation-nsn.gov
Languages spoken: English

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs Desk.

Herrera recently worked on Bloomberg and iHeart Media's In Trust with Rachel Adams-Heard, an investigative podcast about Osage Headrights.

She currently works for KOSU as their Indigenous Affairs Reporter. Herrera’s Native ties are from her Xolon Salinan tribal heritage.

In her free time, she likes buying fancy earrings, running and spending time with her daughter.

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