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Midwinter and the joys of Osage community

Chelsea Hicks and Aimee Inglis recently released "Osage Reconnection," a zine that gathers Osages’ artwork and poetry

I’m celebrating these darkest days of the year. In Cathlamet, we have eight hours between sunrise and sunset, an hour more in Pawhuska. That’s delicious darkness for sleeping, hibernating, golden light in windows. We’ve put the gingerbread bison on our Christmas tree, a heart-shaped ornament by Jessica Harjo among other favorites. 

This is the time when the old Osages were inside together in those big lodges telling stories. We tell stories in winter “when the snakes are frozen under ground” Francis LaFlesche says “because snakes [wets’a] as guardians of truth” don’t like fiction.

I began this column thinking about the latest actions by the Osage Congress in re-classifying financial documents and what it means to have internal conflicts—the stories we tell each other—our disagreements and concerns made public.

This year, I attended several workshops with the Shawnee poet, scholar and educator Laura Da’. She taught about educational systems based on indigenous ways for Seattle Arts and Lectures. Da’ demonstrates the values of inward-facing conversations, of spaces that allow conversations between ourselves as Osages, as indigenous people. 

She considers how the broader Native community could manage problem behaviors among each other. By self-correcting rather than watching problems continue and intensify, with predatory men, for example, or the problem of unregulated expenses. What we know as Osages is the delight that racists and competitors take in internal conflict, as though white people don’t experience similar issues.

Midwinter is a time of contemplation. I’m reflecting on good times I had this year in the Osage with family and friends at our incredible Sesquicentennial Celebration. I saw Duane BigEagle, not on zoom where I’ve seen him recently, or at meetings of Northern California Osage, where we met years ago, but in Pawhuska, where he was dancing in the afternoon social dance.

This year, on the Winter Solstice, Chelsea Hicks and Aimee Inglis will release Osage Reconnection, a zine that gathers Osages’ artwork and poetry. It’s funded by the Osage Community Foundation. Zines are small, handmade self-published pamphlets.

Hicks, a writer and artist, and Inglis, a community organizer working on an MFA in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts, initially envisioned publishing their own thoughts on reconnection, but decided to include other Osage writers.  The poems and images gathered describe and celebrate being Osage and our Osage ways. Contributors live across the country and vary in age.

Duane BigEagle’s cover painting “Medicine Lodge on the Osage Prairie,” is rich and grounding. His poems in Osage and English are strong.

The zine will be available on Wednesday at

In “A Getting Started Guide for Reconnection with Wazhazhe People,” Inglis compiles a comprehensive list of ways Osages interact at home and in regional gatherings across the country. In, “The Importance of Wazhazhe Connection & Learning,” Hicks tackles the process of reconnecting, offering detailed practical instructions. “Using short, respectful, emotionally regulated messages,” avoids being overly needy and makes it “more likely to get a response.”

What’s clear among the contributors is a love for the Osage and our ways, as in Talee Redcorn’s “Thoughts from a Native Father,” Duane BigEagle’s “My Grandfather was a Quantum Physicist,” and “Warning: Turn Back” by Dena Cosby. Poems by Richard Wood, Stephen Coleman-Rousch, and a drawing by Story Bear are included. A poem of mine is included, and I appreciate Bill Hamm and Chris Cotê for their Osage language help as always.

It’s a celebration of our love of being Osage, and it speaks to me of the joy of being in community.

Ruby Hansen Murray

Title: Culture Columnist

Twitter: @osagewriter

Topic Expertise: Columnist, Literary Arts, Community


Languages spoken: English, Osage language learner

Ruby Hansen Murray is a freelance journalist and a columnist for the Osage News.  She’s the winner of The Iowa Review and Montana Nonfiction Prizes awarded fellowships at MacDowell, Ragdale, Hedgebrook and Fishtrap. She has been nominated for Push Cart prizes and Best of the Net. Her work is forthcoming in Cascadia: A Field Guide (Tupelo Press) and appears in Shapes of Native Nonfiction (University of Washington Press) and Allotment Stories (University of Minnesota Press). It may be found in Ecotone, Pleiades, High Desert Journal, Moss, Arkansas International, River Mouth Review, Under the Sun, the Massachusetts Review, The Rumpus, Colorlines, and South Florida Poetry Journal. She has an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and has written for regional and daily papers across the Northwest and received multiple awards from the Native American Journalist Association and the Oklahoma Pro Chapter of Professional Journalists. She’s a citizen of the Osage Nation with West Indian roots, living in the lower Columbia River estuary.


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