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ON Congress passes resolutions to support Lily Gladstone and Scott George

As George and Gladstone begin their campaigns at the Oscars, these resolutions by the Osage Nation bolster their representative efforts, providing a palpable sense of the love of the Osage people who are supporting them as they work to make not only the Osage people, but all Native histories more visible, known, and understood by both the American and the international public, worldwide.

During the tenth special session of the eighth Osage Nation Congress, two resolutions unanimously passed, endorsing the contributions of both Blackfeet actress Lily Gladstone and Osage singer Scott George to Martin Scorsese’s film “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which the Congress emphasized as validating the history of the Osage murders and promoting new opportunities for healing.

Resolutions ONCR 24-10 and 24-11 (sponsored by Pam Shaw) expressed the hope of the Osage Nation that the telling of the true story of the murders in Scorsese’s film will also create more opportunities for Native storytellers to tell their stories, in addition to serving as a reckoning point for Indigenous people in the process of confronting unprocessed traumas related to violent colonial histories.

Both resolutions dually passed on Feb. 2 and were signed by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear on Feb. 5, 2024.

In ONCR 24-10, Congress endorsed Lily Gladstone’s portrayal of Mollie Kyle and commended her performance as one that reflects the strength and dignity of Osage women. Scott George received acknowledgment in ONCR 24-11, in which Congress characterized his original song “Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People)” as one reflecting not only the pain endured by Osages but also the healing of the Wahzhazhe Nikashi, the Osage people.  

Acknowledging True Osage Stories

Resolutions ONCR 24-10 and 24-11 both acknowledged that Wahzhazhe Nikashi were created by Wahkontah, and have benefitted from the blessings of Wahkontah since time immemorial, and the current homelands of the Osage Nation and the Wahzhazhe Nikashi are the Osage Reservation, established by treaties with the U.S. and by an act of Congress after purchase from the Cherokees.

In ONCR 24-10, item three acknowledged the “different areas of the Osage Reservation” where Osages moved led by Band Chiefs, primarily to Grayhorse, Hominy and Pawhuska, and item four formally acknowledged the conspiracy to murder Osages was “primarily carried out against Osages from the Pasuoli^ (Grayhorse) District, although Osages from across the Osage Reservation were targets of non-Indians that led to many other suspicious deaths.”

The resolution tells the true background story that, before the film, Osage elders had taught, “we should not talk about Osage murders, a dark era of our history, and should try to move on and heal from it.” Further, resolution ONCR 24-10 bears witness to the concerns many Osages had after hearing the news that KOTFM would be made into a film.

“On November 19, 2019,” reads item seven, “Grayhorse Osages prayed and ate with Martin Scorsese and nine others from his team and discussed their concerns about the depiction of their relatives that were murdered and the telling of stories involving Osages.”

“At the Grayhorse dinner, Osages discussed the particularly important role Osage women have played in preserving the ceremonies and ways of life that Wah-kon-tah has given the Wah-zha-zhe Nikashi, resisting demands by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Indian boarding schools, and other non-Osage institutions that we abandon our language and culture.”

This emphasis by the Osage people of Grayhorse on the importance of Osage women would eventually lead to the role of Mollie Burkhart becoming a leading role in the film, at the deserving of both the character of Mollie as well as the inimitable work of Gladstone.

Lily Gladstone, who plays Mollie Burkhart in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” and director Martin Scorsese. Apple Original Films

Osage Nation honors Lily Gladstone in law

During initial conversations about KOTFM, Osages emphasized the critical nature of casting Osages and Native actresses and actors to portray Osages in the film, and Congress affirms that Lily Gladstone, who they name in Blackfeet as Piitaahaki or Eagle Woman, as an excellent choice for the role of Mollie Burkhart because she is both “an accomplished film and theater actress” who was raised on the Blackfeet Reservation as a Blackfeet and Nez Perce woman, and also because Gladstone has used her profession “as a platform to tell stories about Native people and advance issues important to Native women, including the epidemic of missing and murdered Indian women.”

The resolution honoring Lily Gladstone states that it was on Mollie Burkhart’s birthday, December 1 that Lily received word that she would play Mollie in KOTFM. Congress provides an official evaluation of her performance and concludes that, in playing Wakonda hi thonbe or God Who Appears, Mollie Kyle Roan Burkhart Cobb, daughter of James Nika iciwathe (Hated Man) and Lizzy Q, Gladstone demonstrated great respect, humility, kindness and love toward the Wahzhazhe Nikashi.

Congress also outlined the losses Mollie endured as “unspeakable hardship during an era of time when Osages were treated as incompetent and inferior because of their Osage blood; Mollie lost her mother Lizzie and her wealth with the murder of her sisters Anna, Minnie, and Reta in a rash of murders committed against Osages,” and affirms Mollie’s trip to Washington, D.C. to advocate for the Osage people even while she was “enduring emotional and physical anguish.” In portraying Mollie, Congress uplifted Lily Gladstone’s efforts to learn Wahzhazhe ie, including the nuances of language spoken by a Grayhorse woman, and also commends her effective portrayal of the love, protection, strength and dignity of Wahzhazhe women.

Affirmation of Gladstone’s work is now written into Osage Nation law as an accomplished performance achieved due to her own inner strength and courage as a Native woman, in addition to her sensitivity and commitment to the Osage people. The resolution states, “Lily has honored the Wahzhazhe and the Osage Nation with her zealous effort to study and portray the person and heart of Mollie.” The Osage Nation Congress then thanked the Blackfeet and Nez Perce Nations and Lily’s relatives who gave her teachings which provided her context for understanding Osage people and “the real person of Molly.”  

The bill additionally echoes the heaviness that Gladstone expressed she felt in being cast in the role as Mollie, and validates her continued commitment to the Osage people, noting that they have “continued to attend Wahzhazhe ceremonial dances and Wahzhazhe community events and supported our Wahzhazhe Nikashi with kindness and generosity, and has become a part of the Wahzhazhe community.”

Scott George leads the song “Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People)” at the Oct. 16, 2023, Los Angeles premiere of “Killers of the Flower Moon” at the Dolby® Theatre in Hollywood. Courtesy Photo/Apple Original Films

Scott George, humble leader and respected Osage

Resolution ONCR 24-11 honors Scott George, describing him as a respected Osage singer “who has served admirably on many Drumkeeper Committees as well as around Indian Country for over forty (40) years.”

The resolution celebrates George’s composition “Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People),” and its feature in the movie Killers of the Flower Moon, proudly uplifting the original song inspired by rich Osage history, which is in turn “inspiring Wahzhazhe Nikashi “to ‘stand up,’ and be grateful that Wah-kon-tah made a way forward for us,” states the resolution.

In passing the bill, Congress underscores how George’s composition validates all that the Osage people have gone through. The language reads, “In composing Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People), Scott has acknowledged we have gone through much, we have come out on the other side, and would not have been able to do so without Wah-kon-tah.”

The resolution additionally uplifts the humble nature of George’s leadership and expresses the hope that this song will help members of the Osage Nation who are continuing to deal with the effects of the murders, helping them to move forward.

ONCR 24-10 and 24-11 were co-sponsored by Alice Goodfox, Brandy Lemon, Whitney Red Corn, Jodie Revard, Paula Stabler, Eli Potts, John Maker and Joe Tillman, with the addition of Scott BigHorse on 24-11. As George and Gladstone begin their campaigns at the Oscars, these resolutions by the Osage Nation bolster their representative efforts, providing a palpable sense of the love of the Osage people who are supporting them as they work to make not only the Osage people, but all Native histories more visible, known, and understood by both the American and the international public, worldwide.

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Chelsea T. Hicks
Chelsea T. Hickshttps://osagenews.org
Title: Staff Reporter
Email: chelsea.hicks@osagenation-nsn.gov
Languages spoken: English
Chelsea T. Hicks’ past reporting includes work for Indian Country Today, SF Weekly, the DCist, the Alexandria Gazette-Packet, Connection Newspapers, Aviation Today, Runway Girl Network, and elsewhere. She has also written for literary outlets such as the Paris Review, Poetry, and World Literature Today. She is Wahzhazhe, of Pawhuska District, belonging to the Tsizho Washtake, and is a descendant of Ogeese Captain, Cyprian Tayrien, Rosalie Captain Chouteau, Chief Pawhuska I, and her iko Betty Elsey Hicks. Her first book, A Calm & Normal Heart, won the 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation. She holds an MA from the University of California, Davis, and an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts.
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