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Osage Congress votes down appropriation for preservation of Jesuit archives of Osage Mission Collection

Citing caution and fiscal responsibility, and the absence of three Congress members, an attempt to secure $90,000 to preserve historic Osage records kept at the Jesuit Archives in St. Louis, failed.

According to an email sent to the Fifth Osage Nation Congress from Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear on Dec. 19, he and his advisor John Williams visited the archives and said the condition of the “Osage Mission Collection” was deteriorating.

“These include a translation of the Holy Bible into Osage as it was spoken in the 1840s and 1850s, dictionaries, grammar books, letters to the Pope, and other rare documents,” Standing Bear wrote in the email. “Because these documents are over 150 years old and deteriorating, we asked if they would preserve them and copy them into a computer using digital technology.”

The preservation, conservation and digitization of the material, and an agreement to give the Osage Nation a copy of the collection, would cost $90,000.

Culture Committee

The Congressional Culture Committee discussed ONCA 17-16, a bill to appropriate the $90,000 to the Language and Culture Division of the Nation, sponsored by Congressman Otto Hamilton, on Dec. 27 during the one-day Fourth Special Session.

Congress members Hamilton, Joseph Tillman, Alice Buffalohead, and Speaker Angela Pratt, sit on the committee. Williams said when they visited the archives last year there were several boxes, old cardboard file boxes full of papers and ledgers. He said the bindings on the ledgers were in poor condition but still “very legible.”

“We did see what was a creation story, as told by those people in the 1820s-1840s. Also a story preparing for a big buffalo hunt,” he said. “They were of things that no one has cultural knowledge of anymore … let’s teach our young people about where we were and who we were.”

He said he was concerned those materials might not exist in the next 20 years. Tillman asked if the Nation’s Archives Department had been consulted, or if the grants management department had been consulted on possible grants to pay for the expense. He also asked whether Jesuits held any Osage headrights and if so then they could probably pay for it. 

Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn answered Tillman and said the Nation’s archives department doesn’t handle historic materials; they store the Nation’s files and paperwork for a certain period of time and then dispose of it. In terms of the grants management department, he said since the Nation doesn’t own the collection he said he was doubtful an entity would award a grant to the Nation.

Hamilton said that the headright system didn’t begin until the 1900s and he doubted the Jesuits would have headright money since the records were kept from when the Osages were in St. Paul, Kans., before they were moved to Oklahoma.

Buffalohead said there were a number of reasons why she didn’t want to vote on the money at this time. She said the session was called last minute, not all members of Congress were present, especially Congressman Ron Shaw who is the appropriations committee chair. Congress members Shannon Edwards and Maria Whitehorn were also absent. She also stressed that a priority for her was making sure the Hominy Indian Village had the money to fix its water pressure system because they recently learned there was not enough water pressure to put out a house fire in the village.

“We can’t very well put $4 million into a building and have our village members unsafe. I will be voting no based off of time alone, and not having all of our members here to pass something like this. I would rather hear this in the spring,” Buffalohead said. “Maybe this is a priority of the Executive Branch and I feel like $90,000 is a lot of money and we need to get on the same page … knowing some other needs are coming up. I would prefer to wait on this until the spring session.”

Williams noted there were 17 Osage villages in the St. Paul area during that time and there were 17 Osage leaders.

“I understand priorities, water pressure in Hominy village is really important. I also agree this is important and I can appreciate what you said and that’s why you’re elected to make decisions like that,” he said to Buffalohead. “There’s even a letter for Pah-Ne-No-Pah-She to the Pope. They don’t understand the Catholic influence on our people or how we lost our old religions. I can’t disagree with the importance of water in Hominy though … but, as these priorities come up, you members of these committees, you have to make these decisions.”

Red Corn said the records only exist in one place and the Nation would be paying for the preservation, stabilization of the paper, and the duplication of the records.

“Once its here, it’s here. And all these people who are researching the language, culture and Catholic Church in the Osage, I know there’s ambivalence here, but this is also a historical priority, and I personally believe in it,” he said.

Vote

Voting “yes” on ONCA 17-16 were Congress members Hamilton, John Maker, Archie Mason, James Norris and RJ Walker. Voting “no” were Supernaw, Tillman, Buffalohead and Pratt.

Standing Bear had this to say about the vote.

“We appreciate those Congress members who voted for the Jesuit Archives Osage Mission project and we will try again.”

Osage Mission Collection

According to the Jesuit Archives website, the Jesuit mission to the Osage Nation, located in what is now St. Paul, Kans., was established in 1847 on the right bank of Flat Rock Creek. The collection contains correspondence, operational records, writings, publications, photographs, and memorabilia related to the history of the Jesuit mission.

The bulk of the collection is from the period of 1845-1898 but also includes information from the period of 1832-1997. There are three record cartons and one oversize box. The Jesuits of the Missouri Province created the collection and the language in the material is English, Osage and Latin. The collection is open for research.

For more information, visit: http://jesuitarchives.org/collections/missouri-province-archive/osage-mission-collection/


By

Shannon Shaw Duty


Original Publish Date: 2017-01-05 00:00:00

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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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