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Osage Nation history promoted during county tourism forum


Photo Caption: Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear speaks at the 2018 Osage County Tourism Forum on Feb. 16 at the Skiatook Osage Casino Hotel with this year’s theme “We Love The Osage.” BENNY POLACCA/Osage News


SKIATOOK, Okla. – Osage Nation members joined local and regional entrepreneurs and tourism enthusiasts here for the Feb. 16 Osage County Tourism Forum where presenters shared their thoughts on why “We Love the Osage.”

Over 60 people attended the annual tourism promotion event at the Skiatook Osage Casino Hotel with business owners, local chamber of commerce officials, Osage County tourism officials and other local government officials in attendance.

In a keynote presentation titled “We Love Our History,” Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear shared several thoughts on Osage history and said those stories need to be told in discussing who the Osage people are.

“For every Standing Bear, there is a Clavier of the French family and they are Osage as I am, and for every Red Eagle, there is a Revelette or there’s a Boulanger or there’s a Tayrien… and Christy (Red Eagle also in attendance) and I are direct descendants from Nathaniel Pryor who was a sergeant with the Lewis and Clark expedition, Standing Bear said. “I remind the people of Missouri of the Chouteau family, who founded the city of St. Louis, well where did they all go? Here we are, that’s us. So that proud history of English, French and Native American is represented today by the Osage people and that culture has evolved.”

For example, Standing Bear noted Osages have several basic traditions that define the tribe, which include starting activities with a prayer to show proper respects. “How can we show the world who we are? That is something we are looking at right now. There has not been, in my time at the (Nation) and an elected official, a real organized tourism effort. We started something with a gift shop through our museum and that didn’t work out and since then, I’ve been meeting with different people on what can we do to show our culture ourselves – not let Hollywood do it, not let people who think that all we just dance around every now and then in some Indian clothes – Let me tell you some of the things we’re going to do: No. 1: We’re reaching out to people just like you so you can show us the best way to do these things.”

Standing Bear said networking with entities including Tulsa tourism professionals is crucial to help promote the Osage at a regional level to bring in out-of-state and international visitors to see the area’s Native American culture. Also, Standing Bear said promoting existing tribal entities such as the ON Museum in Pawhuska is a tool to garner tourism, including those crowds who are visiting The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.  He said other entities that discuss Osage history should also be promoted including the Whitehair Memorial research museum between Hominy and Fairfax. The Whitehair Memorial is the former estate of Lilly Burkhart and is the home to the Louis Burns Collection (Osage Historian). The Oklahoma Historical Society now manages the Whitehair Memorial estate.            

Standing Bear also noted more renovation work is underway on the Nation’s Visitors Center located at Main Street an Lynn Avenue in Pawhuska and there are plans to open it in May, which will serve as another outlet for the Nation to promote the tribe, its culture and language, as well as Osage Casinos. During the 2017 Tzi-Zho Session, the Fifth ON Congress approved a capital asset and improvement appropriation bill for several projects including $50,000 in renovation costs for the Visitors Center, which was a former pawn shop before the Nation purchased the building.

The tourism forum attendees also heard presentations from other individuals including Christy Red Eagle, who is a marketing specialist for Osage Casinos. Red Eagle shared several fact tidbits on the Nation including the Osage is the only tribe in Oklahoma that paid cash for its land, which is present-day Osage County, when the tribe left prior homelands in Kansas and Missouri in the late 1800s. She also noted in recent years, the Nation has started pursuing efforts to purchase back Osage County land that was lost during settlement years with the most recent purchase being the 43,000-acre Bluestem Ranch formerly owned by media mogul and conservationist Ted Turner.


Benny Polacca

Original Publish Date: 2018-04-05 00:00:00

Benny Polacca

Title: Senior Reporter


Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.


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