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Osage representation and song performance receives standing ovation

KOTFM snubbed in all 10 Oscar nominations

LOS ANGELES – On Hollywood’s biggest night, “Killers of the Flower Moon” did not win any Oscars here at the 96th Academy Awards, but Osage Nation representation made its historic presence on the red carpet. Osages dressed to dance and Oscar-nominated singer Scott George and the Osage Singers voicing the Osage language for more than 19 million people worldwide to see and hear during the televised event.

The Martin Scorsese-directed film based on David Grann’s best-selling book focused on the Osage Reign of Terror was up for 10 Oscar nominations, but was shut out of all 10 categories by other winners. The Osage-composed song “Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People)” by Scott George featured in the closing scene of the film was up for Best Original Song and George, accompanied by Osage singers delivered a nearly two-minute performance of the song while seated around a drum on the Dolby Theatre stage.

Wearing their finest and traditional straight dance attire, 10 Osage dancers – including the three Drumkeepers representing all three Osage districts – stood behind the singers and danced as the song started. At the song’s conclusion, hundreds of attendees in the 3,400-seat venue gave the performers a standing ovation of applause and cheers.

From left, Grayhorse Taildancer Xavier Toehay, Pawhuska Drumkeeper Cole Burris, Grayhorse Drumkeeper George Shaw, Grayhorse dancer Joe Ellis, Pawhuska Drumkeeper Joseph Goodfox Jr., Hominy Taildancer Amos Dailey, Grayhorse Taildancer Jaydin Shaw, Pawhuska Taildancer Sammy Lookout, Hominy Taildancer Reuben DeRoin, and Pawhuska Taildancer Jamison Cass attend the 96th Academy Awards, held at the Dolby Theater in Ovation Hollywood on March 10, 2024, in Los Angeles, Calif. ECHO REED/Osage News

Immediately after the song, a TV camera showed actress Lily Gladstone standing and lulu-ing for the performance. Gladstone was up for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Mollie Kyle Burkhart in KOTFM, but lost to Emma Stone who starred in “Poor Things.”  

KOTFM Director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro, who was up for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal as William Hale also stood and applauded. Scorsese lost in the Best Director category to Christopher Nolan, who directed “Oppenheimer” and De Niro lost to Robert Downey Jr., who also appeared in “Oppenheimer.” 

“Oppenheimer” also took the final award of the evening for Best Picture, which KOTFM was also up for as a nominee.

For Best Original Song, that award went to Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell, who produced “What Was I Made For?” from the film “Barbie.”

The 96th Academy Awards ceremony drew 19.5 million viewers, which was televised on ABC, according to Variety.

The Osage News covered the awards, including the red carpet as hundreds of A-list actors, singers, film production professionals, media moguls and other entertainment industry professionals made the walk to the theater’s front doors from Hollywood Boulevard where the red carpet layout starts. Some of the film’s cast members, Apple executives and George – with his wife Taveah George – spoke with the News as they posed for photos and took brief interviews with scores of global news media outlets also covering the star-studded event.

“It’s amazing for starters and overwhelming, but it is just an honor to be here and represent our people and hopefully people will look at us and realize that Indian people are still here,” George said. Both he and Taveah – also a Lady Singer on the song – wore black suits with ribbonwork designs. Taveah George said she is wearing designs by Osage designer Jasmine Phetsacksith.

Oscar-nominated Osage singer Scott George and wife Taveah, who also sings on the Best Original Song nomination for “Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People).”

Jack Fisk, who was up for Best Production Design with Adam Willis for working on KOTFM, attended with his wife actress Sissy Spacek by his side. “We loved working with the Osage people and we’re so excited about the way the film turned out. I think it’s enlightened a lot of people to the history,” Fisk said.

For working with the Osage during KOTFM’s production taking place mostly on the Osage Reservation in 2021, Fisk said: “We showed up and had a lot to learn and we were given a lot of information and gifts of knowledge from the Osage people and Marty – it was important for him that it be done accurately and we were excited to be in charge of the responsibility of creating a physical world of 1920 in Fairfax, Osage County.”

Willis called the film work as “one of the most incredible experiences of my life and being able to live there for a year and learn what we learned – memorable and I’ll never forget it.”

The production team for “Poor Things” won the design award.

Apple CEO Tim Cook attended the KOTFM movie premiere in Cannes and said of the film’s 10 nominations: “It really gives me goosebumps to think about it and I feel so many types of emotion. We wanted to lift up a story that had not been told before and we wanted it to be a symbol of inclusion and of what the world could be like and I think it’s done that and more.”

“I think the film is educating a lot of people and awareness and education is partly what it’s all about and if it drives people to treat each other a little differently than before, maybe we’ve accomplished something,” Cook said.

First Nations actor William Belleau, who portrayed Henry Roan in the film, said: “To your people, the Osage, it was a complete honor and I’m so happy and I feel so loved by your people … To be welcomed from another Nation in Canada and to be loved and taken care of in Oklahoma … It gave me a safe place to create this Henry Roan and thank you so much.”

“Killers of the Flower Moon” actor Jesse Plemons on the red carpet of the 96th Academy Awards on March 10, 2024. ECHO REED/Osage News

Actor Jesse Plemons, who portrayed FBI Agent Tom White, said “It’s been a wild, special journey – seeing this group that I love so much all over the world all leading up to tonight and win or lose, I’m just so proud of (the film), so proud to be a part of it … Hopefully this is the beginning of this movement of dealing with our history and finding a way to hopefully heal and come to some point of moving forward and stopping the disconnect.”

Cara Jade Myers and Tatanka Means arrived together and when asked if he’d dance on the Oscars red carpet as he did at the film’s Cannes premiere, Means quipped “there’s still time!” Myers portrayed Mollie’s sister Anna Brown and Means portrayed federal agent John Wren in the film.

Myers called the experience “amazing,” but also said they had to walk part of the way to the theater due to protesters disrupting street traffic nearby. “We were waiting there for 30 minutes, then we had to get out and walk to be able to get here … I’m so excited to watch the Wahzhazhe song!

“It’s amazing to see all the Natives on the red carpet,” Means said of the Osage presence at the show.

“Killers of the Flower Moon” actors Cara Jade Myers and Tatanka Means speaking with the Osage News on the red carpet of the 96th Academy Awards on March 10, 2024. ECHO REED/Osage News

JaNae Collins, who played Mollie’s sister Reta, and Osage actor Yancey Red Corn, who played Chief Arthur Bonnicastle, walked the red carpet together along with Chad Renfro, who served as an ambassador to the film for the Osage Nation, as well as a consulting producer.

“I’m literally feeling surreal, this is insane, it’s amazing!” Collins said of attending the Oscars and the film being up for Oscar nominations.

Red Corn wore a dark blue suit with a red blanket over his coat and he carried a dance stick and feather fan. “My blanket was made by my sister and my mom and I use it for my naming, this stick is from my uncle Wakon Iron, whose other name was George Red Corn, and it’s from the 1920s and he handed it to my dad and my dad handed it to me and this is his fan from the 1920s too.”

Osage Nation Ambassador and Consulting Producer Chad Renfro, Osage actor Yancey Red Corn who portrayed Chief Arthur Bonnicastle in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” and actress JaNae Collins who portrayed Reta Smith speaking with the Osage News on the red carpet of the 96th Academy Awards on March 10, 2024. ECHO REED/Osage News

Among the final talent acts to walk the red carpet before the show’s 4 p.m. start time, Gladstone said she was wearing a custom-made gown she said was made by Gucci in collaboration with Indigenous artist Joe Big Mountain. When told the News was recording the red carpet footage for the Oscars Watch Party at the Pawhuska Osage Casino & Hotel that same evening, Gladstone looked at the camera, waved and said “Ha-we everybody!”

“I’m just grateful that I get to be here with Scott (George), it’s historic for me and it feels better, it feels right that there’s Osage representation with those firsts tonight too. Everybody looks so cool on the carpet earlier I saw all the tail dancers out there and I’m just so excited to go in,” Gladstone said.

Despite the Best Actress loss, Gladstone received praises during the award announcement as Actress Jennifer Lawrence – one of five past Oscar winners for the award – helped announce the nominees and shared words in acknowledgement of Gladstone’s film performance.

“Lily, you are the soul of ‘The Killers of the Flower Moon.’ Every second of your performance as Mollie Burkhart is imbued with the plight, resilience and spirit of the Osage people. Your advocacy offset is a powerful display of dedication and leadership illuminating and helping us reconcile one of the darkest parts of our country’s history.”

Best Actress nominee Lily Gladstone on the red carpet of the 96th Academy Awards on March 10, 2024. Gladstone was nominated for her portrayal of Mollie Burkhart in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” ECHO REED/Osage News

After being announced as the award winner, Stone took to the stage to accept the Oscar and also acknowledged Gladstone in her acceptance speech along with the other nominees and said “I share this with you!”

Immediately following the awards, Osages, other Native Americans, Native and Indigenous-focused organizations sounded off on social media platforms on the awards and praised Gladstone.

On Facebook, Renfro referred to the day after tribal holiday for the Nation, which commemorates the Nation’s 2006 reformed government. “Happy Sovereignty Day all you amazing WahZhaZhes! We were seen and heard! And will be coming home to celebrate and be with our loves,” he wrote.

In a March 11 statement by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear posted to ON social media, he said: “Scott George, with our singers, dancers, and drum keepers, were on the Oscars stage last night, showing the world that we’re still here and we’re not going anywhere. We will continue to cheer on our sister Lily as she paves the way forward for all of Indian Country. We are immensely grateful to her and everyone who worked on this groundbreaking film to tell our story our way. I couldn’t be more proud to be Wahzahzhe. It’s Osage Nation’s Sovereignty Day today, and we have much to celebrate!”

Former Osage Principal Chief Jim Gray posted on Facebook: “Lily will always be a winner in my book.”

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan (White Earth Ojibwe) posted on X (formerly Twitter): “Lily Gladstone, you already won. You bring all of us into every room you enter. We see ourselves in you every day – thank you for taking us along on this journey with you. We can dream bigger than we ever thought because of you. Chi miigwech. #Oscars2024”

Of the Osage singers performance, Flanagan posted: “Just crying over here. Osage Singers that was beautiful. #Oscars2024”

Osage actor who portrayed Chief Arthur Bonnicastle, Yancey Red Corn (middle with red and blue blanket on), walks on the red carpet of the 96th Academy Awards on March 10, 2024. ECHO REED/Osage News

The National Congress of American Indians posted on its social media accounts: “NCAI joins all of #IndianCountry in congratulating Lily Gladstone (Blackfeet & Nez Perce) for her spectacular awards season and historic nomination at the 96th Academy Awards. As the first Native woman nominated for an #Oscar as Lead Actress, Lily’s achievement is a milestone for authentic representation of not only the Osage Nation but all Tribal Nations.”

Gladstone won the Best Female Actor (motion picture drama) Golden Globe Award in January and last month, won a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture, both for their KOTFM performance.

In her Feb. 24 SAG award acceptance speech to their fellow actors attending the awards show, Gladstone said: “It’s truly a gift that we get to do this for a living (acting) – That’s the win, it’s getting to be here, getting to be on set, it’s getting to tell stories. We bring empathy into a world that so much needs it. It’s so easy to distance ourselves. It’s so easy to close off, to stop feeling and we all bravely keep feeling and that humanizes people. That brings people out of the shadows, it brings visibility … Keep telling stories to everybody in this room, to everybody watching abroad. Those of you who are not actors but have a voice, have a story that needs to be heard. Thank you for all of the compassionate souls in this room and all of the storytellers here tonight. Keep speaking your truths and keep speaking up for each other.”

Author

  • Benny Polacca

    Title: Senior Reporter

    Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

    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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Benny Polacca
Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org

Title: Senior Reporter

Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

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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