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Osage strength and beauty displayed at Sesquicentennial Celebration

The Osage Nation celebrated the 150th anniversary of its reservation on Oct. 22, 2022

My trip home in October was everything good. The 𐓏𐓘𐓸𐓘𐓪𐓧𐓣͘ Pawhuska District

𐓣𐓧𐓪𐓩𐓯𐓤𐓘 Inlonshka was held in cool fall weather. It seemed extra festive, maybe because the Sesquicentennial Commemoration of our arrival in what would become the Osage Reservation was coming in another week, or maybe because every time we get together is special.

Osage are a talented people, evident throughout the Sesquicentennial events held on Saturday, Oct. 22. In addition to a social dance and a community meal, Welana Fields, Russ Tallchief, and Candice Byrd produced a magnificent puppet show, Sky E’ko and her Ni.Ka.She, for the Osage Nation Museum.

Puppets suggest small figures like marionettes to some folks, but these were larger-than-life, bison, wolf, and birds often staged by at least two people. Daniel Thornton supported the head of The Great Elk from a version of the Osage creation story. Despite the size of the head and the immense antlers, Thornton made the Great Elk expressive. Welana Fields said, “When I saw the size of the head I knew it had to be filled by a tall and strong Osage man. I immediately thought of Daniel, not only for his stature but for his love and knowledge of Osage history.”

Alex DeRoin, Dakota Pratt, Brooklyn Cheshewalla Lemon, Cynthia Moore, and Crystal Standingbear supported the elk’s body. Its eyes were painted so that it seemed alive. Elk bugling sounded as the animal threw itself down to make the waters recede and land appear. During the performance, Wah-Kon-Tah surrounded the play with a glorious sunset that echoed the creation story and blessed his Wah Zha Zhe people.

Welana cast me as Sky E’ko, narrating the story, which gave me a chance to see Dapoksa Ahnkodapi students shine as stars in all the roles. See videos on Facebook of the evening show on Welana Fields’ page or Saturday’s windblown performance on the Osage News’ Facebook page. Everyone was creative and caring, including Chris Lutter-Gardella, master puppet creator, as well as all the children. I loved the generosity of the young water spirit who told me she liked my Grandma performance. 

During the commemoration, attendees made clay figures representing themselves. Anita Fields will fire the thirty-some figures she collected and sat them at a long community table. When I went to the table to make my person, Cherokee ceramicist and artist Bill Glass was finishing a sophisticated figure.

It was a day to meet Osages I admire like Norman Akers. I visited with my cousins Charles Murray and his wife Brenda, and second cousins Dawn Bennett and her family, and Sadie Murray and her son Oliver. We stood talking with relatives Clark Batson and James Crowe.

In the afternoon social dance, Archie Mason’s voice surrounded us, while Timmy Lookout chased plastic bottles that flew across the arena with the wind. A woman told me it was the first time she had danced, as she wrapped herself and her daughter in a shawl and stepped out.

As the children danced, I pictured them in fifty years. Attendees of the Nation’s Centennial Celebration in 1972 posed for a photograph on stage before an emblem “1872-2022 Osage Nation 𐓏𐓘𐓻𐓘𐓻𐓟” on a golden sun. When the people gathered, we saw the treasure of the Osage Nation.

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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