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Osages honor historical French connection with monument

The Osage Nation and the people of Montauban, France, celebrated the dedication of a monument to honor the connection between the two people that goes back 185 years.

On July 24, in front of the Osage Tribal Museum and more than 40 people, Monique Drouilet smashed a bottle of champagne across the stone monument. The monument, standing about 4 foot tall, is adorned with a gold embossed plaque with an inscription explaining the relationship between the Osage and people of Montauban.

“You took care of our people hundreds of years ago,” said Osage Congressman Geoffrey Standing Bear to the Montauban delegation July 24. “I’m very proud to be a part of the people recognizing you and this partnership.”

Standing Bear, along with others, said from a very young age he heard stories of the Montauban people’s kindness and the relationship that existed. He remembers Osage elders going out of their way to meet with the various French delegations that would come through the Osage over the years.

William Least Heat-Moon, author of the book, “An Osage Journey to Europe, 1827-1830: Three French Accounts,” gave a history of the relationship to the crowd at the dedication. He said in 1826, the Osage and French were becoming intertwined as they traded and intermarried in Missouri. A voyage to France was to take place in 1827 and 12 Osages were invited to go. These 12 Osages, along with three Americans and a French guide, traveled to the East Coast to set sail. Along the way six Osages turned back after one of their rafts overturned in the Neosho River. In 1827 six Osages set sail for France, four men and two women. After three months at sea, they arrived in Le Havre, France on July 27, 1827.

“In France the Osages found themselves lionized as ‘noble savages.’ They went to the theater, rode in a hot-air balloon, and even had an audience with the king of France,” according to an excerpt from Least Heat-Moon’s book. “Many Europeans ogled them as if they were exhibits in a freak show. As the entourage moved through Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, interest in the Osages declined. Soon they were reduced to begging in the suburbs of Paris, without the means to return home.”

It was during this time that one of the Osage women gave birth to twin girls. A Belgian, according to Least Heat-Moon, adopted one of the girls. The group made their way to southern France and ended up in Montauban. Starving and begging, they were taken in by Bishop Dubourg. Dubourg and the people of the town restored the Osages to health and arranged safe passage back to the Americas. On the journey, two Osage men died of smallpox.

Dedication for a delegation

Osage Congressman Archie Mason said during his travels to France, he has seen monuments dedicated to the Osage people, but did not know of any such monument in the U.S.

“It began with a casual conversation between Paul Bemore, myself and Jean Claude Drouilet. We had this conversation approximately a year and a half ago. We were guests in France at the time,” Mason said. “In casual conversation, I mentioned we don’t have any monument or recognition of the relationship between the French and Osage, on campus (Osage) or anywhere in the Osage. At the time I told him I would pursue this project when we got back to Pawhuska. We worked a little here, worked a little bit there.”

Through that time Mason worked in conjunction with various Osages and the Osage Tribal Museum to get the monument built and picked a suitable location.

“I had been in conversation with Jean Claude and they had nine people ready to come over here and be a part of the dedication,” Mason said. “Some of them are returnees who wanted to visit with old friends and some are here for the first time.”

While visiting they attended the Cavalcade Parade in Pawhuska, went to a Tulsa Shock WNBA game, toured the Osage Campus and visited the Language and Cultural Centers and enjoyed cultural demonstrations. Had receptions with the Third Osage Congress and the Second Osage Minerals Council, visited Woolaroc, had dinner at Frank and Lollas Restaurant in Bartlesville and ate at the Osage Casino-Bartlesville. The group spent a day for the dedication of the monument and enjoyed an afternoon of handgame, dice, songs, dance, stories and local talent at the Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center.

They were hosted at a reception by the City of Pawhuska, a Sister City to Montauban. The group took a tour of the Tallgrass Prairie, visited the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, the University of Tulsa campus and attended an Indian Law School luncheon at the TU campus, connected with the Tulsa Global Alliance and local Tulsa French group, had an evening meal at the Osage Casino Event Center with the Tulsa French group.

The group also enjoyed some downtime of shopping in Utica Square in Tulsa in which after they attended the Tulsa Powwow. They also attended the Kihekah Steh Powwow the next night and before their flight home they attended a special presentation at Eddy Red Eagle’s Native American Church in Barnsdall, Okla. The group arrived July 19 and left July 29.

The Occitan

In 1991, a group from Montauban formed an organization and named it Oklahoma Occitania II (OK-OC) to honor the historic trip that took the Osage from their homeland to France.  Jean-Claude Droulihet was the organizer and developer of this ongoing organization, according to a prepared release.

The delegation that visited for 10 days included Jean-Claude Drouilet, Monique Drouilet, Gerard Massip (OK-OC President), Evy Massip, Marie-Claude Strigler, Edgard Strigler, Madeleine Lieutard, Ginette Borrel and Roland Garriaues, former mayor of Montauban.

“In Montauban, the Osage are very well known,” Jean-Claude Drouilet said at the July 24 dedication. Drouilet said that he and the OK-OC regularly educate the French about the Osage and the relationship that exists between them.

“When we received your invitation it was a real pleasure and it’s been so nice to see you all again,” said Gerard Massip, OK-OC president. Massip spoke through a translator.

“In 25 years we’ve come to realize there are common points between the Occitan and the Osage … this is the first time, we’re sure, the Occitan Cross will be here in America,” Massip said about the Occitan cross on the monument. “We hope to see you again in France.”

Monument transcription:

In November 1829, three Osages arrived in Montauban, the Occitan Region of France. Little Chief, Big Soldier and Hawk Woman crossed the Old Bridge, received help from Bishop Dubourg, and with the generosity of the people of Montauban they were able to return to the Osage.

In 1989, the friendship between the Occitan of Montauban and the Osage was revived. The cities of Montauban and Pawhuska signed a twinning agreement in 1999 so that today we often see Osages in Montauban and Occitans in Pawhuska.

With this monument we celebrate that people across borders, mountains and oceans can unite, respecting their differences in ties of sincere friendship.

Today, July 24, 2013, we hereby dedicate this monument to the many enhanced exchanges that encourage us to retain and maintain our distinct cultures, languages and value systems.

“The Earth does not belong to Man; Man belongs to the Earth”

 

To see photos of the monument dedication visit theOsage News Flickr site at www.flickr.com/osagenews.


By

Shannon Shaw Duty


Original Publish Date: 2013-08-02 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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