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Oscars ‘Not Ready for the First Americans’

As Wahzhazhe people watched the Osage Singers and 10 dancers perform on stage, alongside top talent in the world, many were moved to tears.

A crowd of 260 gathered at the Osage Casino in Pawhuska to watch the 96th Academy Awards ceremony, with 10 nominations for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” including Best Original Song for Scott George’s “Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People),” Best Actress for Lily Gladstone, Best Director for Martin Scorsese and Best Supporting Actor for Robert De Niro.

As Wahzhazhe people watched the Osage Singers and 10 dancers perform on stage, alongside top talent in the world, many were moved to tears.

After the nominations for KOTFM did not receive awards, some Osages were emotional. Osage artist Welana Queton said, “We got this far. I mean, in the same realm of mainstream Western society, music, art, costumes, all of that. It’s also just about representation and it’s like, when is it going to be our time? Can we not have anything? … I was glad Emma Stone said ‘thank you,’ though,” she said. “I feel like she’s a good person.”

The crowd erupted in cheers as Lily Gladstone was announced as a nominee for Best Actress during the Osage Oscars Watch Party on March 10, 2024, at Osage Casino Hotel in Pawhuska. SHERRY STINSON/Osage News

Each time Lily Gladstone appeared on screen, the crowd responded with admiring gasps, or outright applause. When at the end of the night, Best Actress winner Emma Stone acknowledged the actress, the camera shot to Gladstone, the room cheered.

The actress covered their mouth with their hands in gratitude as Stone said, “Lily, I share this with you. I’m in awe of you,” she said, after mentioning the other nominees. Watch party emcee John Parker watched in disbelief, and then collected himself, and emphasized to the room that the night was a milestone, and nothing could minimize the accomplishment of telling this story. “We sat in our place amongst the stars, making a place for ourselves,” said Parker.

His mother, Dana Daylight, wished that “we would’ve won. Still, it was a monumental night,” she said. Among the Osages at the watch party was Veronica Pipestem, who had never watched the Oscars before. Pipestem was visibly touched to see her nephew Kingston Pipestem singing on the stage. Osage poet Elise Paschen also attended, sharing her poem “Wi’-gi-e,” which inspired the title of both David Grann’s book and Scorsese’s film, staying on Grann’s desk while he wrote “Killers of the Flower Moon,” she said.

Oscar-nominated Osage singer Scott George, Osage Singers, along with the three Inlonshka Drumkeepers and dancers from Grayhorse, Hominy, and Pawhuska districts, received a standing ovation at the 96th Academy Awards in Los Angeles on March 10, 2024. SHERRY STINSON/Osage News

The watch party, which quickly sold out, provided guests with a meal of barbecue, hors de’ oeuvres, and dessert. Multiple screens throughout the Osage Casino in Pawhuska were turned to the Oscars telecast on ABC, including the outdoor patio by the pool area. Guests were treated to a champagne toast in celebration of the historic night, free photo souvenirs of the guests were made onsite and all guests were treated to a fireworks display to culminate the celebration.

The work of those who performed and helped represent the Osages who came before is a tribute said Ketoowah Cherokee representative Cliff Wafford, who also appeared in the film. “While the results were disappointing,” said Wafford, “we got the nominations and that’s something to grow on. The people before us, we represented them, we told their stories, on behalf of the Osage Nation.”

ON Congresswoman Pam Shaw read a resolution created to honor the campaigns of George and Gladstone, and before reading along with two fellow Congresswomen, she said, “As I look around this room and see all these strong Osage women, I think about the care [Lily Gladstone] put into this performance.”

“It was great,” said Osage elder Cecilia Tallchief, of Grayhorse. “However, we’re still on the back burner. Something may come of it, or it may not. I do not think the world is ready for the First Americans,” she said.

Gladstone’s performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” was excellent, said Osage elder Myron Red Eagle of Pawhuska, who noted that the actress spoke very good Osage. Red Eagle was disappointed, however, along with the rest of the tribe, and noted that she had been favored to win Best Actress. That served as another thing to celebrate, on top of receiving the nominations.

“It’s a political campaign where they do stunts,” said a Muscogee/Cherokee attendee, describing the process of lobbying to receive an Academy Award. Carey Mulligan, for instance, had a Vogue cover while Ryan Gosling climbed to the top of the Warner Bros. water tower. “But the Osage Nation kept its dignity,” said the Muscogee tribal member. “I’m glad they did.”

The actions of Michelle Yeoh reflected how close of a race Gladstone saw in her Oscars campaign, as the announcing actress passed the Oscar off to Gladstone’s introducer, rather than the actress intended to deliver the award to Stone, Jessica Lange. Yeoh later explained her actions on social media, saying she wanted the award to come from Stone’s “best friend.”  

Aimee Inglis, who recently moved to Tulsa from California, said she felt the Oscars had cheated Osages. “I feel like Lily’s introduction lacked an attentiveness to her actual skill and craft,” said Inglis, who referred to Jennifer Lawrence’s introduction, which characterized Gladstone’s performance as historic and sensitive, and her advocacy as socially engaged.

“Lily,” Lawrence said, “you are the soul of ‘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 off set is a powerful display of dedication and leadership illuminating and helping us reconcile one of the darkest parts of our country’s history. Congratulations.”

Inglis said that she felt the speech implied the movie itself was not appreciated. “The Academy does not have enough understanding [to appreciate what this film took],” she said. “They have a lot to learn. We should have won at least one award, in all of these categories. So historic, but I’m still mad.” 

“The fact that we were nominated and we were represented here is wonderful,” said Tony Daniels, an Osage who traveled from Joplin, Mo. to attend the watch party with his mother Charlene Daniels. “I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” he said. “And I’ll be back in June.”

Scott George’s mother Dolores Scott said she was disappointed, but mostly, just proud. “Proud of my son,” she said. “I am so proud.” 

Dolores Scott, the mother of Oscar-nominated singer Scott George, attends the Osage Oscars Watch Party on March 10, 2024, at Osage Casino Hotel in Pawhuska. SHERRY STINSON/Osage News

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Chelsea T. Hicks
Chelsea T. Hickshttps://osagenews.org
Title: Staff Reporter
Email: chelsea.hicks@osagenation-nsn.gov
Languages spoken: English
Chelsea T. Hicks’ past reporting includes work for Indian Country Today, SF Weekly, the DCist, the Alexandria Gazette-Packet, Connection Newspapers, Aviation Today, Runway Girl Network, and elsewhere. She has also written for literary outlets such as the Paris Review, Poetry, and World Literature Today. She is Wahzhazhe, of Pawhuska District, belonging to the Tsizho Washtake, and is a descendant of Ogeese Captain, Cyprian Tayrien, Rosalie Captain Chouteau, Chief Pawhuska I, and her iko Betty Elsey Hicks. Her first book, A Calm & Normal Heart, won the 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation. She holds an MA from the University of California, Davis, and an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts.
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