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Road dedication honors late Principal Chief Paul PittsA road running past the allotment of late Osage Principal Chief Paul Pitts has been dedicated in his honor


Benny Polacca

A road running past the allotment of late Osage Principal Chief Paul Pitts has been dedicated in his honor

A rural road that runs past the allotment of late Osage Principal Chief Paul Pitts has been dedicated in his honor.

Chief Paul Pitts Drive was dedicated in a June 25 ceremony at the intersection of County Road 2350 and E0330 Road, which runs east from State Highway 99 south of Wynona toward Barnsdall.

“He was dedicated to our nation,” said Olivia “Libbi” Gray of her grandfather who died in 1970. According to Gray, who is married to Osage Nation Principal Chief Jim Gray, “he saw it as an honor” to serve as a leader adding that the dedication “meant so much for our family.”

The road was originally named for Pitts in the early 1970s according to county and tribal research, said Chief Jim Gray. He said the road dedication “says a lot of the culture of this area.”

Pitts, who finished Chief John Oberly’s term after he died in office and successfully ran for office four times, is remembered as a dedicated leader who loved his family, Osage culture and helped defend his people by testifying before a U.S. congressional panel in the 1950s when the tribe was being considered for termination.

“I do wish… you will exclude the Osage Tribe because of the different mechanical, the working that we have,” Pitts told a U.S. subcommittee on Indian affairs in July 1953 when the government was seeking to end its trust relationships with several tribes. “It is running smoothly and I do not see how we can find another pattern that is workable like the one we have,” he said in his documented testimony.

Pitts led an Osage delegation that traveled to Washington, D.C., and addressed the U.S. House subcommittee considering the terminations of the Osage and other tribes including the Klamath Tribe in Oregon and the Menominee in Wisconsin who were both terminated. It took several years for both tribes to win their tribes’ federal recognition back.

“It was a very critical juncture in time,” current Principal Chief Jim Gray said of the termination era.

“(Pitts) was humble and respectful, but firm about who we are and what our Nation was,” Libbi Gray said. She described Pitts as a “very well-rounded person” who could put on a business suit for a meeting in Washington but was also active in Osage activities such as the In-Lon-Schka dances and handgames.

Pitts was one of the last Chiefs who was fluent in the Osage language, Chief Gray said. Pitts was also active in the Native American Church as a roadman and gave names for members of the Deer clan, Gray said.

Pitts served as a tribal councilman who was elected in 1934, 1942, 1946 and 1950. He was elected as chief in 1954, 1958, 1962 and 1966. He died in May 1970 while seeking re-election for a fifth term as chief.



Original Publish Date: 2009-07-07 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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