With the launching of its “Wahzhazhe Always” campaign, the Osage Nation is highlighting its culture, language and services offered to showcase the Nation and its people as they are today.
In his March 27 State of the Nation address to the Eighth ON Congress, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said: “We are all very proud of the new branding campaign, ‘Wahzhazhe Always’. The message is being delivered through our Nation that we are not relics of the past, we are a living, thriving, culturally expressive people who are reconnecting no matter where we live.”
Coinciding with the 2023 Osage Sovereignty Day, the Nation launched its Wahzhazhe Always campaign with a four-minute video highlighting the Nation’s services and comments from tribal officials and community members. Wahzhazhe Communications Director Abigail Mashunkashey said additional promotions will be released to continue sharing the “Wahzhazhe Always” campaign.
The timing of the campaign launch is also crucial with the upcoming release of the movie “Killers of the Flower Moon” announced for an Oct. 6 limited release and Oct. 20 worldwide release in theaters. In response to the film’s showing at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival on May 20, the Nation released the following statement:
“In ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’…
The language you hear is taught by Osage Nation Language Teachers.
The traditional Wahzhazhe clothing you see is made by Osage artists.
The landscape is the Osage Nation Reservation.
Today, approximately 26 percent of all headrights are owned by non-Osage individuals, churches, universities, and other non-Osage institutions who can freely bequeath such interests to any person or entity the non-Osage chooses. The Osage Minerals Council is currently seeking federal legislation to permit non-Osages who own a ‘headright’ interest in the Osage Mineral Estate to gift or sell those headright interests back to the Osage Minerals Council, the Osage Nation, or Osage individuals.”
The Apple original film, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Lily Gladstone, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Jesse Plemons, is an Eric Roth adaptation of David Grann’s bestselling book, “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.” The book details the true story of the systematic murders of Osage tribal members for their oil wealth in the 1920s and how the investigation formed the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“With much anticipation for the cinematic translation of a snapshot of the Osage story soon to be released worldwide with ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ – a narrative of trust, betrayal, and murder – tribal leaders focused on a campaign to draw from recurring elements of pride, service, community and endurance that have provided a sense of vitality and belonging through times of celebration or hardship,” the release said. “When audiences seek information about the Osage Nation – past and present – they will find a thriving Nation focused on cultural preservation, language revitalization, and community service.”
“We are a giving people,” Secretary of Culture, Language and Education Vann Bighorse said in a statement. “We are a community of artists, makers, entrepreneurs and visionaries, sharing opportunities, wisdom, and eternal connection. Wahzhazhe is who we are. Our language and stories keep us alive.”
Throughout the Wahzhazhe Always initial video, footage of Osage community members and officials shows them participating and interacting with each other at cultural or everyday events with commentary throughout the presentation.
“What is an Osage voice? What does that Osage world look like? It’s a tie to this land, it’s a tie to the people and the memories of this land,” said Braxton Redeagle, who is director of the ON Language Department. “We want to be people who are taking these Wahzhazhe ways into the future, trying to navigate your place in history in order to ensure what that voice sounds like and continues on to be.”
Nikia Parker, who works with the Osage public in Constituent Services said: “If you ask me what gets me up in the morning, it’s about that one key word of ‘love’ for our people – how am I going to serve our folks?”
“It’s important for us to be here, you know Oklahoma used to use the tagline ‘Oklahoma is Native America’ and that is true,” said Teresa Bledsoe, Secretary of Social Services for the Nation. “We know who we are, we know the needs, these are programs that are vital to the survival of our Nation – Child Care and Development, children’s programs, health and wellness, educational level, literacy. If we do not have programs that are supportive, we no longer have a tribe.”
“I’m a product of this place, I’ve seen the struggles of people you know. You want to leave this place better than you had it,” said Christa Unap-Fulkerson, director of Grants Management. “That’s what being Osage is, I feel like it’s about supporting each other and making our lives better.”
“I love my people, I really do,” said Andrea Kemble, director of the Nation’s Financial Assistance Department. “I want the best for them, it’s important that their families are together, they are able to live the way they want to truly live – not what’s forced upon them, but how they want to live.”
“I want my children, my grandchildren to have a quality place to live and know that their Nation is going to take care of them,” said Assistant Principal Chief RJ Walker. “That is so important, right? To be able to take care of your people with your own resources… It makes me proud to see people participate in their culture – learn the language, put on those clothes, dance around that drum. It makes me proud to be Osage.”
The Wahzhazhe Always campaign video can be accessed on the Nation’s social media platforms, and viewed on the Nation’s YouTube page at: https://youtu.be/sbeVWLcyu1c