Jan 282017

When we published this photograph of Osage Chief Red Eagle’s Wife and Daughter we speculated that the Chief referred to was Paul Red Eagle. Recently Michael Snyder, author of a soon-to-be-released biography of John Joseph Mathews set us straight.

Mathews’ account of the funeral of Red Eagle, which we quoted, described final ceremonies, not for Paul Red Eagle (as we speculated), but for “Chief Henry Red Eagle, who served as tribal councilman twice, and was the assistant principal chief from 1910-1912, when John Joseph’s father, William, was on the tribal council.” Paul Red Eagle, per Mr. Snyder, was the son whose lament so moved Mathews.

We thank Mr. Snyder for this clarification and look forward to the publication in May of John Joseph Mathews: Life of an Osage Writer

You can find Mr. Snyder on Facebook at http://facebook.com/MichaelSnyderOK



Apr 172014

Recently I rode the Manitou and Pike’s Peak Cog Railway to the top of the mountain that Zebulon M. Pike didn’t summit on his 1806 expedition – although it bears his name. It was a chilly, overcast late winter/early spring day as we rode in cozy comfort up the 25 percent grade to reach the top in only an hour and a half.

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The view – even on a gray and windy day – is spectacular.  It was easy to see why, in 1806, Zebulon Pike set his sights on this peak as the perfect platform from which to survey the broad plains stretching below the Front Range. The easternmost of the “fourteeners” (mountain peaks more than 14,000 feet high) in Colorado, Pikes Peak commands the Front Range.  Today it is known as “America’s Mountain”,  inspiration for the song “America the Beautiful”, and the destination for gold-seeking settlers of the mid-nineteenth century with the mantra of “Pike’s Peak or Bust!”

But Pike never made the summit.

He and his expedition left St. Louis in July 1806, to document the southern portions of the new Louisiana Purchase and find the source of the Red River.  His first mission, however, was to return to their families forty-six Osage women and children who had been kidnapped by Potawatomi raiding parties in 1803 and ransomed by the U.S.  To achieve this grand gesture, the party trekked up the Missouri River to the Osage River and continued west to Osage villages near what is now the Kansas state line. “Sans Oreilles (No-Ears), one of the (Osage) chiefs who had returned from Washington made a flattering speech: ‘Osages, you now see your wives, your brothers, your daughters, your sons, redeemed from captivity. Who did this? Was it the Spaniards? No. The French? … The Americans stretched forth their hands and they are returned to you!'” (Damming the Osage, page 35, 36)

The town of Butler, Missouri, commemorates the ceremonial meeting in a mural on the town square.

"Zebulon Pike Parley with Osage Chief" - mural by Dan Brewer, Butler, Missouri

“Zebulon Pike Parley with Osage Chief” – mural by Dan Brewer, Butler, Missouri

Mural by Dan Brewer, Butler, Missouri - seat of Bates County

Mural by Dan Brewer, Butler, Missouri – seat of Bates Count

Zebulon Pike mural in Butler, Missouri

Zebulon Pike mural in Butler, Missouri

With that auspicious first goal successfully achieved, Pike and his expedition continued across the great Plains through the summer, making the Front Range in November, just as winter was setting in. Almost unfazed by the “Grand Peak,” Zebulon Pike tried to climb it with a few ill-equipped men and no supplies.  Realism inspired by lack of game for food and meteorological challenges overcame ambition. Pike chose to quit the endeavor:

“…here we found the snow middle deep; no sign of beast or bird inhabiting this region. The thermometer which stood at 9° above 0 at the foot of the mountain, here fell to 4° below 0. The summit of the Grand Peak, which was entirely bare of vegetation and covered with snow, now appeared at the distance of 15 or 16 miles (24 or 26 km) from us, and as high again as what we had ascended, and would have taken a whole day’s march to have arrived at its base, when I believed no human being could have ascended to its pinical [sic]. This with the condition of my soldiers who had only light overalls on, and no stockings, and every way ill provided to endure the inclemency of the region; the bad prospect of killing any thing to subsist on, with the further detention of two or three days, which it must occasion, determined us to return.”

He and his men did not return – but his name and the commanding view he sought remain.



Feb 212014

Osage mother-daughter

Osage mother-daughter photo caption

Press Photo by Wide World Photos, 1924

Caption reads: Mother clings to Indian Custom, but Daughter … much American: The wife and daughter of Red Eagle, Principal Chief of the Osage Tribe, in Washington to adjust some finances with the Interior Department. The daughter, Mary, prefers the American fashion while mother clings faithfully to the Osage tribal robes.

Possibly Chief Red Eagle is Paul Red Eagle who was Chief from 1923-24, following Chief Ne-Kah-Wah-She-Tun-Kah’ who died while in office.

Since the 1890s the Osage tribe had had substantial income derived from the sale of drilling rights to oil discovered on their lands.  “With extraordinary foresight, the tribe had reserved subsurface mineral rights even though the land had been allocated among the 2,229 enrolled Osages.” (page 280, Damming the Osage).

Money generated by the sales of drilling rights made enrolled Osages “probably the wealthiest people on earth” (New York Times November 18, 1898). Having had great wealth and the advantages of wealth – many Osages traveled the world and pursued higher education, modern houses, fashion, and automobiles; others maintained their Osage cultural lifestyle, language and traditions. One who maintained the cultural lifestyle was Paul Red Eagle.

Six years after this photo was taken, Chief Red Eagle died. John Joseph Mathews, author of many books and articles on the Osages, attended his funeral and wrote a moving and graphic account of the final rites for the venerable warrior/chief.  In “Passing of Red Eagle” (Sooner Magazine, Feb. 1930), Mathews remembers:

For ninety years Red Eagle had lived among his people. For that many years of constant changes, contacts and shifting scenes, he remained an Indian; thinking Indian thoughts and dreaming his own dreams.  In his later years he seemed to be waiting for something. He lived quietly on this ranch preferring his horse to a car until his eightieth year. He had oil royalties but desired to live in simplicity. He had seen many things and had taken part in the wars in the southern part of the state; he talked of these wars with members of the tribe. He saw brick buildings rise up among the jack-oaks and his nation spanned with roads, some of them sinuous black ribbons winding over sandstone ridges and limestone prairie. He watched with passivity, shiny oil derricks spring up like phantasmal fungi from valleys, wooded hills and prairie. Yet, with him remained the spirit of his fathers.  To the end he remained an Indian. Frenzied wealth seeking and confused material progress did not disturb the soul of Red Eagle.

A Catholic priest presided at the funeral, but after the sermon and prayers, the son of Red Eagle and his wife came forward “and began the heart tearing wail of the race. No suffering European could so touch the deepest chords of one’s heart as does the long, quavering cry of a mourning Osage.”






Feb 042014


Chief Bacon Rind Photogravure, 1925

In his classic book, Wah’kon-tah: The Osage and the White Man’s Road, John Joseph Mathews describes Wah Tze Moh In (Star that Travels), as a ‘tall (and handsome) aristocrat’ of the Osage tribe, and a gifted orator “who adjusted himself to the conditions that the white man had brought upon his people.”

He still wore the leggings, shirt and blanket, and was seldom seen without the gorget made from the fresh water mussel, which was the symbol of the sun at noon, the god of day.”

His handsome face has been moulded in bronze and his picture painted by great artists. His face appears on programs, on brochures and as letterheads. His name, an unimaginative interpretation, is known everywhere, and is invariably associated with the word, Osage.

This image of Wah Tze Moh In clearly illustrates Mathews’ description.  The photograph was taken during one of three photo expeditions sponsored by department store magnate, Lewis Rodman Wanamaker. Wanamaker was a man of many interests, supporting the arts, education, golf and athletics, and Native American scholarship. Between 1908 and 1913 he funded expeditions with photographer Joseph K. Dixon, to document “The Vanishing Race” – the American Indians.

This is a third edition photogravure,  dated 1925.

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Jan 022014


730Press Photo, August 1, 1928

Photograph is by Love Studio, Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The white lines were the outline for cropping for newspaper or magazine layout. The cutline for the photo states: “Fred Lookout, present chief of the Osage Indians and owner of one of the finest cattle ranches in northern Oklahoma.  Lookout has repeatedly urged his tribesmen to economize.”

Lookout was Principal Chief for three terms, serving a record twenty-eight years, much of it during the turbulent oil boom. He attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, but spoke only Osage while conducting tribal business.  His wife Julia was a descendent of PA-HIÚ-ÇKA (White Hair) whose grave on Blue Mound near the upper Osage River was desecrated after the tribe departed for Kansas.  Their resting place is on a high hill east of Pawhuska, Oklahoma with a panoramic view of Osage County.

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Inscription reads:

JULIA MOGRE LOOKOUT, MO-SE-CHE-HE, Born 1-1-1870; Died 2-28-1950. Great Grand-Daughter of Chief PA-HIÚ-ÇKA (White Hair). A true helpmate and devoted mother

CHIEF FRED LOOKOUT, WA-NŐ-SHE ZHIʺ-GA Born 11-17-1861; Died 8-28-1949. The last hereditary Chief of the Great and Little Osage served his tribe with wisdom, integrity and faithfulness.

May they rest in peace

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Nov 272012

Postcard, 1950s

We couldn’t fit this one into the book, but it is definitely an unusual image. While Harry Truman was born in Lamar, not terribly far from the stronghold of the Osage Indians, we haven’t seen any association of President Truman and the Osage Nation.

The “Land of the Osage” is not, by the way, just a few counties. It included all of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, and considerable amount of eastern Kansas and Oklahoma before they were exiled to northeast Oklahoma.  What Harry or Lamar had to do with this we are unsure. Puzzling.

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Nov 132012

Movie Lobby Card, 1952

Fort Osage, a 72 minute B movie from Monogram Studio,has Red Cameron guiding a wagon train through Indian Territory. The Osages are unhappy with the Anglo-Saxon immigrants because of the treating-violating proclivities of the white men.

Not that Hollywood was known for authenticity in their portrayal of Indian life, but their scripts of Osages are both particularly inauthentic and rare. The Osage tribe had two headline grabbing periods. The first came before they moved out of their homeland on the Osage River. Their military power was a great concern to President Thomas Jefferson. The second came when they became oil-rich in the 1920s. They were frequently covered by the media. Unlike western Plains tribes, they never fought the cavalry and have thus escaped cinematic treatment.

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Oct 032012

Real photo postcard, 1920s

Wah-she-hah was called Bacon Rind, but the real translation of his Osage name was Star-That-Travels. He was born in Kansas a decade before the Osage tribe bought their reservation in northeast Oklahoma. He was a superb politician and recognized early on the value of the enormous oil reserves that lay beneath their rocky reservation. Bacon Rind preferred speaking Osage; he is shown here wearing a Mexican blanket, beaded moccasins and otter skin bandeau – the only item of apparel that, as far as we know, is traditional

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