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.”






  10 Responses to “Wife and Daughter of Osage Chief Red Eagle in Washington 1924”

  1. Awesome find! You say the photo is possibly Chief Paul Red Eagle–I’m sure the good folks at the Osage Nation Museum would be able to confirm. I was in Pawhuska, Okla., this week (http://gasconader.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/february-osage-county/). The museum is filled with hundreds of photographs, and everyone was super helpful and generous with their time. Very nice Sooner passage, too. How did you dig that up?

    • Glad you like it. Found the Soooner article by searching John Joseph Mathews’ work. This was an early piece for him and quite haunting.

  2. Hello, this is Michael Snyder. I have a biography of Mathews coming out in May 2017 with University of Oklahoma Press. I have a correction for you. The subject of Mathews’s “Passing of Red Eagle” is not Paul Red Eagle, but rather his father, 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.

    • Hello Mr. Snyder – we appreciate your correction very much. Your comment prompted me to reread Mathews’ article and I realized that he did not provide a first name and I had assumed it was about Paul Red Eagle. There is often a confusion between generations when identifying the subject of a picture. We have found ambiguity in identifications of photo and painting subjects from Catlin on. And here we have contributed to it!
      Glad to know about your forthcoming book. We will look for it to add to our library. We met Mathews in Pawhuska in the mid-1970s. He was still a commanding figure then.
      Crystal Payton

      • Michael, where can one obtain a copy or your biography at please?

        And to the admins of this page, thank you for this resource!

        • My apologies for the fumbled wording above there; on my laptop now and not futzing around on my tiny cellphone keypad. 🙂 Where may one obtain a copy of said biography of Mathews at; by contacting the University of Oklahoma Press directly, or where else? Thanks! 🙂

        • you’re quite welcome. Michael’s book is available on amazon.com….. just out from the published!

  3. Thank you! I would love to hear about your meeting with John Joseph Mathews sometime. I have run across your interesting website several times in my research.

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