Tulsa World News

by John Klein Jan 2017

PAWHUSKA — It is always somewhat emotional for Osage Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear when he looks out over historical tribal lands recently returned to the tribe.

He feels pride. He feels a responsibility to these ancestral lands. And, he feels determined.

“There is some emotion, sure there is,” Standing Bear said. “But there’s another side to it, too. The Osage tribe is a vibrant political entity. This is not a dictatorship. There are different points of view.

“So, we have to look at all the options. We have reacquired 43,000 acres. That’s a lot of land. There is room for different ideas and uses.”

The Osage Nation, armed with new financial muscle from successful casino operations, has reacquired 43,000 acres of sacred, historical land in the past six months. It bought the former Bluestem Ranch, in the heart of Osage County, from media mogul Ted Turner for a reported $74 million.

“Our ancestors walked this land 100 years ago,” Standing Bear said. “Our land was almost gone from the face of the earth.”

Not anymore.

“I hear the voices of our ancestors right here,” Standing Bear said. “They are advisers to us.”

Standing Bear, just two years into his term as principal chief, is determined to preserve history while moving the tribe forward in a modern world.

“We only had a very small percentage of our original land,” he said. “We only had about 4,000 tribal members still living in this county. The number of people who could speak our language was down to just a few.

“If all of those trends continued, our language would be gone. We would have no land. All of our people would have left. The Osage people would be nothing more than a footnote in history. It was the path we were on.”

The Osage Nation once owned nearly 1.5 million acres, present-day Osage County, when the tribe was moved to Indian Territory in the 1870s.

However, the lands had dwindled to about 5 percent of the original total by 2014.

Standing Bear, a Bishop Kelley High School and University of Tulsa law school grad, has made it a priority to reverse that trend and return land to the approximately 20,200 Osage members.

The Osage gained possession of the Bluestem Ranch in November. It is a sprawling ranch in the central part of Osage County stretching from just southwest of Pawhuska all the way south to near Hominy and Fairfax.

Now, the land must be returned to reservation status through a federal process before the tribe can begin to operate the lands in whatever manner it wishes.

“So, right now, our hope for the bison preserve and any other tribal enterprises are on hold,” Standing Bear said. “We have a lot of different proposals for use of the acreage.”

Those includes cattle ranching along with bison and a possible hunting-fishing preserve.

Tulsa World News by John Klein Jan 21017

“Again, this is a big place,” Standing Bear said. “And in our tribe, there are a lot of voices and a lot of opinions.”

Regardless of final decisions, the tribe does seem to be committed to some sort of bison preservation similar to what has happened at the neighboring Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.

“Our northern reach of this land is about 15 miles south of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve,” Standing Bear said. “But, as anyone can see that comes out here, it is very similar.

“We were very lucky. Ted Turner was a good steward of this land. When we took it over, we found it to be in great shape. The land has been preserved very well.”

The acquisition has proven to be, in a short period of time, a wildly popular move by the Pawhuska-based tribe, and more expansive purchases could come to regain more of its historical lands.

Standing Bear has made reuniting the tribe with its traditional homeland a priority.

“It is our history,” Standing Bear said. “When I do things as chief, I always think about the teachings from my parents, grandparents, all of the tribal elders I’ve known.”

The acquisition of the ranch continues to spread a huge preservation footprint in the county.

If the Osage fulfill a promise to return a portion of the land to bison grazing and preservation, it could mean upwards of 80,000 acres of tallgrass prairie would be in some form of historical preservation in Osage County. The Nature Conservancy has about 40,000 acres in the 27-year-old Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.

About 20,000 acres of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is dedicated to a herd of 2,700 bison. Standing Bear hopes to dedicate about 9,000 acres for the Wah-Zha-Zhi Preserve, grazing lands for a bison herd.

“Again, until we get this land back in tribal trust, we’re waiting,” he said. “But, this is very important to a lot of people.”

The Osage were able to purchase the land because of the strength of its casino operations, seven casinos/hotels stretching from near Ponca City to Bartlesville to Skiatook to Sand Springs and Tulsa.

The tribe recently announced a $150 million expansion of its Tulsa casino including a 132-room hotel and an 88,000-square-foot casino.

“What we have been able to do is tap into our gaming money for a great purpose,” Standing Bear said.


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Osage chief completes purchase of Ted Turner’s Bluestem Ranch

PAWHUSKA — The Osage Nation took back ownership of the 43,000-acre Bluestem Ranch from Ted Turner this week, making the tribe again one of the largest landowners in Osage County. The price was not disclosed.

Considered a “progressive” ranch for Turner’s conservation management practices, Bluestem is between Fairfax and Pawhuska at the epicenter of the tribal clan hometowns of Pawhuska, Hominy and Grayhorse.

Turner, founder of Cable News Network, acquired the land in 2001, as well as four contiguous properties owned by the Drummond family, and raised more than 3,000 head of bison as well as cattle.

Osage Principal Chief Geoffrey M. Standing Bear signed the final paperwork for the purchase Wednesday at Musselman Abstract Co. in Bartlesville. Assistant Chief Raymond Red Corn and Byron Bighorse, CEO of Osage Casinos, were present for the historic return of the grasslands to Osage ownership. The tribe acquired it by sealed-bid auction.

In the early 1900s, the Osage Nation owned nearly 1.5 million acres, but before this acquisition owned only 5 percent of that.

“We can think of no better learning environment for our children than these lands,” Standing Bear said. “Land is central to the culture, traditions and history of the Osage people. We intend to keep the majority of the property as a working bison ranch, allowing us to connect our youth to nature.”

The tribe plans to continue to preserve, protect and sustain the ranch land as a home to bison, which are sacred to the Osage. Red Corn said the purchase reverses 200 years of the Osage losing land.

“We will need to engage in some profit-making activities to support our nonprofit goals,” Standing Bear said. “We have been discussing the possible hunting opportunities and what would be involved.”

Projected revenues earned from gaming made financing possible with partner Bank of Oklahoma, the tribe said. Osage Casino, overseen by the Osage Tribe Gaming Enterprise Board, has seven entertainment, dining and gaming operations in Osage County, including Hominy, Pawhuska, Sand Springs, Tulsa, Bartlesville, Skiatook and Ponca City.



Norwalk Reporter and Huron Advetiser
Nowalk, Ohio June 9 1827
Account Of Their Condition, Manners, Etc.

Description of the Osages of the Missouri, by the Rev. William F Vaill, superintendent of one branch of the mission to that tribe.

Condition of their Females. – Among the Osages, a plurality of wives is allowed. Each husband, if he proved himself to be a man of character, is entitled to all the sisters of the same family by the same mother. In marrying the oldest, or first wife, they have great ceremonies, such as Pro sessions, roasting, firing, displaying the U.S. colours, etc. and she is the wife or the best beloved. The rest fall into the rank of wives, as a matter of course, when they become of suitable age. There is, indeed a good degree of affection between the parties, but always attended with a spirit of servitude and fear on the part of the women. And their condition is truly degraded; for while the man are _____ing at their ease in their camps, striking or telling stories, or engaged in the sport of war, or of hunting; the females have to build their houses, plant their corn, dress the skins, transport the baggage, and wood, and water, and bear a many a heavy burden. Instead of one day of rest in seven, they have not one from their marriage until death. It is one of increasing round of servitude and drudgery. And shall it be always thus? Shell their daughters be trained to servitude only? No- is the response of every female breast. Let us send them the gospel, that they too may become respected, and useful, and happy.

Sufferings. – Some seem to suppose Indians are so hardy, that they are incapable of suffering. I have taken notice of this; and I see, that the Indian feels pain and sorrow, as well as other men. When he travels over the bleak plains, amid-the rains and cold of January, with only a single blanket to cover him by day, and make his bed at night, then it is that he suffers by the cold. When his family is without food, and his gun misses fire, and the deer leaps away– perhaps the only deer he has seen for many___, _ than it is he suffers by hunger.

And in sickness, they greatly suffer, for want of suitable medicine and care. They have doctors; but their doctors are only miserable conjurors, who, and their applications  occasion more pain than they relieve.

Their principal remedy for almost all kinds of disease, is cupping. – That preparations are made by the point of a large hunting knife sharpened on a stone. Then the small end of a buffalo horn is applied, and the blood drawn out by sucking with the mouth.

And they have another still more painful operation. The lands are punctured over in stripes and, checks, till the blood gushes out. The object is by means of a composition of green powder, to imprint durable marks which shall designate the person as victorious and Hon. But the poor patient suffers exceedingly, from the consequent swelling and inflammation.

I will mention another instance. A father sat in sadness on the floor of his lodge. I knew not the cause, till he opened his blanket, and showed his infant emancipated to skin and bones. He sat expecting it would die. Our physician gave the child some simple medicine, and we left the village. Two years after, I happen to enter the same lodge, and the father called a little playful child, and said, to my surprise, “This is the child your doctor cured.”

In their ways they suffer much for want of medical and surgical aid, and much more, by that universal tremor and distress, which fills their minds, and agitates even their little children, lest their enemies should fall upon them in some defenseless hour.

Mourning for the dead. – Another scene arises to our view. The wretched mother is now in that deepest distress. She cries and howls, and tears her hair, and smites upon her breast, and wrings her hands. Then, for a moment, she ceases, until the conjuror has done his last office; which is to paint the face of the dying youth, that it may be known in the other world to what clan he belongs, and that he may please God, and be accepted by him. The young man dies it is seen that he is gone. And now the lamentations of surviving friends increase seven fold. And when one company of mourning the women is exhausted, another comes, and takes up and prolongs the sad lamentations. They then carry forth the dead, wrapped in the skin of a buffalo, lay him upon the earth and raise over him a mound of earth or stone. From this time the father may be seen sitting by the side of the mound, day after day, fasting – his hair growing long – his face covered with earth. And so in intent is he upon his loss, that he sees not the strangers, that pass by him into the town, though there is no event which attracts more attention from the Indians generally, then the approach of white people.

But this man is in sorrow. And he cries to his departed son; ‘My son! -you make me unhappy – you are not with me – I must hunt and go to war alone.” Then raising his voice to his God he says, “my God, have pity on me, my son is gone, I am for, pity me, help me to go to war, and secure the scalp of mine enemies, that I may feast and make my heart glad again.

It has been the custom of these people, and is still, not to cease morning till they have sacrificed some enemy. Many of their war excursions against the Pawnees, and indeed most of them, are to comfort someone that mourns, by preparing the way for a war feast.

Religion. – Whither goes the spirit of the dead? The Osage cannot tell you. No land of promise, no heaven of pure delight, rises before the dim vision of an Indian. All that he sees, is a dark and narrow land & land of shadows and of ghost. He sees something beyond the grave, but what he sees is not distinctly. He knows not what sort of life it is. He rather conjectures it is something like the present.

So he sets a dish of food beside the deceased, and gives back his hunting or war implements. And if it be some brave man, they say, – “let him have his favorite horse, or he will be restless in his grave.” So they shoot down his horse by the grave-side.

They have no idea of one great invisible Spirit. Tell them of such a being, and they will triumphantly inquire, “Who is he? Where is he? I want to see him. Show him to me, and I will believe. Is he like my shadow? Is he like my breath? Is he like the wind? What is he like?” Asked them how many gods they were shipped, and they will never put up less than four fingers, and say

Meh –Wok-kun-dah. The sun is God;”

Me um-pah Wok-kun-dah “The moon is God;”

Grah  Wok-kun-dah “Thunder is God;”

Moi  neh kah Wok-kun-dah, “The earth is God”

others will name five, and others six and others seven or eight.

Morning Prayers. – These commands before the break of day. They rise and cover their faces with earth. Then go forth into the field round about the village, and sitting down on the ground offer their prayers. And you may hear hundreds, at the same time all praying aloud in different directions. And the God to whom they pray is some imaginary God, like the sun, moon, etc.

Ceremonies. – They eat not except they wash their hands and face. Sometimes and their trouble they do part of the day. If you invite them to eat your ___must be seconded by a bowl of water, or it will be of no use. They ___tom and smoking, which is quite significant. The ____which they offer to their God, ________________________ may be literally translated ____ “Tobacco, Tobacco, I smoke to the God; gives me a good path, make me a good warrior.” The great religious ceremony of the Osage shall be communicated at another time. William F Vaill.



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