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Friday, February 16, 2018

Getting acquainted with the Osage Nation

One of the reasons we have been so excited about our spring reading series on “Killer of the Flower Moon” is that the book encompasses the history of so many different and fascinating Oklahoma topics – oil, the FBI and the birth of forensic science.

In partnering with members and organizations of Osage Nation, we’ve realized that for a library right smack in the center of Oklahoma, we don’t spend much time providing opportunities to explore the part of the book that is the most fascinating of all - the people of Oklahoma. Sharing this book will begin what we hope is an annual exploration of the many Nations throughout our state.

We also hope that participants will take advantage of this opportunity to find out about the history, traditions and current culture of the Osage. One of the statements we’ve heard again and again while developing this series is that many people think tribes all share the same customs and culture. But in fact, each group is often very different from one another, an idea that is made clear by naming the Osage the “Osage Nation.” Just as Italy, France, and Germany are different, discrete entities, so are the Osage, the Choctaw and Cherokees.

So we encourage you to take the next two months to get to know the Osage people---their history and their traditions, but even more importantly, who they are today. We will have many Osage guests throughout the series, giving you many chances to learn about the individuals who make up the Nation. 

We’ll also be highlighting our collection of books on different aspects of the Osage. Visit one of our displays to borrow one of the books before the series starts. It will inform your reading of Grann’s book and make each of the programs that much more meaningful. 

Here are some of the choices with descriptions from our catalog:

·         “Osage Indian Customs & Myths” by Louis F. Burns (1984) - Because the Osage did not possess a written language, their myths and cultural traditions were handed down orally through many generations. With time, only those elements deemed vital were preserved in the stories, and many of these became highly stylized. The resulting verbal recitations of the proper life of an Osage—from genesis myths to body decoration, from star songs to child-naming rituals, from war party strategies to medicinal herbs—constitute this comprehensive volume.

·         “Art of the Osage” by Garrick Bailey & Daniel C. Swan (2004) - This volume draws together over two centuries' worth of Osage art, tracing the patterns of Osage life and culture as they existed from contact to the present. The book explores the interconnections among their material culture, social organization, cosmology, aesthetics, and rituals.

·         A History of the Osage people by Louis F. Burns (1989) - Traces 400 years of Osage culture from prehistoric times to the group's current status as an officially recognized tribe. Louis Burns draws on ancestral oral traditions and research in a broad body of literature to tell the story of the Osage people. 

·         “Traditions of the Osage: stories collected and translated by Francis la Flesche” (2010) - The forty-nine traditional Osage narratives presented here, collected in Oklahoma between 1910 and 1923 for the Bureau of American Ethnology, have never before been assembled in one book. These stories offer insights into Osage culture and society that are not available elsewhere.

·         “The Osage Ceremonial Dance I'n-Lon-Schka” by Alice Anne Callahan (1990) - The participants, who now number in the hundreds, assemble each June in three Oklahoma communities-Pawhuska, Hominy, and Grayhorse-where the Dance Chairmen, the Drumkeeper (an eldest son of the tribe), and the dance organization have been preparing for the dance throughout the year. The I'n-Lon-Schka is religious in content and continues to establish conduct and ways of living for tribal members.

·         “The Osages, Children of the Middle Waters” by John Joseph Mathews (1961) – Drawing from the oral history of his people before the coming of Europeans, the recorded history since, and his own lifetime among them, John Joseph Mathews created a truly epic history.

To learn more about the library’s series, “One Book, One Community: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” visit the website at or call the Help Desk at (405) 372-3633 x8106.

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