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Osage

Osage

ETHNONYMS: A-ha-chae, Bone Indians, Crevas, Huzaas, Ouchage, Wasashe, Wasbasha


Orientation

Identification. The Osage are an American Indian group who currently live mainly in Oklahoma. The name "Osage" is derived from "Wa-sha-she," or "water people," the name of one of the Osage phratries. The original Osage name for themselves was "Ni-u-ko'n-ska," or "people of the middle water."

Location. At the time of earliest European contact, the Osage villages were located along the Osage river in what is today southwestern Missouri. During the late eighteenth Century, the Osage hunting territory encompassed most of Southern and western Missouri, northern and western Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma, and eastern Kansas. Today, most Osage live in Oklahoma.

Demography. In 1976 the Osage population numbered 8,842. Of this number, only 156 were full-blood Osage, while over 75 percent of the population was less than one-fourth degree Osage in ancestry. During the late eighteenth century, the Osage numbered about 6,500.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Osage language belongs to the Dhegiha branch of the Siouan family.

History and Cultural Relations

Linguistic, archaeological, and mythological data present an unclear picture of precontact Osage history. The Osage, Kansa, Omaha, Ponca, and Quapaw collectively constitute the Dhegihan Siouan speakers. These languages are so close as to be mutually intelligible. The myths of these groups describe a westward migration out of the Ohio valley and define the order in which the groups split off from one another. Precisely when this migration took place is not clear, since archaeological data seem to indicate that the Osage had lived in southwestern Missouri for some time prior to French Contact in 1673. Native groups bordering the Osage in 1673 included the Caddoan-speaking Pawnee, Wichita, and Mento in the Arkansas River valley to the south and west, the Siouan-speaking Oto, Missouri, and Kansa along the Missouri River to the north and west, and the Algonkian-speaking Illini peoples far to the east along the Mississippi River. During the early historic period, Osage relations with most of these peoples were volatile. The greatest conflict was with the Caddoan-speaking peoples with whom they were at war from the late seventeenth until the late nineteenth centuries. Starting in the 1680s, the Osage were in regular Contact with French traders, whose supply of guns made them the most militarily powerful tribe in French Louisiana.

In 1803 Louisiana was purchased by the United States. To find homes for dislocated eastern tribes as well as European-American settlers, the United States negotiated a series of treaties with the Osage. In 1808 the Osage ceded most of their lands in present-day Missouri and Arkansas. The Western Cherokee were given a reservation in Arkansas and quickly came into conflict with the Osage over hunting territory. In 1817 a Cherokee war party attacked an Osage Village, killing eighty-three men, women, and children and taking over one hundred captive. The following year a new treaty was negotiated, and the Osage ceded much of eastern Oklahoma. In 1821 the Cherokee again attacked an Osage village, and in 1825 a new treaty ceded all the Osage lands except for a tract in what is now southern Kansas.

In 1870 the Osage agreed to allow the government to sell their Kansas reservation to White settlers for $1.25 per acre. Part of the money was used to purchase a new, smaller Reservation in Indian Territory (Oklahoma), where they moved in 1871. The remainder of the money was deposited in the U.S. Treasury, and the interest used for the betterment of the Osage. In 1897 oil was discovered on the Osage reservation. In 1906 the Osage allotment act was passed, and the reservation opened to White settlers. Surface rights were divided among tribal members, but the tribe retained and still retains title to mineral rights, including the vast oil and natural gas deposits. The Osage reservation also retained its legal status as an allotted reservation.


Settlements

The Osage were divided into five bands; the Upland Forest, the Big Hills, the Thorny Thickets, the Hearts-Stays, and the Little Osage. Each of these bands occupied a permanent Village located in the bottomlands near their fields. Each village was arranged symmetrically with a main east-west path that separated it into a northern and a southern half. In the very middle of the village, on opposite sides of the path, were the houses of the two village chiefs. Warfare and removal during the early nineteenth century led to fragmentation of the Villages, until at one time there were seventeen. Each village, however, remained identified with one of the bands. After the move to Oklahoma in 1871, the five band-village Communities were reestablished. Osage dwellings were originally rectangular wigwam-type structures covered with mats, hides, and/or bark. Today three bands exist, the Thorny-Thickets at Pawhuska, the Big Hills at Gray Horse, and the Upland Forest at Hominy. The Hearts-Stays and the Little Osage were absorbed by the Thorny Thickets. Each band has a 160-acre village with a dance arbor and community building. All Families live in American-style houses, some in the band village but most in nearby towns or on rural farms and ranches.

Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The early Osage economy was based on horticulture, hunting, and the collection of wild food plants. Maize, beans, and squash were the most important crops. Although bison were the most Important game animals, elk, deer, and bear were also significant. Persimmons, prairie potatoes, and water lily roots were staples in their diet. During the eighteenth century, the fur trade and Indian slave trade became important aspects of their economy. Horses, first adopted by the Osage in the late seventeenth century, facilitated bison hunting, which became the dominant feature of the Osage economy in the mid-nineteenth century. The last Osage bison hunt took place in 1875. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, they were dependent upon per capita payments from interest paid on the Kansas land sale money in the federal Treasury. This income and other properties made the Osage the "richest People per capita in the world." Oil income from the 1897 discovery peaked in 1924. In 1906 each of the 2,229 allotees had received a headright, which entitled its owner to 1/2229th of the income from tribal mineral rights. Individuals born after the roll was closed could acquire a headright only by Inheritance or purchase. Headlights can be divided, but today only a minority own any part of one, though a few individuals own multiple headlights. Most of the wealthier individuals today are older women. The present economy is based on oil income and wage labor.

Industrial Arts. Historic crafts included leatherwork, beading, finger weaving, ribbonwork, and some metalwork using German silver. Today a limited amount of weaving, ribbonwork, and beading is produced for domestic use.

Trade. From the late seventeenth until the late nineteenth centuries, trade was a critical part of their economy. During the first half of the eighteenth century, they were a major supplier of Indian slaves to the French. Starting in the last half of the eighteenth century, the trade shifted to horses, beaver pelts, and deer and bear skins. By the mid-nineteenth Century, they were trading primarily in bison robes and hides.

Division of Labor. Farming, collection of wild food plants, and their preparation and storage were primarily the work of women. Women were also primarily responsible for hide work, making clothes, cooking, and raising children. Hunting was a male activity, and politics, warfare, and ritual activities were dominated by men. Important ritual positions are still limited to males, and few women have held tribal political offices.

Land Tenure. Aboriginally, each of the five bands appears to have had its own hunting territory. At least within their band's territory, individuals had rights to hunt where they wished. Farmland was owned by the family who cleared the land. In 1906 tribal reservation land was allotted to Individuals, with each man, woman, and child receiving 658 acres. The tribe reserved three 160-acre "Indian villages" where any member of the tribe could claim an unoccupied lot and build a house. Individual trust land amounts to about 200,000 acres today.

Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. The Osage were divided into twenty-four patrilineal clans. These clans were grouped into phratries and exogamous moieties. Fifteen clans formed the hon-qa or "earth" moiety, which included the wa-sha-she or "water" phratry and the hon-ga or "land" phratry. Nine clans formed the tsi-zhu or "sky" moiety. Each clan had between three and five hierarchically ranked subclans. Most political positions as well as ritual positions and prerogatives were considered the property of particular clans. Each also had its own prescribed area in the village. Clans owned sets of male and female personal names that were given to their members. Today, the only significant function of the clans is in the naming of children.

Kinship Terminology. Traditionally, Osage kin terms were of the Omaha type.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Individuals could not marry into either their own moiety or their mother's clan. Ideally, marriages were arranged by the extended families of both individuals, Commonly without their knowledge. Marriages were important and elaborate social affairs with major gift exchanges between the families. The husband of the oldest sister in a family had a prior claim on all younger sisters, and sororal polygyny was common. Both the levirate and the sororate were also Common practices. Traditionally, the Osage may have been patrilocal in residence; however, by the early nineteenth Century matrilocal residence was typical.

Domestic Unit. The ideal family lived in an extended Family unit headed by the son-in-law. Today, most are nuclear families, with extended family households usually found only among the wealthier families.

Inheritance. Traditionally, household property was passed to the son-in-law upon marriage. Ritual positions and items were usually passed from father to eldest son. Women normally favored their oldest daughters. Today there is still some bias favoring the oldest children. Most property is inherited bilaterally, conforming to laws of the state of Oklahoma.

Socialization. Children were raised in a world with welldefined rules of behavior. Physical punishment was rare, and children were controlled through a combination of ridicule and rewards.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Status was conferred on the basis of birth order, age, subclan membership, and personal conduct. Birth order was of major significance, and the first, second, and third sons and daughters had names indicative of their position. A woman's status was in large part dependent upon her husband's status. Since mixed-bloods were usually the children of non-Osage fathers, they did not have a clan affiliation and thus no position within society. By the late nineteenth century, mixed-bloods formed a separate and distinct group whose life-style and values were basically European-American. Today, status is based in part on the prestige of the family and in part on relative wealth.

Political Organization. The five bands were autonomous units. Although there was no overriding political structure, band leaders frequently conferred and acted in concert. Each band had two ga-hi-ge, or chiefs, a tzi-zhu, or sky chief, and a hon-ga, or earth chief. The chiefs were chosen from among the male members of particular lineages and clans. To assist them, the chiefs had ten a-ki-da, or "soldiers," who were also chosen from particular clans. The chiefs and soldiers dealt only with day-to-day problems and led the village on hunts. The true power was in the collective decisions of the non-honzhin-ga, or "little old men," individuals who had been initiated into the clan rituals and had the right to perform such rituals. Each of the clans had its own set of "little old men." They were responsible for and controlled all religious rituals and all external relations including warfare. During the early nineteenth century, the Osage began to fragment politically. Some families continued to follow traditional hereditary chiefs, but others turned to "big man" war leaders. The "little old men" lost influence to younger aggressive warriors. In 1881 the Osage Nation was organized with a constitution based on that of the Cherokee. In 1900 the Indian Service unilaterally abolished the national government. The 1906 Allotment Act provided for a new tribal council to be elected by adult headlight owners who vote the number of headlights they own.

Social Control. Gossip and ostracism were and are two informal forms of control. Little is known about witchcraft other than that the last witch died in the early part of the twentieth century. The chiefs and their soldiers were primarily responsible for the maintenance of peace within the Village. Physical force and punishment could be used, and on occasion individuals were executed for murder. The 1881 constitution established courts and police. The 1906 Allotment Act made no provision for a tribal judicial system.

Conflict. There were and are sharp political divisions and bitter disputes among the Osage. These disputes, however, have rarely threatened the overall cohesiveness of the tribe. The major division today is between the descendants of the turn-of-the-century mixed-blood and full-blood families. Since today there are few actual full-bloods, the division is based more on social and cultural differences than on biology.


Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The Osage religion was pantheistic. All life forms and changes in the universe were the product of a single mysterious life-giving force called Wa-kon-tah. Humans were merely one manifestation of Wa-kon-tah. Clans were totemic, in that the members of a particular clan were more closely associated or linked to some manifestation of Wa-kon-tah than others. The Osage never claimed to fully understand this force and how it worked. There were spirits, and through visions humans communicated with them and gained their support. Some humans could turn themselves into animals. Power derived from supernatural knowledge was neither "good" nor "evil." The Peyote religion was brought to them in the 1890s. The Osage Peyote church was based on Christianity and totally rejected traditional religious beliefs and practices. By the 1910s, traditional religious ceremonies were gone. Only a few Osage Peyote churches exist today, and these are now affiliated with the Native American church. Most Osages belong to main-line Christian churchesCatholic, Baptist, and Quaker.

Religious Practitioners. The "little-old-men" were Formally trained and initiated priests. Every major ritual consisted of prayers, and certain acts and items. The rituals had twenty-four parts, one for each clan, and only a "little-oldman" from that clan had the authority to perform his clan's portion of the ritual. The last of the "little-old-men" died in the early 1970s. The Peyote churches were established on the basis of extended families, and the head of a family was Usually formally installed as "road man" for the church. Only Certain men had the authority to create new churches and install "road men"; the last man who undisputably had such authority died in the early 1960s. Today the Peyote churches follow the Native American church structure.

Ceremonies. The Osage had both crisis and calendrical rituals. Most of what is known concerns crisis ritualschild naming, mourning, war, peace, and initiation rituals for "little-old-men." Little is known about calendrical rituals. A spring ritual cleansed the village and prepared for planting. There was a planting ritual and in the late summer a green corn ceremony. The Osage had sacred fires and at one time a ritual renewal of fires. There is even some mention of human sacrifice during the early historic period.

Medicine. Little is known about traditional medicine. There were rituals designed to promote long life and health. A wide variety of herbs were used in treatment of illness.

Death and Afterlife. Death was natural in that all things die. What they feared was premature death of a child or young adult. Traditional Osage religion focused on living, not death. The Osage sought continuity through their children and family. Death was associated with night, and they had no well-developed concept of what happened after death. One appeal of the Peyote religion was that it gave them an explanation for what happened after death.


Bibliography

Bailey, Garrick (1973). Changes in Osage Social Organization, 1673-1906. University of Oregon Anthropological Papers, no. 5. Eugene: University of Oregon Press.

La Flesche, Francis (1921). The Osage Tribe: Rite of the Chiefs; Sayings of the Ancient Men. U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology, 36th Annual Report (1914-1915), 35-604. Washington, D.C.

La Flesche, Francis (1939). War Ceremony and Peace Ceremony of the Osage Indians. U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin no. 59. Washington, D.C.

Mathews, John Joseph (1961). The Osages, Children of the Middle Waters. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

GARRICK BAILEY

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Osage

OSAGE

OSAGE. Originally part of a large Dhegian-Siouxan speaking body of Indians, the Osages lived on the lower Ohio River. Attacks from aggressive tribes to the east drove the group west of the Mississippi River in the early seventeenth century. By about 1650, the Dhegians comprised five autonomous tribes: Quapaws, Kansas, Omahas, Poncas, and Osages. The Osages inhabited a region that straddled the plains and the woodlands of western Missouri. Culturally adaptable, the Osages kept old practices when useful, and adopted new ones when necessary. Osage women continued to plant crops in the spring, but men increasingly hunted deer and buffalo commercially on the plains during summer and fall.

The Osages organized themselves into two patrilineal groupings, or moieties, one symbolizing the sky and peace, the other focusing on the earth and war. Each moiety originally had seven, and later twelve, clans. Some clans had animal names, and some were named after natural


phenomena or plants. Villages had two hereditary chiefs, one from each moiety. Osage parents arranged their children's marriages, with the bride and groom always from opposite moieties, and the new couple lived in the lodge of the groom's father. Over time, however, the custom changed, and the couple would live with the bride's family. The Osages believed in an all-powerful life force Wa-kon-da and prayed at dawn each day for its support. Religious ceremonies required the participation of all clans.

The French made contact with the Osages in 1673 and began trading, particularly in guns. The Osages needed firearms to fend off attacks from old enemies like the Sauks, Fox, Potawatomis, Kickapoos, and Illinois, and put great energy into commercial hunting and trading livestock and slaves in order to buy them. Further, they used their geographic location to block tribes to the west, the Wichitas, Kansas, Pawnees, Caddos, and Quapaws, from joining the arms race. The Osage were able to control the region between the Missouri and Red Rivers through their superior firepower and great numbers—for much of the eighteenth century, the Osages could muster about one thousand warriors.

By the eighteenth century, the tribe had split into three bands: the Little Osages along the Missouri River, the Arkansas along the Verdigris River, and the Great Osages on the upper Osage River. By the 1830s, there were at least five bands. American expansion in the early nineteenth century moved more than sixty thousand already displaced eastern Indians (Chickasaws, Cherokees, Delawares, and others) west of the Mississippi, overrunning the Osages. In 1839, a treaty with the U.S. government forced the Osages to remove to Kansas. Wisely, the Osages made peace with the Comanches and Kiowas and leapt into the prosperous trade in buffalo hides.

White settlers, especially after the Homestead Act of 1862, encroached on Osage lands, and, by 1870, the tribe had ceded its remaining territory in Kansas. Proceeds from the sale of Osage lands went into a government trust fund and the purchase of a 1.5 million acre reservation from the Cherokees in the Indian Territory (Oklahoma). The decades after 1870 saw the dissolution of the old political forms; pressure from "civilizing" missionaries; and increased tension between full-blooded and mixed-blood Osages. The Osage Allotment Act of 1906 divided oil revenues from their Oklahoma fields among the 2,229 members of the tribe, with the provision that no new headrights be issued. Oil revenues peaked at about $31,000 per headright in 1981. The 1990 census showed 9,527 people who identified themselves as Osage.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Rollings, Willard H. The Osage: An Ethnohistorical Study of Hegemony on the Prairie-Plains. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1995.

Sturtevant, William C., and Raymond J. DeMallie, eds. Handbook of North American Indians: Plains. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 2001.

Robert M.Owens

See alsoCherokee ; Illinois (Indians) ; Indian Removal ; Indian Reservations ; Indian Territory ; Tribes: Great Plains .

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Osage (indigenous people of North America)

Osage (ō´sāj, ōsāj´), indigenous people of North America whose language belongs to the Siouan branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). In prehistoric times they lived with the Kansa, the Ponca, the Omaha, and the Quapaw in the Ohio valley, but by 1673 they had migrated to the vicinity of the Osage River in Missouri. They often conducted war against other Native Americans, and in the early 18th cent. allied themselves with the French against surrounding tribes, such as the Illinois. The Osage had a typical Plains-area culture (see under Natives, North American). One distinctive trait, however, was the tribal division between the Wazhazhe, or meat eaters, and the Tsishu, or vegetarians.

In 1802, according to Lewis and Clark, three groups constituted the Osage—the Great Osage, on the Osage River; the Little Osage, farther up the same river; and the Arkansas band, on the Vermilion River, a tributary of the Arkansas. They then numbered some 5,500. By a series of treaties begun in 1810 the Osage ceded to the United States their extensive territory in Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, and they moved to a reservation in N central Oklahoma. They have since been given the right to own their land individually. The discovery of oil on their reservation land in the early 20th cent., plus their landholdings, contributed to the prosperity of the Osage. In 1990 there were over 10,000 Osage in the United States. The Osage Museum in Pawhuska, Okla., the oldest continuous tribal museum in the country, documents their history.

See F. La Flesche, The Osage Tribe (1921, repr. 1970) and War Ceremony and Peace Ceremony of the Osage Indians (1939); J. J. Mathews, The Osages, Children of the Middle Waters (1961); W. D. Baird, The Osage People (1972).

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Osage (river, United States)

Osage, river, c.360 mi (580 km) long, formed by the confluence of the Marais des Cygnes and the Little Osage rivers, W Mo. It flows NE to join the Missouri River near Jefferson City. Bagnell Dam (completed 1931) across the Osage River impounds the Lake of the Ozarks and also provides hydroelectricity. The power produced there is consumed mainly by St. Louis. The Osage River basin project provides for flood control, hydroelectric power, and recreational facilities.

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Osage

O·sage / ˈōˌsāj/ • n. (pl. same or O·sages) 1. a member of an American Indian people formerly inhabiting the Osage River valley in Missouri. 2. the Siouan language of this people. • adj. of or relating to this people or their language.

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Osage

Osage Tribe of Native North Americans. Hunters with a strong religious tradition, they settled at different times in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Numbering c.7,000 today, they have prospered since the discovery of oil on their Oklahoma reservation.

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Osage

Osageage, assuage, backstage, cage, downstage, engage, enrage, gage, gauge, mage, multistage, offstage, onstage, Osage, page, Paige, rage, rampage, sage, stage, swage, under-age, upstage, wage •greengage • ribcage • birdcage •teenage • saxifrage • outrage •space-age

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