Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Remembering the Osage

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward."
Soren Kierkegaard

This marker was placed on our court house lawn a few years ago to commemorate the “end” of the Osage Wars. Hum, not much of a war was involved. The Osage were located in the Ohio River Valley near Kentucky, pushed across the Mississippi, later driven to the western border of Missouri and finally landed in the southeastern corner of Kansas, out of Missouri’s hair. The Osage lived there a relatively short time before being pressed into Indian Territory that later would become Oklahoma. They were the only tribe to buy their own reservation and later made money of oil and mineral rights.

The Osage make an appearance in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie (near Independence, Kansas) when they were hungry and wanted some of Ma’s bread. What the book doesn’t say was that the Osage were there first with some gardens and homes before Pa and his friends “settled” that corner of Kansas.

Just north of my Kansas hometown, the Osage had lived on the banks of the Neosho River. The farm boys were always toting to class some arrow heads or chiseled stone from that era. How we all wished we could have lived there when this tall and mighty tribe of people lived on the land. The Osage were to cross my path another way when I dated a boy of Osage blood lines. He, his dad, and his brothers all had the statuesque build and dark hair of the Osage. He was athletic and quiet, a gentle memory now.

Our town was also about 10 miles away from the Osage Mission to the east. Fantastic history here. The Osage chief, who had been to St. Louis and knew the importance of white men’s education, begged for the black robes to come teach his people. So the Catholic priests came and settled there opening Osage Mission which was a church and school for teaching Osage boys in the 1840’s. Of course more white men followed them and shortly after the Civil War the Osage moved from Kansas to Indian Territory.

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