5/12/2008

Our Trip to Pawhuska


We've been back in Carlisle a month now, since our trip to Osage County. That's more than enough time to begin to reflect on our visit, and share some thoughts. We flew in to Tulsa Wednesday, April 30th and drove to Pawhuska in a rental car. The trip through Osage lands was beautiful in every way - as compelling as any of Carter Revard's poetry or J.J. Mathews' prose. The countryside was lush green, and the winding country roads deserted. When we got to Pawhuska we plunged straight into the 1930's time warp, the being barely a generation older than the day the last Osage student left the Carlisle Indian School. Every family's history carried with it some connection to original allottees, defining a unique set of stories that almost always included Carlisle or Haskell or Chilocco or some other off-rez boarding school tied to the Civilization Fund which we quickly discovered facilitated the very existence of those schools. The Osages thought Carlisle was established just for them and yet, Carlisle enrolled Indians from virtually every nation from every corner of the United States, and all parts in between.

We were invited to present at the Wha Zha Zhi Culture Center for the opening of their exhibit of Carlisle Indian School artwork which preceded by one day, the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the oldest tribal museum, the Osage Tribe Museum. The highlight of the museum's celebration was the unveiling of the second of the "Osage Ten" bust of Shunkahmolah in the company of many tribal members, the family of Shunkahmolah, and visitors like us. It was heartening to listen to the words of a grandson spoken only in Osage - a testament to the endurance of language despite the efforts at eradication by boarding school philosophies.

During the three full days in Osage county we had special opportunities to visit with relatives of Carlisle folks. In addition to being gifted with many family stories, we were gifted with shawls so that we might be able to dance in friendship with many Osage people.

There's much more to say. This post will be expanded.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Osages like many tribes will make any situation better and as for them thinking the school was just for them that is not true. The Osages had no idea that our money funded the school and all we as Osages do is to speak of our connection as any other tribe would do. Make it as personable to us as possible, if you were to go to the Sioux or Creek, Pawnee, Sac and Fox, Comanche, Cheyenne-Arapaho they would focus on their tribes history and only their tribe. Each tribe will focus on themselves because it is their people that suffered and the youth of today need to know that.

Barbara said...

Yes - that's what I was trying to convey. When we visited with Eddie Red Eagle this past Spring, he gave a history lesson that included the relationship between the so-called civilization fund and the Osage Tribe. We did not realize that so much Osage money had gone into the founding of the Carlisle School. That was the point I was trying to make.

Thanks for clarifying.