Category Archives: The Four States

Customs Of The Osage People


An Osage Village

An Osage Village

 I am writing this from the Osage point of view, written by memory from the writings of an Osage descendant, Louis F. Burns. I have found his book to be the most comprehensive. If you are a student or researcher, please consider Mr. Burns as my main reference here. While searching the internet, I have found several inaccurate sources with widely varying information.

This brief overview generally deals with the Osage nation prior to the “Louisiana Purchase” of 1803. After 1803, everything changed for the Osage people at such a quick pace that they were unable to adapt and survive as the proud nation that I write here about.

Osage Territory (1700's)

 For centuries, the Osage possessed the most prime real estate on the continent. The four-state area that they claimed during their height of power is a humid, temperate climate, encompassing just about every type of geography; wetlands, mountains, and bluegrass plains of the buffalo. Their enviable position in the center of the nation fashioned their customs and religious practices.

 The Osage style of government is thought to have been used by our founding fathers as a model for our present American style of government. The Osage had developed a special relationship with the French, and a group of the natives were taken to France a full half-century before our war of independence. A famous French treatise on this style of government was written shortly after this event and this treatise was indeed part of the model for our present constitution. Although no written proof of credit to the Osage is found, the similarities are beyond coincidence. Not the least of these is the concept of “inalienable rights” of each individual.

 At the top of the Osage government there was a powerful group of elderly ‘wise men’, who were referred to as “The Little Old Men”. The Little Old Men shared power and were made up of men from varied factions of the nation. It was their job to make judicious decisions based on petitioning from various counsels of “Grand Chiefs”. These Grand Counsels were specific to areas of tribal life. For instance, a Grand Counsel on war-making and another one meant just to lobby for peace.  At the more local, or “band” level, there was also some allowance for their own government. There were Chiefs and Councils at all levels. Sound familiar? This system was known to be in effect as early as the 1500’s.

 The government reflected the Osage personality. Slow to action and deliberate in all things, the system eventually became so top-heavy that it was cumbersome and had to be modified to meet the changing times. As such, The Little Old Men had a decreasing power as they approached 1800.

 The Osage had no concept of individual land ownership. The land was claimed by the entire nation. As a nation of hunters, these claims of territory were fiercely defended by warriors whose full time job was policing their claims. These small ‘war parties’ were not without rules.

Intruders were generally watched from a distance without them knowing they were observed. They were subsequently categorized and then dealt with. Although the whites considered these Osage people cruel savages, the punishments usually were comparable to the white’s justice.  

Three classes of intruders were considered. First was the traveller. If you were observed to be just passing through, and you took only what game and resources you needed to survive your journey, you would probably not even know you were watched. Minding you manners would save your life. Second was the hunter/trapper. These intruders were considered the worst, and were just common poachers as far as the Osage were concerned. White men would promptly hang a cattle rustler, and Osage warriors took it one step further. Poachers were beheaded and the heads displayed as a warning to any others with the same ideas. Third consisted of two different types of offenders who were treated similarly; settlers and traders. If traders were not poachers, they were not killed. If they were not trading directly with the Osage, they were however, robbed of their trade goods and sent on their way. The message was clear; Osage controlled the early merchants. Approved traders (mostly French) were encouraged.  Unapproved traders were harassed out of the area. Any trade with other native nations was not approved, as the Osage were constantly at war with them on all sides. Agricultural settlers, white or native, were treated much the same. Since the Osage were primarily concerned with hunting, and hunting territory, small groups of settlers were tolerated on their eastern border, along the Mississippi river. They were subject to some harassment though, and stealing their horses was fairly common. If they were not inter-married with the Osage, they were usually harassed until they left the area.

 At the time of Lewis and Clark’s expedition, the Osage Indians lived in most of Missouri, northern Arkansas, eastern Kansas and northeast Oklahoma. They were thought to have descended from one branch of the Omaha Sioux and migrated from the lower Ohio River Valley. They were divided into three clans: the Great Osage, Little Osage, and Arkansas Osage. Their first experiences with Euro-Americans came in the mid 1600’s when French trappers and traders encountered them. Early records from the Trading Post that was to become St. Louis indicate that early Americans traded with the Osage at nearly twice the rate of all the other Native Americans combined.

 The Osage had a special relationship with the French from the very first encounters. This has been attributed to the temperament and manners of the French explorers, more than anything else. The official French government policy was to subdue the Osage and make them proper colonial subjects. The actual practice was nothing like this. Several French were married to Osage women, and are now the ancestors of many thousands of Osage people. Apparently the Spanish and English did not have the good sense to treat the Osage as equals, and subsequently were nearly completely shut out of the lucrative fur trading, unless done by proxy through the French. Osage warriors were known to attack British soldiers on sight.

Osage girls married immediately upon reaching puberty, unlike boys, who married in their late teens. When the oldest daughter in a family married, her husband also got marriage rights to all of her younger sisters if he so chose. However, this did not happen often; polygamy was rare. A distinction was always made between the first born daughter and those that came after. Marriages were arranged by the girls parents, and though inter-marrying with other clans, tribes and even whites was done, it was not the norm. When a daughter was married away into other clans, it was a political advantage and the family ties were never forgotten. The marriage to a first-born daughter was the highest honor. When a baby was born, the town would have a naming ceremony to make it a “real” person. As the children grew up, girls were educated mainly by their mothers in domestic arts, horticulture, and gathering. Children of native and white mix were considered “real” people as long as they followed Osage traditions. If they did not adhere to Osage customs, they were allowed to move about the clans and villages as they pleased, but they were not “real”, as such, they were not spoken to, or spoken of at all. Usually these ignored offspring would live with their French relatives.

The Osage were not an agricultural society, but the women did keep gardens at semi-permanent villages. They grew maize, squash, pumpkins, gourds, and beans, as well as gathering wild fruit, berries, acorns, and nuts. In autumn they would harvest the crops and preserve them for winter. Families lived in lodges made of wood and reeds, or of tall poles covered with animal hides. The lodges were thirty to forty feet in length, with two doorways and an opening at the top for venting campfire smoke. They were permanent, yet villages were regularly moved just short distance when conditions warranted, such as sanitation, gardening, flooding and draught. Osage warriors left them twice a year, once in the summer and once in the fall, when they headed west to hunt buffalo. Although some women travelled with the buffalo hunt, the main job of women in the villages was to grow crops and gather food, as well as raise children and take care of the home. The only time the Osage used “Teepee” style shelter was when they hunted far out on the plains, away from woodlands.

There were ceremonies in all seasons for naming, mourning, peace, planning, and harvesting, where women would dance in the rituals, but singing, priesthood and religous ritual and authority were only the dominion of men. Women commonly got tattoos, especially to remember their husbands, if their husbands were killed. If a man committed a notable act of bravery he earned the right to tattoo his wife and daughters. Mothers taught their children well-defined rules of behavior. They raised their kids gently, disciplining them using ridicule and rewards, never physical punishment. Osage women carried their babies on boards on their backs, because it was convenient. As a result of this the babies’ heads were flattened in the back and stayed that way for life.

 The mode of burial among the Osages was to place the corpse in a sitting posture on the ground, at most only in a slight excavation, and pile around it a heap of stones for its protection. When the early settlers came here many such graves were seen in which the skeleton was remaining intact, and in some instances the flesh scarcely yet having entirely disappeared.

Related articles – tag/osage

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Filed under AMERICANA, History, Kansas, Labette County, Missouri, Native American, Oklahoma, Ozarks, The Four States, WAR

Fire With Fire


MartyMac is a singer/songwriter who is a native of Southeast Kansas. He has written hundreds of songs, and I even helped with lyrics on a couple of tunes. Marty is very versatile and can write and perform just about any genre, from country/bluegrass to heavy metal.

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After Twister, Joplin Holds On To Broken Relics


by FRANK MORRIS, from National Public Radio

The original sign for Dude's Daylight Donuts had hung on Main Street in Joplin for decades. Here it sits in the public works yard.

The original sign for Dude’s Daylight Donuts had hung on Main Street in Joplin for decades. Here it sits in the public works yard.

Residents of Joplin, Mo., have worked overtime to move debris and make a fresh start after one of the most destructive tornadoes demolished a third of the city in May. Still, many cling to what outsiders may see as battered junk, in order to keep memories of the event from slipping away.

Just after the storm, for example, Randy Brown walked away from his splintered home pushing a trash can full of whatever he could salvage, possibly for a shrine.

“We’re seeing all these broken items, and you know, I just realized that I need to memorialize this, even if it’s just for me,” Brown says.

Brown has a new house now, on the other side of Joplin. In his garage, bags of clothes and household things litter the floor, all carefully excavated from the wreck of his old place.

“It’s just that it’s hard to let it go. I even saved that broken lamp there,” Brown says. “But now that I have it, I’m not sure why I saved it. But here it is.”

He’s having a hard time bringing himself to take this stuff from the garage into his new home. He doesn’t even want to clean off the slurry of mud and finely ground debris that shellacked everything and everybody caught in that horrific storm.

‘Tornado Poop’

“I’ve heard it called ‘tornado poop’ — the spatter that was whirled around, and you could see it into the side of houses, especially brick. You know, just stuck on everything. I just want to leave it there — the destroyed spattered way it looked that day,” Brown says.

But most of Joplin now looks vastly different than it did “that day.” Then, it was a mass of sharp, heaving rubble. Now, what you see, mostly, is naked concrete slabs or barren dirt where neighborhoods used to be. The debris has largely been piled into huge, nightmarish hills, landfills where it’s churned and crushed by enormous machines.

At the public works yard in Joplin, Patrick Tuttle, the guy who runs the Convention and Visitors Bureau, shows a small pile of debris a lot of respect.

“We’ve got superstructure from the power grid, street signs, some things from the high school,” Tuttle says. “Can’t go back to the landfill two years from now and dig it out, so we’re putting it away.”

Main Street Memories

Dude Pendergraft, 80, owner of Dude's Daylight Donuts in Joplin, stands on the concrete slab where his shop used to be. After the tornado destroyed it, he's rebuilding nearby.

Dude Pendergraft, 80, owner of Dude’s Daylight Donuts in Joplin, stands on the concrete slab where his shop used to be. After the tornado destroyed it, he’s rebuilding nearby.

But nobody knows what to do with it. A museum, maybe? A memorial? Art? There are cars and trucks so mangled you can’t tell what they are; thick I-beams bent like noodles; and a round, blue sign with old-fashioned font and a hole in the middle.

It says “Fresh Donuts,” and it used to hang in front of Dude’s Daylight Donuts.

“This has hung on Main Street in Joplin for long as I know,” Tuttle says.

There’s not much on this section of Main Street now, other than long, thin slabs of concrete.

Dude Pendergraft, 80, checks out the space that used to be home to his doughnut shop, now just one of those empty slabs. The tornado also destroyed his house, which was right behind his shop. Still, Pendergraft is rebuilding the business, with a new, prefab building — one that will go up quick. His son, Allen, is in charge of getting a new sign.

“We’ll try to make it as close to the original as possible. Hopefully within about two or three months, it will be back shining in the night again, I hope,” Allen Pendergraft says.

And there’s a lot of hope around here, a lot of backbone. But it doesn’t seem like people in Joplin want to just forget the disaster and get on with their lives, so much as come to grips with what the storm taught them about the world.

A lot of them seem to be counting on broken, splattered relics to keep that lesson fresh.

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Chief Black Dog – The Builder


Chief Black Dog with Wife

Chief Black Dog-II with Wife

Although there have been many Osage Chiefs over the history of the people, I will probably continue to return to Chief Black Dog and his band of Osage, as he was paramount to the local history in this area where Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma meet.

Black Dog was a huge man, even by today’s standards. He stood 7 feet tall and was well over 300 pounds by all accounts. I will not attempt to go into a personal history of the Chief at this time. Native American history can be confusing at best. Each person may have been known by several names, for instance, an ‘honor name’ which is something to be earned in battle or hunting. (War and hunting were practically the same for their purposes). Besides having multiple names, there are generations carrying the same name. At this time I am speaking of Black Dog I and his accomplishments in primitive civil engineering. There are 3 main feats to mention.

THE BLACK DOG TRAIL:
Although Black Dog’s Band lived in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, the Black Dog Trail extended across southern Kansas.  It went from Baxter Springs to Cedar Vale, to Hooser, up to Dexter, to Silver Creek, near Winfield and across to the Arkansas River north of Oxford. An 1895 map supports this account and today’s US highway 166 runs on the same route in many places. This major trail also had many alternate routes, as do all of the ancient Osage trails. The main trail was completely cleared of rocks and plants. One account says that in most places the trail was “eight horses wide”. Black Dog I is correctly credited with creating the very first improved roads in both Kansas and Oklahoma.
THE CLAREMORE RACETRACK:
 Black Dog’s band were sometimes mistaken for Cheif Claremore’s band. One large Black Dog camp was at Claremore’s village, the present Claremore Oklahoma. The Black Dog camp was actually located at the site of today’s Woodlawn Cemetery at Claremore. Black Dog was notoriously shy of whites, and authority of any kind. As such, accounts of this racecourse are rare. Please mention any accounts you may find!
THE CLAREMORE CAVE:
 At Claremore (Oklahoma), Black Dog had constructed a completely concealed cave. It was not just a place for a Chief to hide, but was built large enough to hold the almost 500 members of his band, along with an entire year’s supply of food. This cave proved to be the Black Dog Band’s saviour.
 In 1817, a group of white men, along with bands of Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Comanche, Delaware, Kowasati and Tonkawa fell upon the Claremore village. The village was empty of all the able warriors, who were on a buffalo hunt at the time. They subsequently killed or captured all of the Osage they found. This became known as the ‘Battle of Claremore mound.” None of Black Dog’s people were harmed, as any that were present hid out in the cave, but their empty village was looted and burned.
 In all fairness, I must mention at this point, that this Osage band was not innocent themselves. It was Scouts from this band that led a raid by Custer’s soldiers on a helpless village at the Washita river. The same scene is now immortalized in the movie “Little Big Man”.

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The Saddest List


State: All are now accounted for following 5/22 tornado

Updated 4:15 PM CST:  When the Missouri Department of Public Safety released its official list of persons unaccounted for, that number was down to zero.

Officials say the Missouri State Highway Patrol has accounted for all individuals on that list.

They say 144 persons on the list have been located; and, next-of-kin of 134 deceased individuals have been notified.

MORE HERE: list of deceased

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Bikers, Truckers and Patriots Block Westboro at Joplin


Westboro's Youth Group?

 When I got to work last night, a co-worker said they had heard that Fred Phelps and his hateful, misguided clan were “Completely blocked in” by semi-trucks at Joplin while attempting to spread their hate speech (they call it freedom and religion). Their website proudly stated “Thank God For 125 dead in Joplin”.

 So, being absolutely delighted by this mental image of the Phelps trapped by an angry mob, I decided to see if I could find out how true this is. I did find out that something similar happened, but I haven’t gotten any local news reports on this. Here’s what I found so far. From the L.A. Times :

[….] Thousands of motorcyclists also streamed into town from Missouri and surrounding states, many announcing their intention to block protests planned by the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which said it would picket Obama’s arrival.

The controversial church opened a raw wound here with its announcement that those killed when a 200 mph tornado struck Joplin a week ago, now estimated at 139, “died for the sins of Missourians who have repeatedly lifted up their violent hands against God’s anointed, despite plain warnings not to do so.”

“We love Joplin. Joplin’s hurting. Nobody needs to make it worse. They need to go home,” said Mike Striegel, a biker from Joplin.

“We will take care of our town, no matter what it takes,” added Herb Kirkpatrick Jr., a motorcyclist from the outskirts of Joplin.

Most of those lining miles of roadway between Joplin’s main mall and the campus of Missouri Southern State University, where Obama was scheduled to speak after touring the 6-mile-long storm-ravaged area, were couples, families and groups of young people, many waving flags and posters of support for the city.

“We’re trying to show respect and honor for the ones we lost in Joplin,” said Charlie Brown, a co-organizer of the street rally, who said more than 20,000 people indicated on the group’s three Facebook pages that they planned to attend.[….]

And apparently there was a little more than just lining the streets with flags that happened! Some reports are coming in that they (Westboro) was confronted and blocked by vehicles at “The Flying J” Truck Stop. From a Facebook page:

“Just want to say that They did show up in joplin today, Fred mouthed off to a couple bikers, got his ass kicked, then was blocked in at the Flying J”

There are LOTS of rumors and some conflicting reports out there everywhere. This one is an anonymous comment from an apparent witness/participant in this.

(sic)”The Police walked one individual (Male) right in front of all us Bikers to there West B. Protesting area. That was a Big Mistake.. The chase in sued,the police couldnt run that guy out of there fast enough. We made to the other side of the parking lot ware we were met with force. Pepper spray go figure. It was brief then order was regained. Who ever arranged for there protest area tobe set up right next to 1000 plus bikers with a yellow caution tape being the divider really didnt think it through.Lol… ( May Faith and Kindness Speed your Recovery Joplin ).. WE Have Your Back..         ……….Bikers………….”

Just when I was about to give up on rumors and anonymous comments, I found one tiny piece from a more official news agency, an ABC affiliate that seems to perfectly corroborate the anonymous comment above:

“Members of the Westboro Baptist Church scheduled a protest in Joplin, Mo., Sunday. One protestor arrived around 12:15 p.m. and was accosted by counter protestors. Police escorted the Westboro member to safety and used tear gas to control the crowd”

Another report from the same ABC affiliate:

“It all started in a parking lot across from Missouri Southern State University, where today’s memorial took place.

According to witnesses, a crowd of people swarmed a man after he showed what they called a hateful sign.

Police ran into the crowd threatening to use tear gas if it got out of control.

Police then detained the man and escorted him away from the scene.

“Everybody just swarmed him, yeah, they were swarming him, throwing water bottles at him and just basically getting him out of here,” said Kelly Gresham, a witness at the scene. “They were trying to keep a little control here, the officers were, but it was just not going to happen with him.”

Our KSPR News crew did see a man detained by police with a folded up sign in his lap, but did not see what was actually on the sign.

Witnesses insist it was a sign similar to ones used by members of the Westboro Baptist Church.

According to the church’s website, a protest was planned for today.

Officials with the Missouri Department of Public Safety only heard of this one incident and are unsure if the individual involved was in fact part of the church.”

One more for good measure:

(Joplin, MO) — Police in Joplin fired off pepper spray to break up a minor clash between a small group of protesters and another group of people seeking to shield tornado victims from the protest.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas traveled to Joplin to protest ahead of a community memorial service.  The group claims the tornado, which devastated parts of Joplin a week ago, was God’s wrath for America tolerating homosexuality.

Members of the Patriot Guard were in the same area as the Westboro group and witnesses tell KOLR10 there was a minor confrontation between one member of each group with shouting and some shoving.  Police sprayed pepper spray to separate the groups.

ANYBODY reading that witnessed any of these incidents? If so, please comment!

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Filed under Crime, Faith, Human Rights, Kansas, Missouri, Ozarks, Religion, The Four States

Joplin Gets Organized


Just a note for those readers who don’t live in “The Fours States” area. Watching the local reports, and the help has grown faster than it can be organized. There is much progress in this area though as this slowly gets more coordinated. The “missing” count was as many as 1,500 at one point, but is now around 200. The death toll is about 120 and expected to rise. One Joplin Nursing Home says they believe they have 12 dead who are on the missing list.

To see incredible, and interactive photo(s), NPR’s BEFORE & AFTER pics.

Joplin’s “Boomtown Days” celebration has been cancelled or postponed, and this will be a long, slow process of returning to normal. All parents and students are being told to expect to have classes this fall!

Just want to share one last photo, and I probably won’t have much more about Joplin, at least not frequently. Check out this amazing sight; a wood-frame chair embedded in a concrete wall. I know, you’re thinking the photo is turned sideways….nope. This was a slow-moving, debris filled, F5 MONSTER. This is for real, and the very reason so many fatalities happened.For those who know people from the Joplin area, or need information, including the latest list of missing persons, go here: KOAM TV7.

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Joplin Update & Photos


Yesterday, I took off from my morning job and the wife, younger daughter, her friend and I all went to Joplin and evacuated my two grandkids. Taking two vehicles, we picked up the kid’s clothes and other small personal items. Hopefully this will free up my older daughter and her husband to take care of things without worry.

After reaching Joplin, it took another hour and a half to get to her house. Most roads in were blocked, and the officers there were all from out town, so they could not tell us how or where to get in at. I only saw one person get let through, and that was because she was there to identify her son’s body. She said this so matter-of-fact like that it was shocking.

When we got there, Jim Forbes, St. Louis Post photographer was already at the house, as my daughter is also his niece. He took the first five photos below, for more from Forbes, scroll down.

St. John's Hospital, Joplin Missouri

 Destruction beyond belief. Heartaches by the thousands. My grandson (7 years old in a couple of weeks) lost a 5 year old friend and the friend’s sister. My daughter and family lost their house and vehicles, but are not complaining….just thankful! See photos of their house below.

West / back side of house.

South side of house

One block from the house above.

Two blocks north of house.

The traffic near the damage was crazy….bumper to bumper. There were also many, many volunteers as well as police and emergency professionals from states all around. We saw ambulances still leaving town, and at the same time there were semi-trailer loads of plywood and relief supplies coming in. An amazing, frightening, saddening and a generally emotional time for us all.

“One of the most shocking scenes I witnessed yesterday happened while I was going house-to-house with firefighters. A woman walked up and pointed to a blanket less than 10 feet away and calmly said her mother’s body was under it.”  – James Forbes  ~ 

For professional pics: PHOTOS BY JAMES FORBES

Other pictures from a Joplin resident – See over 2,500 photos of the damage here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/clovenlife

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Prayers for Joplin Missouri


Please pray for all the people affected by this terrible event. My Daughter and Grandchildren survived this, but so far at least 89 others have died. Joplin is about 60 miles from where I live, and we are getting severe storms here at Parsons, Kansas as I write.

Although God may not intervene in our affairs, his people are certainly here to help.

My Daughter Shawn’s house is missing one wall, and both of their vehicles are destroyed. More storms are headed their way. I will post more information when I can.

I can only think of one thing to say here, the shortest scripture: JESUS WEPT. 

Joplin Missouri, May 22nd

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The Osage in the Four States


BLACK_DOG

BLACK DOG II

 If you live in the Four-States area you are in the heart of the former Osage Indian Nation. Maybe not the most famous tribe, but arguably the most signicant in American history. Their geographical location in North America was so significant that it halted westward expansion for 125 years! Being in possesion of the major waterways of the Arkansas and Missouri rivers, along with the ancient overland route that passed through southest Kansas, it was the equivelant of possesing the crossroads of the Asian ‘Silk Road’. In fact, many historians say that had these natives not held the Spanish and French at bay, the United States probably would not exist today.

 The Osage were a highly organized people who’s government structure was more than likely the model for modern western civilization’s present governments. They certainly (indirectly) brought the notion of  “Inalienable Rights” to Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers.

  A fierce and proud people, they were primarily hunters/warriors. They were a kind and loving Nation who valued life of all forms. Even though they were ‘civilized’, they were far from being pacifist. Any native or white man who failed to understand their rules and traditions could possibly pay with his life. Any hunting in their territory without permission would end with your head on a stake, warning poachers to follow the rules! Of course, white men saw this as savage, while at the same time hanging poachers and cattle rustlers.

Politeness to each other was paramount, and traditions were followed to the tee. The Osage saw the first white explorers as extremely rude. (Look how they spoke to each other!) They also complained that the whites smelled bad and rarely bathed. Worst of all was their common trait, GREED. One Chief was quoted as saying; “They faithfully keep the sabbath, and anything else they get their hands on!”

 The Osage was not a nomadic tribe of hunters, however they did move their villages and camps as needs arose. Being in firm possession of this land made them arguably the most powerful tribe in the first 100 years of American history.

 If you live in southeast Kansas, you live on, or near their village sites, which were all over the Neosho and Verdigris rivers as well as the smaller tributaries such as Labette creek. Black Dog’s clan inhabited much of SEK. In fact, towns like Chanute and Oswego, Independence and Coffeyville are on the very spots that were their villages. In the extreme southest corner, Baxter Springs was a large Indian village long before it was the first cowtown in Kansas. The trails established by the Osage eventually became the white man’s cattle trails.

 Hopefully I will have time to cover more Osage history. There is so much that is not at all what we were taught in school, if any of this was mentioned at all. Seeing history from the native inhabitant’s point of view is a new experience for me.     -For other similar posts; click the TAG – Osage. OR choose the category Native American, under SEGREGATIONS on the right side-bar.

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