Tag Archives: Missouri

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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BLEEDING KANSAS and Murder on the MARAIS DES CYGNES


 For many years I’ve driven by Trading Post Kansas, near the Marais Des Cygnes river (and now reservoir and wildlife refuge) without paying much attention to why it was named Trading Post. This was a trading post that was established specifically to trade with the Osage Indians. I did stop one time to read a historical marker about some murders that took place there. Now I’m a bit more interested in the history of Kansas.  This incident is also known as the MARAIS DES CYGNES MASSACRE, and the whole incident is a part of the meme of this blog. 

 The bloodiest single incident in the Kansas-Missouri border struggles, 1854-1861, occurred May 19, 1858, when 25-30 Pro-slavery Missourians seized 11 Kansas ‘Free-State’ men near Trading Post and marched them to a creek-bed nearby. The eleven men were lined up ‘execution style’ and promptly shot, apparently for no other reason than occupying land in a Free State. Five were killed and five wounded.  Weeks afterward, John Brown arrived and built a two-story log “fort”, about 14 x 18 feet, which he occupied with a few men through that summer. John had other armed and fortified encampments near the border. Ossowatamie is one location, and some reporters referred to John as “Ossowatamie Brown”. That December he led a raid into Missouri and liberated 11 slaves, killing one white man in the process.

 A Brown follower , Charles C. Hadsall, bought this property in 1858. Later, at the site of the fort, he built a stone house which still stands there today. The building and grounds are now part of a State Historical Site. This area, and some residents, were also part of the famous “underground railway”.

 The following is one of Brown’s many letters, documenting the turmoil in “Bleeding” Kansas. This letter was addressed to the Lawrence Kansas newspaper, the Lawrence Republican.

Trading Post, Kansas, Jan., 1859

Gents:–You will greatly oblige a humble friend, by allowing the use of your columns, while I briefly state two parallels, in my poor way.

Not one year ago, eleven quiet citizens of this neighborhood, viz.: Wm. Robertson, Wm. Colpetzer, Amos Hall, Austin Hall, John Campbell, Asa Snyder, Thos. Stilwell, Wm. Hairgrove, Asa Hairgrove, Patrick Ross, and B.L. Reed, were gathered up from their work and their homes, by an armed forced (sic) under one Hamilton, and without trial or opportunity to speak in their own defence, were formed into a line, and all but one shot–five killed and five wounded. One fell unharmed, pretending to be dead. All were left for dead. The only crime charged against them was that of being Free-State men. Now, I inquire, what action has ever, since the occurrence in May last, been taken by either the President of the United States, the Governor of Missouri, the Governor of Kansas, or any of their tools, or by any pro-slavery or Administration man, to ferret out and punish the perpetrators of this crime?

Now for the other parallel. On Sunday, the 19th of December, a Negro man called Jim, came over to the Osage settlement, from Missouri, and stated that he, together with his wife, two children, and another Negro man were to be sold within a day or two, and begged for help to get away. On Monday (the following) night, two small companies were made up to go to Missouri and forcibly liberate the five slaves, together with other slaves. One of these companies I assumed to direct. We proceeded to the place, surrounded the buildings, liberated the slaves, and also took certain property supposed to belong to the estate.

We however learned, before leaving, that a portion of the articles we had taken belonged to a man living on the plantation as a tenant, and who was supposed to have no interest in the estate. We promptly returned to him all we had taken. We then went to another plantation, where we freed five more slaves, took some property, and two white men. We moved all slowly away into the Territory for some distance, and then sent the white men back, telling them to follow us as soon as they chose to do so. The other company freed one female slave, took some property, and, as I am informed, killed one white man (the master) who fought against the liberation.

Now for a comparison. Eleven persons are forcibly restored to their natural and inalienable rights, with but one man killed, and all “hell is stirred, from beneath.” It is currently reported that the Governor of Missouri has made a requisition upon the Governor of Kansas for the delivery of all such as were concerned in the last named “dreadful outrage.” The Marshal of Kansas is said to be collecting a posse of Missouri (not Kansas) men, at West Point, in Missouri, a little town about ten miles distant, to “enforce the laws.” All pro-slavery, conservative Free-State and doughface men , and Administration tools, are filled with holy horror.

Consider the two cases, and the action of the Administration party.

Respectfully Yours,

John Brown

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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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A Remarkable Day (via The Erstwhile Conservative: A Blog of Repentance)


A Remarkable Day "The cameras may leave. The spotlight may shift. But we will be with you every step of the way until Joplin is restored. We’re not going anywhere. That is not just my promise; that’s America’s promise.” —Barack Obama, Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011 There are lots of great pictures of Barack Obama's inspirational visit to Joplin on Sunday, but I just want to post one that I think captures much about Mr. Obama and the residents hit hardest by the tornad … Read More

via The Erstwhile Conservative: A Blog of Repentance

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First Kansas Colored Infantry


colored infantry  We all know the story of where the Civil War supposedly started right? Well maybe we should take into account the border wars between Missouri and Kansas prior to the 1861 statehood of Kansas.

Pro and anti-slavery forces clashed regularly along the border, with cold blooded murders, armed encampments and even the repeated burning of the city of Lawrence Kansas by Quantrell’s Raiders.

John Brown’s forces had traveled to the state for the explicit reason of seeing that pro-slavery forces did not settle there.

 At the time, the United States was split equally on this issue and Kansas was to be the deciding vote. The way this was set up made all of this bloodshed inevitable. When Kansas gained Statehood, there was to be a popular vote of the residents that were already there, and that vote would determine if slavery would be legal there. The ensuing rush to the Kansas territory by both sides led to the “Bleeding Kansas” moniker.

 As a proud Kansan, I believe the Civil War started right here. I also believe that the Kansas “Buffalo Soldier” has been overlooked in most popular history. In 1989 the Oscar winning movie ‘GLORY’ captivated the public with the heroism of the 54th Massachusetts, the African American regiment depicted in the movie.

 This film incorrectly billed the story as”America’s first black soldiers during the Civil War.” In reality, that distinction should be given to the First Regiment Kansas Colored Infantry which first saw action in the fall of 1862 and, in less than a year, distinguished itself by fighting at Honey Springs, Indian Territory. They would be the first African Americans recruited in the Northern states for service in the Civil War; the first to see battle, and the first to die in action.

Their recruiter was U. S. Senator James Henry Lane, a prominent figure in Kansas since 1855, who was deeply involved in the turmoil in bringing Kansas into the Union as a free state. His effort to raise black troops was based on his interpretation of an order to recruit regiments. His counterparts in other northern states did not agree with him and insisted it was illegal!

 Most Kansans advocated the use of black troops early on, and during the fall of 1862, a portion of the regiment engaged in battle with a rebel force at Butler, Missouri, thus gaining distinction as the first “colored soldiers in the Union army” tested in battle. “The blacks behaved nobly,” reported the Lawrence Republican, “and have demonstrated that they can and will fight.” According to the Republican’s correspondent, Lieutenant W. H. Smallwood, “the battle of Toothman’s Mound [also Island Mound],” October 29, proved “that black men can fight,” and they were “now prepared to scour this country thoroughly, and not leave a place where a traitor can find refuge.” On October 28, 1862, a detachment of 225 men faced 500 Confederates at Island Mound in Bates County, Missouri. Ten were killed and 12 wounded, but the Confederates were driven off. 

 They were the fourth African American unit to be mustered into the federal army, 13 days ahead of the 54th Massachusetts and three months after Island Mound.

The First Kansas Colored was stationed at Baxter Springs, a former Osage Indian village, and during the spring of 1863 were assigned to escort duty in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). At Cabin Creek on July 2, 1863, blacks fought alongside whites for the first time and drove away Confederate troops. It is recorded that the white officers and men allowed no prejudice to interfere in their duty.

Fifteen days later, on July 17, at Honey Springs the First Kansas Colored had perhaps its best day of the war. Here the soldiers held the federal center against attack, effectively ending any doubts about the abilities of black soldiers. After an all-night march, Union troops under command of Major General James G. Blunt came upon a strong rebel force under General Douglas Cooper and after a “sharp and bloody engagement of two hours’ duration” forced Cooper’s command to flee the field. During the fight the Negro regiment, which held the Union center, moved up under fire to within 50 paces of the Confederate line and there, still under fire, halted and exchanged volley fire for some 20 minutes before the rebels broke and ran. The First Kansas captured the colors of a Texas regiment. “I never saw such fighting done as was done by the negro regiment,” Major Blunt wrote in a letter published in the Cincinnati Daily Commercial on August 12, 1863. “They fought like veterans, with a coolness and valor that is unsurpassed. They preserved their line perfect throughout the whole engagement and, although in the hottest of the fight, they never once faltered. Too much praise can not be awarded them for their gallantry.”

The following April found troops of the First Kansas Colored engaged in fierce combat at Poison Springs, Arkansas, where on April 18, 1864, they suffered heavy casualties—117 died and 65 were wounded. The death toll was aggravated by the execution of the captured and wounded men left on the field. For black soldiers in the West, “Remember Poison Springs!” became a battle cry. “This was the most important battle in the regiment’s entire history,” according to Cornish, and, along with the 54th Massachusetts’ gallantry at Fort Wagner on July 18, “set to rest a great deal of criticism of the use of Negroes as soldiers.” (for more info see the Kansas State Historical Society)

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