Standing Bear Head Start Reading Osage Nation
Osage Nation
Osage Nation Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear reads to students during the Osage Sovereignty Celebration Week at the Osage Nation Head Start in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Osage Nation Reaches Out to Youth and Elders

Geneva HorseChief-Hamilton

New leadership for the Osage Nation has brought a new focus for the needs of Osage elders and youth. Planners for the Nation’s annual Sovereignty Celebration wanted the purpose of the event to be more inclusive of Osages of all ages and abilities.

“[Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear] wanted to include everyone… so more Osages would be involved in celebrating our sovereignty,” said Jane Harris, Executive Administrative Assistant for the Chief.

Elders and Sovereignty

On March 13, the Chief and Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn had lunch with elders at the Osage Nation Title VI senior center in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

“I need to come over here more often,” said Standing Bear who visited with as many elders as he could and shared his contact information with everyone.

Standing Bear and Red Corn both addressed the crowd and urged all of them to tell the new administration what they need. Red Corn shared his private cell number during his talk and said all he wanted was to hear directly from them and that he will make time to talk.

“It’s no secret,” said Standing Bear, “compared to the types of services other tribes provide for their elders, we are doing almost nothing.” He vowed to spend more money to provide for the Nation’s elders and to advocate for their needs.

There is only one Title VI senior center on the Osage Nation Reservation and Standing Bear said he would like to see at least two more built starting in Hominy in the next five years. The current Title VI delivers meals Monday through Friday to Osage and non-Osage Native American senior citizens living in the Nation’s service area.

While Standing Bear ate his lunch he visited with Allison Luttrel, Osage elder, about the types of services he would like to see happening, especially cultural tours of Osage ancestral lands and current land holdings and sacred sites. Luttrel said anything would be considerably more than the services currently provided. She also said that while a tour sounds nice she has a bigger concern.

“It’s hard for me to get around now and I know a tour bus would be really hard for me. So if the Nation could purchase a couple handicap accessible vans, I would love that and I would be able to travel,” she said.

Standing Bear concluded his talk by saying, “Do not hesitate to tell [Standing Bear and Red Corn] if there’s a better way. We’ve been listening to you our entire lives. There’s no reason for us to stop listening to you now.”

Youth and Sovereignty

On Thursday, March 12, Standing Bear, other elected officials and Executive Advisor Debra Atterberry, visited the Nation’s daycares and Head Starts to spend time reading to Osage youth.

In unison, tiny voices, almost singing, recited back numbers in Osage language to Atterberry who is also a former public school teacher.

One child who picked up on Atterberry’s comfort level and ease with the class asked, “are you a teacher?”

She politely replied, “Well, I used to be a teacher.”

Atterberry, also a former Osage language instructor, said she is confident that investing in Osage language immersion for Osage youth is needed, and something that is possible very soon. “I believe we have the resources and the teachers, now, to start doing immersion at least an hour a day, as a starting point. And it is so needed, the kids love using [Osage] language.”

Children from the Hominy Head Start listened to stories read to them by Osage Congress Speaker Maria Whitehorn and Standing Bear. In between reading Silly Sally and Brown Bear Brown Bear, the Chief and Whitehorn talked with the kids about traditional Osage dance clothes.

“You know what? I’m going to come back and show you guys my Osage clothes,” said Standing Bear to the class. He also asked the class if any of them had dance clothes or if they had been to the I.Loⁿ. Shka Dances. Some the kids raised their hands, but most talked excitedly back and forth with Whitehorn and Standing Bear.

One child said, “I have an Indian costume,” and another child said, “I have bat man costume.”

“This has been so much fun...[the children] are just so energetic, and smart, and it is something I enjoyed doing as part of my workday,” said Standing Bear. He also said he plans to visit the Head Starts dressed in his Osage clothes and also plans to purchase kites to fly with the Head Start classes this spring.

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