The Osages

     The title to our land had not yet been obtained.

     On the 29th of Sept. of this year, the Osages had made a treaty, under the provisions of which all settlers on their lands prior to that date, should have the privilege of entering 160 acres each, at $125 per acre.

     And here, I enter upon a new period in my life; I had spent nearly ten years of my life in an attempt to make a home on a farm, under most unfavorable and trying conditions. Our settlement was upon unsurveyed land, which turned out to be Indian land; far away from towns, railroads, post office, schools or churches; during the early "border" troubles and the Civil war; we had been upon the very frontier of settlements, subject to constant raids from both rebel Whites and Indians; and just now we were beginning to feel a sense of security for self and home. Humboldt was beginning to recover, somewhat, from the effect of the rebel invasions, and just now fortune seemed to favor us as we took up our abode there.

     And here seems to be a fitting place in which to speak more fully of a people, who, for several years of our life in Kansas, have figured very prominently in the same,--The Osage Indians.

     The Osage tribe of Indians was known as "blanket Indians". They owned a tract of land lying along the southern boundary of the state, fifty miles wide, North and South, by over two hundred East and West. A tract called the "Cherokee Neutral Lands" twenty five by fifty miles, joined them on the east, adjoining the state of Missouri.

     The Osages formerly lived in Missouri, and by treaty in 1825, removed from there to their reservation, as described above. They were never considered a hostile tribe--it being a boast of theirs that they had never been at war with the United States.

     At the time we first became acquainted with the tribe, it was said that it numbered five thousand. They subsisted, for the most part, by hunting at that time; they made two general hunts each year; going out far to the west, supplying themselves with Buffalo meat and hides. One hunt was made in the summer, for about two months time, in July, August and September. On this hunt, they saved the meat and tallow for food; the hides were not dressed for robes, as the hair was too short; the skins were used for covering their wigwams, and for other purposes.

     Late in the Fall, they made a second hunt, remaining all winter. On this hunt, the Buffalo were killed mostly for their hides, which were worked into robes for their own use and the market; these, when dressed were exchanged with traders for flour, sugar, coffee, blankets and such other stuff as was used in making their clothing. The meat, they cut into long, thin strips, which were placed on a frame-work of poles, over a fire, and dried without salting. The tallow was fried out and put into the skin of the stomach of the buffalo. On the Fall or Winter hunt, they remained until grass was good, and in the Spring when they returned with the meat and tallow packed and carried upon their ponies.

     When going on a hunt, the entire family was taken along; the squaws to care for the meat and to dress the robes.

     At home, they lived in groups as villages; sometimes several hundred in each village; each village had a "head man" or chief, who was recognized as the head of that community; while over the whole tribe there was a head chief.

     When we first knew them, there was a village on "Village Creek", on the west side of the Neosho river, north of where Chanute is built. The chief of this village was called "Town Maker". Another village on the east side of the river, seven or eight miles south-east of us, had a chief named "Little Bear," and, He, I understood, was the chief of the "Little Osages." For there was a distinction between the "Great" and "Little" Osages--but I never learned in what the distinction existed.

     Another village farther South, had a chief called "Strike-Ax". There were other chiefs whom I did not know personally.

     A noted chief was "White-Hair", living down near the Catholic mission; and other, named "Chetopa" had lived farther south, but I think he had died before we came to Kansas. The town of "Chetopa" was named for him.

     I became the most intimately acquainted with Little Bear, who was a frequent visitor at our house; and I esteemed him a true friend and he, on more than one occasion, assisted us in recovering stolen property from the Indians. On one occasion, I had bought a pony from an Indian for $100.00; the very first night, it was stolen by the same fellow. On seeing Little Bear, a few days later, he promised that it would be returned. In a couple of days, the Indian brought it back. On another occasion, when the Indians had gone on their Fall hunt, I missed a gray horse we owned, and we had no doubt it had been taken on the hunt, and so the matter rested all winter; when, early in the Spring, before the Indians had generally returned, Little Bear came to the house, and I told him about the missing Horse. He at once said that he had seen the horse with the Indians--describing him better than I could, saying the Indian and the horse were on the Verdigris, and as soon as grass would do to travel on, they would come over, and the horse would be brought home; and, in due time, the horse was returned. He was not very valuable; he had been used as a pack horse, and was reduced in flesh; he had no doubt had a pretty hard time, and I think he was glad to get home.

     Little Bear was a fine appearing man, of large physique, and I would have felt as safe under his protection as under that of any man.

     I regarded him as a man of honor, sincere and honest; he died in the seventies, in a village near Neodesha, and was buried on the top of a high mound near that town.

     When we first settled on our claim, my wife, her mother and the children had never seen an Indian; and of course, for a time, were much alarmed on seeing them ride up to the house in full paint with tomahawk and jingling bells attached to their legs, and with their abrupt exclamation of "How! How!" would proceed to dismount and file into the house--sometimes in numbers of ten or twelve.

     After a time, that natural fear gave way to curiosity to learn something of their ways and language. They were always hungry and we soon learned enough of their language to know that when they said "Wan-um-bra", they wanted something to eat; and we thought it policy at least to give them such as we had. The squaws were most persistent beggars, and it required the most constant watching, when they were about, to prevent them from carrying off such articles as they could put their hands on.

     I do not, however, believe that all Indians will steal, as I found some whom I felt that I could trust fully. We had, especially, one old friend who seemed to fall very friendly toward us; he often visited us, sometimes with two or three squaws, who seemed to be his wives. Our little daughter, Cynthia, only four or five years old, grew to regard him very highly, and he would tell her their Indian names of things while she sat on his lap. The old Indian seemed to think a great deal of her, and would pull down her ears and show how they ought to be slit, so as to be ornamented with rings as the Indian girls wore them.

     On one occasion, when the Indians went on their hunt, to be gone all winter, this old Indian and his squaws brought a quantity of their belongings, and stored them in our yard, near the house, for safe keeping while they were gone; on their return, they were pleased to find everything as it had been left.

     As before stated, we did some trading with them, finding some profit in it; as we could do better with such goods as they wished than the money, in accuring buffalo robes or ponies. The usual price of the robes was $4.00 which we would dispose of in Kansas City at a small advance. The Osages did not dress their robes as well as some other tribes.

     In the Spring, the squaws put in some corn and pumpkins, in small patches near their villages, the ground being usually grubbed out in the bottom lands in the edge of the timber. The squaw did all the work, such as the planting and cultivation of the crops; the dressing and care of the game, and the building of wigwams.

     A fire is built in the center of their wigwams, over which meat and vegetables are boiled in a large iron pot; meat is also broiled over the coals. Bread is baked in skillets, or is fried in the buffalo tallow in a kettle--much as we fry doughnuts. They usually boil, with their meat, pumpkins, beans and green corn; they dry the green corn, in the summer, in large quantities; also pumpkins for winter use. Their ways of handling and cooking their provisions are anything but cleanly; they waste no part of an animal that is killed. They will kill a beef take off its hide, and at once, begin to cut up, cook and eat; stripping out intestines with the hands, and, without washing, cut them into strips, roast and eat. They devour the heart, liver and lungs--so that nothing is lost; and a company of twenty or thirty Indians will eat an entire small-sized beef at one meal.

     A very common feature of every village is the great number of dogs that will come out to meet you with much yelping; they seem to be a mongrel breed, of a cross between a dog and a wolf.

     The Osages, on the death of one of their number, make a great outcry; wailing in a most hideous manner, for hours, and beating their tomtoms--a sort of drum made by stretching a skin over a hollowed out log.

     The dead are usually buried on a high point of land, in a rough rock vault, mostly above the surface of the ground, with a covering of flat stones; the body is wrapped round with a blanket, and many trinkets are buried with the blanket. In the winter time when the ground is frozen, or covered with snow, they sometimes use a hollow tree, into which--at some distance from the ground--the body is placed. I found one such case, in the timber about a mile from our place, where, at about twenty feet from the ground, a hollow limb had been broken off, and in this a body had been shoved, head first. I could see some parts of the blanket, with the feet, (apparently) sticking out.

     Since our settlement, the Osages have greatly decreased in numbers provided that their number was correctly given, as five thousand. At this time, 1904, the number is less than 1800. While they were poor then, they are reported to be the wealthiest people pro-rata, on earth. The sale of their reservation in Kansas realizing for them over $8000000.00, which the government holds for them, and is paying in annuities, 5 percent per annum, besides they have a valuable reservation on which they reside in Oklahoma. In conclusion, I can say for the Osages, that in the long time that we had lived upon their lands, we had but little cause to complain of their treatment of us. It is true, that as a rule, they would steal, and we had to guard against that tendency at all times; on the other hand, during all our trying times during the progress of the Civil War, we had never any fear of harm to person or property from them; but felt that they were a protection in warding off the raids from the rebel white men of the South.

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