Osage tribe keeps culture alive by dancing

May 23, 2007

Kathryn Red Corn.jpgDancing is ”the glue that holds (the tribe) together, said Kathryn Red Corn (pictured left), director of the Osage Tribal Museum here. 

Starting the first weekend of June, the Osage will hold a series of tribal dancing ceremonies called the In-lon-shka (the first n is virtually silent). 

Three villages in the county Pawhuska, Hominy and Fairfax take it in turns to host four days of dancing , where members of the tribe camp out and dance twice daily. Julia Lookout.jpg

This is what has kept our culture alive, said Julia Lookout (right), special assistant to the nations Principal Chief Jim Gray. Lookout is a singer at the dances, a role that is considered an honor within the nation.

Much of the credit for keeping the dance alive and preserving traditional Osage dress belongs to individual families who have used money from oil revenue. (read more here in earlier post for details on the tribal economy)

The Osage are also trying to revive their native tongue, which came near to dying out in the 1950s and 1960s. So close to extinction, in fact, that a large portion of the vocabulary has been lost forever, according to Hepsi Barnett, cPaula Stabler2.jpghief of staff at the nations executive offices.

We are still researching to try and uncover more of our language, but there are many words well never know now, she said.

The tribe, which has a total membership of around 16,000, now has 400 students learning the language in programs supported by the U.S. government. Left: Paula Stabler, communications officer at the Osage Nation, showing pictures of the In-lon-shka traditional dance.

One comment

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Dear Friends,

Thank you for your web site, and news of the Osage. I grew up in Barlesville. As the oldest daugher, my parents took me to the I’n Lon Schka every year. Many years, the dances had to stop as tornados were spotted. I remember driving home on the ridge and seeing 4 or 5 tornado tails dancing from the clouds with each lightening bolt.

I am now in my senior years, and I would like to come see the dances one more time. I plan to return to Oklahoma next June. Could you please tell me the dates for the 2008 Irquote n-Lon-Schka.

My husband came from a diary farm in Missouri where the Osage camped on one of their forced removals. We have a grindstone and mortar left behind on Lost Creek on his former farm. It and our wood an canvas canoe are family treasure now, and they will go to our oldest son and his wife.

I hope to hear from you.

With kindest regards,
Sarah Brooner