Information

Osage tribe cedes Missouri and Arkansas lands


In a decision that would eventually make them one of the wealthiest surviving Native American nations, the Osage tribe agrees to abandon their lands in Missouri and Arkansas in exchange for a reservation in Oklahoma.

The Osage were the largest tribe of the Southern Sioux people occupying what would later become the states of Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. When the first Anglo explorers and settlers moved into this region, they encountered a sophisticated society of Native Americans who lived in more or less permanent villages made of sturdy earthen and log lodges. The Osage-like the related Quapaw, Ponca, Omaha, and Kansa peoples-hunted buffalo and wild game like the Plains Indians, but they also raised crops to supplement their diets.

READ MORE: How Horses Transformed Life for Plains Indians

Although the Southern Sioux warred among themselves almost constantly, Americans found it much easier to understand and negotiate with these more sedentary tribes than with the nomadic Northern Sioux. American negotiators convinced the Osage to abandon their traditional lands and peacefully move to a reservation in southern Kansas in 1810. When American settlers began to covet the Osage reservation in Kansas, the tribe agreed to yet another move, relocating to what is now Osage County, Oklahoma, in 1872.

Such constant pressure from American settlers to push Native Americans off valuable lands and onto marginal reservations was all too common throughout the history of western settlement. Most tribes were devastated by these relocations, including some of the Southern Sioux tribes like the Kansa, whose population of 1,700 was reduced to only 194 following their disastrous relocation to a 250,000-acre reservation in Kansas. The Osage, though, proved unusually successful in adapting to the demands of living in a world dominated by Anglo-Americans, thanks in part to the fortunate presence of large reserves of oil and gas on their Oklahoma reservation. In concert with their effective management of grazing contracts to Anglos, the Osage amassed enormous wealth during the twentieth century from their oil and gas deposits, eventually becoming the wealthiest tribe in North America.

READ MORE: Native American History Timeline


Osage Nation

Two hundred and fifty years ago the river you see here flowed through the homeland of one of the most powerful Indian nations in the center of the continent. They called themselves "Wah-Zha-Zhe." Early French explorers spelled their name "Ouchage." Osage people lived and hunted from the woodlands and rich river bottoms of present-day Missouri and Arkansas to the open plains of Kansas and Oklahoma 250 miles to the west.

Changes came fast and furious after France sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States in 1803. Thousands of Cherokee had already moved into this region because white settlers were flooding into the Cherokee lands in Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. Fighting broke out. Then the U.S. Army set up a garrison here at Fort Smith to try to keep the peace.

Osage leaders worried that crowding would lead the U.S. Government to demand that they give up more lands to make room for Indians being removed from the East. In less than a generation, their tragic forecasts became true.

In 1808 the Osage received $7,500 in trade goods for giving up claim to 200 miles of Missouri and Arkansas.

The pressure increased. Years later the Osage ceded more lands in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

After 1872 the Osage reservation shrank to the size of a single county in the northeast of

Today more than 16,000 Americans identify themselves as Osage. About 10,000 are enrolled members of the tribe. While looking to the future, the Osage Nation still remembers its past, a crucial part of American history.

Erected by National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Native Americans.

Location. 35° 23.219′ N, 94° 25.979′ W. Marker is in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in Sebastian County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Parker Avenue and South 3rd Street. Marker is located on the Fort Smith National Historic Site grounds, near Belle Point on the west side of the fort. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 301 Parker Avenue, Fort Smith AR 72901, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Defending Fort Smith (within shouting distance of this marker) Who Served Here? (within shouting distance of this marker) Establishing Fort Smith (within shouting distance of this marker) Major Long Surveys the Western Frontier (within shouting distance of this marker) Cherokee Nation (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line) Abandoned and Forgotten (about 300 feet away) Chickasaw Nation

(about 300 feet away) Choctaw Nation (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Fort Smith.


Indian Removal

The evolving U.S. policy of Indian Removal shaped Arkansas geographically, economically, and ethnically. Federal removal treaties with the Choctaw in 1825 and the Arkansas Cherokee in 1828 established the state’s western boundary. Throughout the territorial period (1819–1836), Arkansas politicians were obsessed with removing Indians from the land within its shrinking borders, even the few destitute Quapaw for whom the state had been named. Yet, a cash-poor frontier economy profited enormously from government contracts when Southeast tribal groups were transported across Arkansas throughout the 1830s, along routes later collectively labeled “the Trail of Tears.” Still, the state’s political leaders complained loudly that the presence of sovereign tribes in neighboring Indian Territory stifled development in Arkansas and, especially after the United States expanded to the Pacific Ocean following the Mexican War (1846–1848), wanted those tribes removed again even further west.

The American policy of removing Indians from tribal lands east of the Mississippi River began to influence the development of Arkansas soon after the Louisiana Purchase. The 1804 act separating Upper Louisiana from the Territory of Orleans authorized the president to exchange land above the thirty-third parallel—the line that became Arkansas’s southern border—with any eastern tribe willing to “remove and settle thereon.” In fact, many refugee bands—notably Cherokee, Choctaw, Delaware, and Shawnee—were already in Arkansas, forced west by questionable land cessions, tribal disputes, harassment, or the search for better hunting grounds. (The Osage, although residing in Missouri, claimed large parts of the state for hunting purposes.) Also scattered around the future state, with more coming, were white squatters, also not waiting for official settlement policies to be decided. For three decades, Arkansas was in flux, awaiting surveys and federal decisions.

Ironically, the first Indian land cessions in Arkansas were obtained to make room for other Indians. President Thomas Jefferson spoke to a Cherokee delegation about “vacant lands” in 1809 when he invited those wishing to move to go to “the country on the waters of the Arkansas and White Rivers.” An 1808 treaty with the Osage had theoretically ceded those lands to the United States. Thousands of Cherokee accepted Jefferson’s invitation and settled in the Arkansas River Valley, infuriating the Osage and provoking years of escalating violence. The U.S. government had hoped that all Cherokee would be lured west. But instead, political friction within the tribe intensified when treaties in 1817 and 1819 forced the developing Cherokee Nation to cede “acre for acre” tribal tracts in the east so that the Arkansas Cherokee could get legal title to the land they occupied.

The Quapaw ceded twenty-eight million acres south of the Arkansas River in 1818 when Missouri Territory Governor William Clark was instructed to acquire more land west of the Mississippi to exchange with eastern Indians.

On February 22, 1819, Spanish and American negotiators finally agreed on the southwest boundary of the Louisiana Purchase. On March 2, the 100 th meridian described in the Adams-Onis Transcontinental Treaty became the western boundary of the new Arkansas Territory. It would not be so for long. Although not yet officially named, the western half of the original Arkansas Territory would become Indian Territory.

An 1820 treaty with the Choctaw created an uproar in Arkansas by assigning to that tribe a swath of the new territory between the Arkansas and the Red rivers said to be populated by an estimated 3,000 whites. When few Choctaw were tempted to leave Mississippi, an 1825 treaty moved the Choctaw line farther west, running south from Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and becoming part of Arkansas’s western border, although survey disputes continued until 1886.

Quapaw removal from Arkansas was unique because most of the tribe returned and endured a second removal. In 1824, territorial officials pressured the tribe, which numbered only 455, to give up its remaining two million Arkansas acres and join the Caddo on the Red River in Louisiana. The newcomers were not welcomed, floods destroyed crops, and sixty starved to death. Survivors eventually returned to Arkansas, hoping to be allowed to buy back some of their land and become U.S. citizens. Instead, they were removed to Indian Territory in 1833.

In 1828, after a decade of wrangling over land title and boundaries, a delegation from the Arkansas Cherokee traveled to Washington DC. By establishing the short-lived Lovely County in northwest Arkansas, territorial officials had blocked the outlet to western hunting grounds long promised by the federal government. On behalf of “the Cherokee Nation of Indians, West of the Mississippi,” nine representatives, including the famed Cherokee linguist Sequoyah, agrees to move further west. Still hoping to entice more Cherokee to leave the East, federal negotiators traded about three million acres in Arkansas for seven million acres in what is now northeast Oklahoma, thus establishing the state’s present border north from Fort Smith (Sebastian County). The Western Cherokee become known as the Old Settlers when the Trail of Tears Cherokee arrived in 1839 and eventually established a consolidated tribal government.

The final push for removing all Indians from east of the Mississippi River came with the 1828 election of President Andrew Jackson. Historians write of voluntary Jeffersonian policies and mandatory Jacksonian removal, but the mantra of states’ rights helped force the issue. Beginning with Georgia a month after the election, followed by Alabama and Mississippi in 1829 and Tennessee in 1833, southeastern states began claiming legal jurisdiction over the Indians within their borders, going so far as to outlaw tribal governments. Jackson sided with the states, even when the Supreme Court disagreed. Thus, the Indians had to submit to state jurisdiction to retain their ancestral land or move west to preserve their tribal governments. That leverage, often coupled with unrestrained harassment and fraud, finally convinced many tribal leaders to sign removal treaties. The federal Indian Removal Act of 1830 helped implement the policy of coerced tribal emigrations known in the Southeast as the Trail of Tears. Most states, however, wanted to remove all Indians, not just the tribal governments, and bristled at removal treaties that allowed individual Indians to stay on personal allotments if they agreed to become U.S. citizens. At the time, U.S. citizenship did not guarantee state citizenship or associated civil rights.

In 1830, the Choctaw were the first of the five major Southeast tribes to agree to a removal treaty, emigrating in three official waves in 1831, 1832, and 1833. Fraud involved in Choctaw allotments resulted in the issuance in 1842 of so-called Choctaw Scrip, which speculators could trade to buy land in Arkansas and three other states.

Some Muscogee (Creek) bands began moving west in 1827 after the tribe was forced out of Georgia. Those emigrating after an 1832 treaty ceded Creek land in Alabama were among the most destitute and most numerous traveling through Arkansas. Most had to walk, some in chains as prisoners of war, and their journeys in 1834, 1836, and 1837 were made more miserable by the negligence of private contractors.

After agreeing to a final cession in 1832, the Chickasaw Nation negotiated its own removal in 1837–38, hoping to avoid the problems suffered by earlier emigrants. A small group of Florida Indians signed a removal treaty in 1833, but most resisted emigration, sparking the so-called Second Seminole War (1835–1842), one of the most expensive in U.S. history. Cherokee leaders fought removal in the courts and in Congress, contesting Georgia laws and an unauthorized 1835 treaty. Unable to elude expulsion, the Cherokee Nation organized its own removal in 1838–39. Remnant bands of all these tribes except the Chickasaw remain east of the Mississippi River today.

For Arkansas, the impact included public works and private profit. Federal funds were obtained for improving river navigation, building roads, and establishing a military arsenal. Local newspapers, especially the Arkansas Gazette, regularly touted Indian Removal as an economic opportunity. With the federal bureaucrats in Little Rock (Pulaski County) overseeing emigration subsistence, contracts went to the well connected. Farmers were encouraged to plant corn instead of cotton and provide other supplies and services.

Removal continued past the 1830s in Arkansas as scattered tribal remnants were moved west and elsewhere in the United States as the federal government continued to designate state boundaries surrounding Indian lands. The Osage, for example, who had been moved north to make way for the Cherokee, were forced out of Kansas in the 1870s and back into the future Oklahoma.

Removal from their ancestral lands forever changed these tribes and their cultures. But even greater threats were ahead. By the 1890s, in violation of treaty guarantees and with the help of key Arkansas politicians, tribal lands in Indian Territory would be carved into individual allotments with the aim of terminating tribal governments and preparing the way for Oklahoma statehood in 1907. Yet, despite the efforts to destroy them, the tribes survive, and as federal policy continues to evolve, some even thrive. For individual Indians, now accepted as Native American, they have legal status as dual citizens of their tribe and of the United States.

For additional information:
Abel, Annie Heloise “The History of Events Resulting in Indian Consolidation West of the Mississippi.” In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1906. Vol. 1. Washington DC: American Historical Association, 1908.

Berry, Cody Lynn. “Early Arkansas Banking and Indian Removal, 1819–1860.” MA thesis, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 2016.

Bolton, S. Charles. Arkansas, 1800–1860: Remote and Restless. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1998.

Cash, Jon D. “Removal of the Quapaw and Osage.” Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies 48 (December 2017): 163–179.

Garrison, Tim Alan. The Legal Ideology of Removal: The Southern Judiciary and the Sovereignty of Native American Nations. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2002.

———. “On the Trail of Tears: Daniel Butrick’s Record of the Removal of the Cherokees.” In Removing Peoples: Forced Removal in the Modern World, edited by Richard Bessel and Claudia B. Haake. Studies of the German Historical Institute London. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Hanson, Gerald T., and Carl H. Moneyhon. Historical Atlas of Arkansas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.

Haveman, Christopher D. Rivers of Sand: Creek Indian Emigration, Relocation, and Ethnic Cleansing in the American South. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016.

Journey of Survival: Indian Removal through Arkansas. http://www.journeyofsurvival.org/ (accessed October 8, 2020).

Key, Joseph Patrick. “‘Outcasts upon the World’: The Louisiana Purchase and the Quapaws.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 62 (Autumn 2003): 272–288.

Paige, Amanda L., Fuller L. Bumpers, and Daniel F. Littlefield Jr. Chickasaw Removal. Ada, OK: Chickasaw Press, 2010.

Reynolds, John Hugh. “The Western Boundary of Arkansas.” In Publications of the Arkansas Historical Association. Vol. 2. Little Rock: Arkansas Historical Association, 1908.

Sequoyah National Research Center. University of Arkansas at Little Rock. https://ualr.edu/sequoyah/ (accessed October 8, 2020).

Williams, Patrick G., ed. A Whole Country in Commotion: The Louisiana Purchase and the American Southwest. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2005.

Wright, Muriel H. A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951.

Kitty Sloan
Arkansas chapter, Trail of Tears Association


Research in Missouri: The Land and the History

Do you have any ancestors who either settled or passed through Missouri? With Missouri’s location in the center of the United States and bordering eight other states, the likelihood is high that you have a Missouri connection. Learning more about Missouri research could help you explore new avenues to break down a brick wall or add to the story of your ancestor’s life. Missouri research has so much to explore that this will be the first of several posts focusing on the land, history, courts, records, repositories, and ethnic groups of Missouri.

The Land

Why does understanding the land matter? Your ancestor likely settled in a region similar to his home state and Missouri is a state of diverse regions, defined by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as the Interior Plains, the Interior Highlands (Ozark Plateau), and the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. (See the map below).

Settlers from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois settled the Northern Interior Plains. The Ozark Plateau saw people moving from the mountains of eastern Tennessee and North Carolina. Those ancestors who had grown cotton and similar crops chose the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, commonly called the Bootheel because they knew how to farm in that type of soil.

If you have an ancestor who lived in Missouri for a time, place him in his region and see if that aligns with the common migration of Missouri settlers. He could fit in or be an outlier. The following map shows the demarcations of the main regions.

Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources, “Physiographic Regions of Missouri,” (https://dnr.mo.gov/pubs/docs/pub2515.pdf : accessed 25 March 2021).

Settlement

Three rivers played a major role in Missouri’s settlement as it was much easier to navigate a flatboat or take a steamboat than travel by land. Think of these rivers as the interstate highways for our ancestors moving them into and out of Missouri.

– The Mississippi River begins in Minnesota and flows south forming the eastern border of Missouri before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River flows through ten states and creates the border for Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi to the east, and Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas to the east. Numerous settlements sprang up along the Mississippi River where your ancestor might have stopped en route to other locations. The first steamboat reached St. Louis in 1817 and contributed to the growth of the area. When Ohio connected the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes via an extensive canal system, the way was opened to the northeastern states.

– The Missouri River has its beginnings in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana and flows east and south until it joins the Mississippi River at St. Louis. Before the steamboat came into use, the challenge of navigating upriver kept migration to a minimum. With the steamboat era introduced, a huge number of settlers used the Missouri River to move west.

– The Ohio River begins in western Pennsylvania and flows southwesterly to St. Louis. Although it ends in Missouri, the Ohio River brought countless settlers from the northern and eastern states. Bordering Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana, the Ohio River played a major role in Missouri settlement.

The History and Timeline

Like any location, Missouri has a storied past. Beginning as a French territory in the late 1600s, possession passed to Spain in 1770 after the French and Indian War and lasted until the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. For a brief span of three years (1800-1803), Spain returned the Louisiana territory to France, then the United States purchased all of Louisiana Territory from France for fifteen million dollars. (Shown in white on the map below with modern-day states overlaid).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Louisiana Purchase.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons ( https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Louisiana_Purchase.jpg&oldid=519693430 : accessed March 27, 2021).

During the French and Spanish eras, settlement occurred mainly along the Mississippi River with early settlements growing around trading posts. After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the U.S. government established the Louisiana Territory with St. Louis as the seat of government.

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:United States 1805-07-1809.png,” Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:United_States_1805-07-1809.png&oldid=451628912 : accessed March 28, 2021).

Soon after the new state of Louisiana had been admitted to the Union, the U.S Congress renamed the territory to Missouri territory on 4 June 1812.

Native Americans inhabited this vast territory and treaty after treaty with the various tribes gradually pushed them into Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma and Kansas) or on to reservations. What did this mean to our ancestors? As tribal lands were ceded to the U.S. government, settlers could claim the land through a variety of federal land acts, one of the most notable being the Homestead Act of 1862. The lure of land brought settlers from the more populated areas of the United States as well as immigrants from Germany and Ireland.

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:United States 1812-06-1816.png,” Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:United_States_1812-06-1816.png&oldid=451628819 : accessed March 28, 2021).

Missouri Territory boundaries continued to change with various cessions and treaties and on 10 August 1821, the southeastern portion was admitted to the Union as the state of Missouri.

A brief timeline puts the important events into perspective. As you research your Missouri ancestors, consider what was happening around them that could have affected their choices for migration and settlement.

– 1735 Ste. Genevieve established as the first permanent white settlement

– 1764 St. Louis (began as a trading post established by Pierre Laclede Liguest)

– 1769 St. Charles (began as a trading post established by Louis Blanchette)

– 1773 Potosi (founded as Mine au Breton)

– 1805 Louisiana Territory was organized

– 1808 Osage Tribe ceded many lands

– 1811 New Madrid Earthquake – a quake so powerful, the Mississippi River ran backward in places, devastating the land

– 1812 Louisiana Territory renamed as Missouri Territory

– 1825 Osage tribe ceded the remainder of their lands

– 1832 Delaware and Shawnee tribes ceded lands

– 1837 Platte Purchase added six counties in the northwest section of the state

– 1838 Mormon War and the eviction of followers of Joseph Smith

– 1848 Large numbers of German immigrate to Missouri forming Missouri’s Rhineland in St. Louis and Kansas City areas

– 1849 Irish famine immigration causing conflicts between the German and Irish immigrants

– 1861 Civil War wreaks havoc in Missouri with both a Confederate and a Union government ruling the state simultaneously

– 1865 Post Civil War sees the great migration of African Americans from the south

– Early 1900s Migration west from Missouri to the west coast and Pacific Northwest, also migration of rural farmers to the cities

Research Methodology

How does understanding the land and history help us in researching our Missouri ancestors? First and foremost we want to discover them in the records. We’ll need to know what jurisdiction to search at different points in history for the records. If an ancestor moved early to Missouri, a French or Spanish land record could exist. If he moved during the territorial period, a territorial census could name him. Just as understanding county boundary changes guides our research, so too does understanding the large boundary changes of territories and statehood.

How do we conquer the challenge of moving boundaries and moving ancestors?

  1. Create a thorough timeline of the ancestor and every possible location of his life events.
  2. Consider where the ancestor lived within a physiographic region of Missouri. Does this make sense with his previous location?
  3. Dig into the history to understand the ramifications of events such as the New Madrid earthquake or the Civil War for your ancestor.
  4. Study the era to determine the jurisdiction responsible for the records.
  5. Search the records.

In the next post in this series, we’ll explore the repositories that hold Missouri records.


The Osage

Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Osage Indians roamed a vast domain in the heart of North America (Ancestral Lands Map). Although the Osage were a proud and powerful tribe, they could not withstand the pressure of European civilization. Soon after French fur trappers established contact with the Osages in the 1670s, their way of life began to change.

Children of the Middle Waters

A spiritual people, the Osage Indians were excellent hunters and fierce warriors. Their religious beliefs were based on Wah-kon-tah, the great mystery spirit or power. In one creation legend, the Osages believed that the People of the Sky (Tzi-sho) met with the People of the Earth (Hun-Kah) to form one tribe, the Children of the Middle Waters (Nee Oh-kah-shkahn). Living in semipermanent villages primarily along the Osage River, the Osage Indians roamed the land between three great rivers, the Missouri to the north, the Mississippi to the east, and the Arkansas to the south. Their western boundary stretched into the windswept plains where they hunted buffalo.

Osage Lifestyle

Before Europeans came to the Americas, Osages obtained food by hunting, gathering, and farming. Osages hunted wild game such as bison, elk and deer. There were two bison hunts a year, one in the summer and one in the fall. The goal of the summer hunt was to obtain meat and fat. The purpose of the fall hunt was to obtain food, but also to get the thick winter coats of the bison for making robes, moccasins, leggings, breechcloths, and dresses. Although only the men hunted, the women did the work of butchering and preparing the meat, and tanning the hides.

Descriptions of the Osages

George Catlin

The famous Indian artist, George Catlin, captured several Osage Indians on canvas at Fort Gibson in 1834. He stated: “The Osages have been formerly, and until quite recently, a powerful and warlike tribe: carrying all their arms fearlessly through to all these realms and ready to cope with foes of any kind that they were liable to meet. At present, the case is quite different they have been repeatedly moved and jostled along, …” He noted that despite their reduction in numbers caused by every tribal move, war and smallpox, the Osages waged war on the Pawnee and Comanche. Catlin believed the Osages “ to be the tallest race of men in North America, either red or white skins there being few indeed of the men at their full growth, who are less than six feet in stature, and very many of them six and a half, and others seven feet.”

Louis Cortambert

In 1836, Louis Cortambert, a French writer, observed that the Osage men “ carefully pull the hairs from their faces, even their eyebrows, and shave their heads, leaving on the top a tuft of hair, which terminates in back in a pigtail.”

Victor Tixier

In 1840, a young Frenchman named Victor Tixier described the Osages: “The men are tall and perfectly proportioned. They have at the same time all the physical qualities which denote skill and strength combined with graceful movements.”The Osages loved to decorate themselves, often suspending beads and bones from their ears and tattooing their bodies, Tixler observed: “Their ears, slit by knives, grow to be enormous, and they hang low under the weight of the ornaments with which they are laden.”


Ancestral Osage Geography

by Dr. Andrea A. Hunter

The following summary of Osage and ancestral Osage geography is derived from archaeological data, oral traditions, historical, and linguistic evidence provided in this report to prove a shared group identity between the Clarksville Mound Group inhabitants and the Osage Nation. The Osage are identified as a Dhegiha Siouan language speaking tribe along with the Omaha, Ponca, Kaw, and Quapaw. According to Osage and Dhegiha Siouan oral tradition, the origin of the Dhegiha Siouan tribes is in the Ohio River valley. During the Middle Woodland period, A.D. 200 to A.D. 400, the Dhegiha as a group, started migrating down the Ohio River valley to the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. During the Late Woodland period, A.D. 400 to A.D. 500, the Dhegiha tribes (minus the Quapaw) migrated up the central Mississippi River valley settling in the St. Louis area as well as traveling outward from the valley following the various river drainages into the interior of what are now Missouri and Illinois. During the latter part of the Late Woodland (A.D. 900) and Emergent Mississippian, (A.D. 1000) periods, larger groups of the Dhegiha Siouan tribes focused their settlement strategy in the Cahokia/St. Louis area. At the onset of the Mississippian period, A.D. 1000, those who would later become the Omaha and Ponca tribes separated from the other two remaining Dhegiha Siouan tribes. At some point after the Omaha and Ponca departure, the Kaw separated and traveled up the Missouri River during the Middle Mississippian period, A.D. 1200-A.D. 1250. Those who would later become the Osage were the last remaining Dhegiha Siouan tribe in the Cahokia/St. Louis area. At the end of the Mississippian period, A.D. 1300, the Osage shifted their settlement pattern and moved westward to focus primarily within the central and western portions of the state of Missouri. At the onset of the historic period large groups of the Osage were located along the Missouri and Osage rivers.


The territory of the Chickasaw Nation covered parts of what is now Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennesee, Alabama, and Southeast Missouri prior to the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The Chickasaw were able to negotiate the time of their removal, and made agreements to live on Choctaw territory. After removal, the Chickasaw people established themselves in south-central Oklahoma and in 1856 separated themselves from the Choctaw to create their own government again. Today the Chickasaw Nation has over 60,000 enrolled members and is thriving. More information can be found on their government's website.

All information in this summary can be found either on the Chickasaw Nation Website or through the BIA.


The Osage

The most powerful tribal group in the early history of Missouri was referred to as the Wah-Zha-Zhe, which actually derived from a name for one of its moiety divisions, “The Water People.” The tribal group as a whole originally called themselves Ni-U-Ko’n-Ska, meaning “Children of the Middle Waters.” Later, the Europeans exploring the waterways referred to them as the Osage Indians.

The Osage language is part of the Dhegiha-Siouan family, which also includes the Kaw, Omaha, Ponca, and Quapaw. A long time ago, they lived along the Ohio River as one people. Around 400 to 500 AD, the combined group migrated down the Ohio to the confluence with the Mississippi River. Some began to split off after 900 AD, as others occupied and developed communities in the lush river valleys. The ancestral Osage were the last remaining Dhegiha group at Cahokia, east of present-day St. Louis. The Osage name for Cahokia is Ni-U-Ko’n-Ska Dsi, meaning “Home of the Children of the Middle Waters.” In approximately 1350 AD the ancestral Osage migrated up the Missouri River. They hunted across the Ozark Plateau to the Arkansas River and westward into the Great Plains.

The Osage say that their ancient ancestors once lived in the sky before encountering the earth. The sun is their grandfather, while the moon is their grandmother. They speak of descending from the “above world” and landing in the “middle world.” The Great Elk helped them to survive in times of confusion and disarray. Dangers arose from the “below world” that could set human beings adrift. A narrow plane of existence between earth and sky consisted of a visible world with physical objects as well as an invisible world of spiritual forces. Only by death, say the Osage, could a creature escape the snares of the earth.

Osage stories tell of war and strife, although other themes emerge as well. After coming to the earth, their ancestors formed a grand division called Tzi-zho, or Sky People, and another grand division called Hun-ga, or Land People. A hereditary line of chiefs established order for the two divisions. A select group of elders known as No’-ho’-zhenga, or the Little Old Men, preserved heralded customs and traditions. They spoke repeatedly of a “move to a new country,” an expression that suggests an organizational change but not necessarily a relocation to an unknown place. The Osage venerated Wa-kon’-da, the supreme mystery force of the cosmos that brought the universe together.

The Osage way of life represented a blending of indigenous cultures that could be identified as characteristic of both Plains and Woodland inhabitants. Males hunted for game and engaged in warfare. It was not uncommon for adults to be well over six feet tall. Men wore their hair in a roach style, shaving their heads except for a scalp lock about two inches high and three inches wide that ran down to the nape of their necks. A male wore a breechcloth, leggings, moccasins, and blanket coverall that he draped over his shoulder. When addressing someone, he lowered the blanket and tied it around his waist.

Once acquired from the Spanish or other tribal groups, the horse became important to the Osage way of life. The Osage name for horse is ka-wa, which translates roughly as “mystery dog” and may have derived from the Kiowa, a tribal group that introduced them to the animal. The Osage secured horses through trading, stealing, and capturing. Riding horses permitted the Osage to travel far and wide. For the Osage, to bring in a horse was an achievement equal to the taking of a scalp from a dead enemy.

The spring hunt began in March and lasted until May, when the Osage began to plant their crops of corn, beans, and pumpkins. Men also hunted in the summer, returning to their villages in late August or early September when women harvested their crops and gathered walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, grapes, papaws, roots, and acorns. Hunting continued in the fall, but hunters remained close to their villages during the cold months of January and February. They wielded bows and arrows, lances, wooden clubs, tomahawks, and knives on the long and short hunts. The bison provided meat, hides, and bones for tools and ornaments. In addition, the deer, elk, bear, wolf, raccoon, fox, wildcat, porcupine, weasel, muskrat, and beaver supplied raw materials for their subsistence economy.

As the Osage households adapted to Missouri’s environment, women maintained the lodges, gathered the firewood, processed the hides, cured the meat, cooked the meals, and reared the children. A female wore a buckskin dress, robe, leggings, and moccasins. Her hair flowed loosely down her back, while she painted the part in her hair red to symbolize the path of the sun across the sky. Mothers placed babies on cradleboards, which tended to flatten their heads. Village lodges were oval with a domed roof and covered with woven cattail mats. Some permanent lodges housing large families were a hundred feet long. Their entrances were positioned to the east, so that the Osage could say prayers to the sun in the morning.

The Osage practiced rituals that prepared them for war. Warriors believed that those killed in battle would spend their afterlives in the Happy Hunting Ground with abundant game and horses. They strove to earn honors through daring acts, or what the French later called “counting coup.” Singing and dancing created a festive air on special occasions. While the Little Old Men provided spiritual leadership and conducted war ceremonies, individuals sought supernatural visions through prayer and meditation. Only after contemplation and deliberation did the Osage go to war.

With the leadership of chiefs, the Osage exhibited customs and traditions that profoundly shaped social relations. There was a mourning ceremony that could take place at the request of the grieving family so as to take the life of an enemy and to send this individual with the deceased into the afterlife. If a person from within the tribe killed a fellow Osage, then gifts would be exchanged to make peace. If the family of the deceased chose to continue to seek vengeance, then they would be exiled from the community. Retaliation was not an appropriate option in the Osage way of life.

After Europeans began to arrive, their presence produced dramatic changes among the Indians of the Mississippi valley. Disease and dislocation took a terrible toll on peoples such as the Osage, who numbered as many as fifteen thousand at the time of contact. The Osage adapted their economic and political patterns to the new demands of global empires during the eighteenth century. They offered skins, hides, furs, tallow, oil, and food to French traders. Deer leather or “bucks” served as a currency. Another item of commerce was Indian captives or slaves. The Osage acquired metal goods such as knives, awls, hoes, and needles that made their lives easier. Brass kettles replaced Osage pottery, while Osage production of utilitarian objects began to languish. The combination of horses, rum, firearms, and ammunition encouraged Osage households to alter their subsistence economy. Osage communities used their power, strength, and skill to become the dominant brokers between the French in Louisiana and various tribal groups to the north and west.

The Osage expanded their hunting and trading forays, but they faced unexpected challenges. The Big Osage band dwelled along the headwaters of the Osage River, the Arkansas Band resided in the Three Forks region of the Arkansas River, and the Little Osage Band thrived along the Missouri River. The chiefs and warriors became more influential in politics, trade, and diplomacy. Defending territorial claims extending for almost a hundred thousand square miles, they attacked anyone who threatened their hegemony. Neighboring tribes fleeing from disease and warfare nevertheless sought refuge and game on Osage lands.

The Osage had gained power under the jurisdiction of French and Spanish governments, but the US government reorganized the borderlands after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. In 1808 William Clark negotiated a treaty with a handful of the Osage, whereby they ceded some two hundred square miles of land between the Missouri and Arkansas Rivers. In return, the federal government promised to maintain a permanent trading post with a blacksmith shop and mill for the Osage and to give the tribe an annual grant of $1,500. Because of this bargain, Clark later admitted that “if he was to be damned hereafter it would be for making that treaty.” The trading post, Fort Osage , established on a high bluff overlooking the Missouri River in what is now Jackson County, would remain a vital outpost until 1822, except for a brief period when it was abandoned during the War of 1812.

As more settlers poured into the Missouri Territory in the years following the war, the various Indian tribes living there were pressured to relinquish their claims to ancestral lands. Clark, who had become the territorial governor in 1814, took the lead in the arrangements. He persuaded Native delegations to exchange their homeland in Missouri and to relocate farther west to present-day Kansas and Oklahoma. Cherokee settling in increasing numbers along the Arkansas River also encroached upon Osage claims, which produced violent clashes between them for years.

After statehood, Missourians pressed the US government to remove all Indians from their midst. Treaties in 1818 and 1825 were signed with the Osage, who grudgingly ceded their lands south of the Missouri River in exchange for cash payments and tracts of land out of state. The Osage Trail, which once had facilitated trade with St. Louis, became one of the routes Osage families used for removal to their Kansas reservation. In a final armed confrontation that came to be known as the Osage War, Missouri state militia assaulted hunting parties of Osage, Shawnee, and Delaware in 1837, driving them out of the state.

The Osage were assured that their Kansas reservation would remain their home forever. They numbered some 8,000 in 1850, but their population fell to 3,150 in 1870. The decline of the buffalo herds impoverished them. On July 15, 1870, Congress added provisions to an Indian appropriation bill that permitted the Osage to buy nearly 1.5 million acres inside the Cherokee Outlet of Indian Territory. After obtaining a deed and trekking southward, migrants built several camps and settlements, the most significant at Pawhuska. During this time many Osage ceremonies waned, and communal gatherings adopted the I’n-Lon-Schka dances of the Ponca and Kaw. Some adopted the Peyote religion, which combined elements of Christianity with pan-Indian spiritualism. By 1906 the Osage had been forced to allow the lands around the Osage Hills to be allotted to individual tribal members, although they retained collective mineral rights after Oklahoma statehood.

In the 1920s the Osage suddenly became the wealthiest people per capita in the world following the discovery of oil on their allotments. Their newfound wealth brought swindlers, thieves, and predators, who colluded at times with those called “guardians.” According to federal law, full-blood Osage were required to have “guardians” to manage their finances and to disperse payments to “wards.” The guardians included non-Indian men and women, who came to marry tribal members in order to position themselves to inherit the wealth of their spouses. With oil money at stake, at least twenty-four Osage were killed from 1921 to 1925, with some estimates reaching much higher. The Osage managed to retain only a fourth of 2,229 original head rights, the term for the mineral rights issued to individual tribal members.

Despite the adaptations to a new way of life, the Osage people never abandoned their identity or nationhood. Established in 1938, the Osage Tribal Museum in Pawhuska is the oldest tribally owned museum in the United States. The same spirit that guided the Osage near the Missouri River in the past survives in Oklahoma today.


Osage tribe cedes Missouri and Arkansas lands - HISTORY

The Osage Indians lived along the Osage and Missouri rivers in what is now western Missouri when French explorers first heard of them in 1673. A seminomadic people with a lifeway based on hunting, foraging, and gardening, the seasonal movements of the Osage brought them annually into northwestern Arkansas throughout the 18th century.

Osages hunting buffalo, by George Catlin.

Three principal hunts, each organized by a council of elders, were held during the spring, summer, and fall. The men hunted bison, deer, elk, bear, and smaller game. The women butchered the animals and dried or smoked the meat and prepared the hides. The women also gathered wild plant foods and at the summer villages tended gardens of corn, beans, squash, and pumpkins. Surplus products, including meat, hides, and oil, were traded to other Indians or to Europeans. The Osages acquired guns and horses from Europeans during the eighteenth century, which enabled them to extend their territory and control the distribution of European goods to other tribes in the region.

Most men shaved their heads, leaving only a scalplock extending from the forehead to the back of the neck. The pattern of a man's scalplock indicated the clan he belonged to. Men wore deerskin loincloths, leggings, and moccasins, and bearskin or buffalo robes when it was cold. Beaded ear ornaments and armbands were worn, and warriors tattooed their chests and arms.

Women kept their hair long and wore deerskin dresses, woven belts, leggings, and moccasins. Clothing was perfumed with chewed columbine seed and ceremonial garments were decorated with the furs of ermine and puma. Earrings, pendants, and bracelets were worn, and women decorated their bodies with tattoos.

Osage communities were organized into two divisions called the Sky People and the Earth People. According to their traditions, Wakondah, the creative force of the universe, sent the Sky People down to the surface of the earth where they met the Earth People, whom they joined to form the Osage tribe. Each division consisted of family groups related through the males, called clans, that organized social events and performed rituals for special occasions. Each clan had its own location in the village camping circle and appointed representatives to village councils which advised the two village leaders - one representing each tribal division.

Villages were laid out with houses on either side of a main road running east and west. The two village leaders lived in large houses on opposite sides of the main road near the center of the village. The Sky People clans lived on the north side of the road, and the Earth people clans lived on the south side. Council lodges for town meetings were also constructed in the larger villages.

Detail from "Osage Dreams," by Charles Banks Wilson. Courtesy of the artist.

Osage houses were rectangular and sheltered several families. Measuring up to 100 feet long, they were constructed of saplings driven into the ground and bent over and tied at the top. Horizontal saplings were interwoven among the uprights, and the framework was covered with hides, bark sheets, or woven mats, with smokeholes left open at the top. Most houses had an entrance at the eastern end. A leader's house had entrances at both ends.

Village life followed rules and customs established by a group of elders known as the Little Old Men. To join the ranks of the Little Old men, serious-minded individuals had to undergo training that began during boyhood and lasted for many years. Little Old Men passed through seven stages of learning, at each stage acquiring mastery of an increasingly complex body of sacred knowledge.

Ceremonies were performed for important activities and events, including hunting, war, peace, curing illnesses, marriages, and mourning the dead. Many ceremonies required elaborate preparations and participants would often wear special clothing and ornaments or paint elaborate designs on their bodies. Each clan had specific ceremonial duties that in combination served to sustain the wellbeing of the tribe.

Osage lands in Arkansas and Missouri were taken by the U.S. government in 1808 and 1818, and in 1825 an Osage reservation was established in southeastern Kansas. Today there are about 10,000 Osages listed on the tribal roll, many of whom live in and around Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Din, Gilbert C. and Abraham P. Nasitir
1983 The Imperial Osages: Spanish-Indian Diplomacy in the Mississippi Valley. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

Mathews, John J.
1932 Wah'Kon-Tah: The Osage and the White Man’_ Road. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

1961 Osages: Children of the Middle Waters. University of Oklahoma Press.

Sabo III, George
1992 Paths of Our Children: Historic Indians of Arkansas. Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville.

Wilson, Terry P.
1988 The Osage. Chelsea House Publishers, New York.


Arkansas Indians

When the white man discovered and took possession of North America, he found the red man and his many tribes here, and under a total misapprehension of having found a new continent, he named this strange people Indians. The new world might have been called Columbia, and the people Columbians. Again, instead of being sparse tribes of individuals fringing the shores of the Atlantic Ocean there were 478 tribes, occupying nearly the whole of the north half of this western hemisphere some in powerful tribes, like the Iroquois some were rude agricultural and commercial peoples, some living in houses of logs or stone, permanent residents of their localities others warriors and hunters only, and still others migratory in their nature, pirates and parasites.

What is now Arkansas has been the possession of the following Indian tribes no one tribe, it seems, occupied or owned the territory in its entirety, but their possessions extended into the lines, covering a portion of the lands only, and then reaching many degrees, sometimes to the north, south and west: The Osages, a once numerous tribe, were said to own the country south of the Missouri River to Red River, including a large portion of Arkansas. The Quapaws, also a powerful nation, were the chief possessors, and occupied nearly the whole of the State, “time out of mind” the Cherokees were forced out of Georgia and South Carolina, and removed west of the Mississippi River in 1836 the Hitchittees were removed from the Chattahoochee River to Arkansas. They speak the Maskogee dialect – were 600 strong when removed the Choctaws were removed to the west, after the Cherokees. In 1812 they were 15,000 strong.

The Quapaw Tribe

The Quapaws, of all the tribes connected with Arkansas, may be regarded as the oldest settlers, having possessed more of its territory in well defined limits than any of the others. In the early part of the eighteenth century they constituted a powerful tribe. In the year 1720 they were decimated by smallpox reduced by this and other calamities, in 1820, one hundred years after, they were found scattered along the south side of the Arkansas River, numbering only 700 souls. They never regained their former numerical strength or warlike importance, but remained but a band of wretched, ragged beggars, about whose hunting grounds the white man was ever lessening and tightening the lines.

January 5, 1819, Gov. Clark and Pierre Chouteau made a treaty with the tribe by which was ceded to the United States the most of their territory. The descriptive part of the treaty is in the following words: “Beginning at the mouth of the Arkansas River thence extending up the Arkansas to the Canadian Fork, and up the Canadian Fork to its source thence south to the big Red River, and down the middle of that river to the Big Raft thence in a direct line so as to strike the Mississippi River, thirty leagues in a straight line, below the mouth of the Arkansas, together with all their claims to lands east of the Mississippi River and north of the Arkansas River. With the exception and reservation following, that is to say, that tract of country bounded as follows: Beginning at a point on the Arkansas River opposite the present Post of Arkansas, and running thence a due southwest course to the Washita River thence up that river to the Saline Fork, to a point from whence a due north course would strike the Arkansas River at the Little Rock, and thence down the right bank of the Arkansas to the place of beginning. ” In addition to this a tract was reserved north of the Arkansas River, which the treaty says is indicated by “marks on the accompanying map.” This west line of the Quapaw reservation struck the river about where is now Rock Street.

In November, 1824, Robert Crittenden, the first Territorial secretary, effected a treaty with the Quapaws, at Harrington’s, Ark., which ceded the above reservation and forever extinguished all title of that tribe to any portion of Arkansas. The tribe was then removed to the Indian Territory.

The Osage Tribe

The other original occupants or claimants to the Arkansas Territory were the Osages. Of these there were many tribes, and in 1830 numbered 4,000 strong, but mostly along the Osage River. Their claim lapped over, it seems, all that portion of the Quapaw lands lying north of the Arkansas River.

The title of the Osages was extinguished to what is now Arkansas by a treaty of November 10, 1808, made at Fort Clark, on the Missouri River. By this treaty they ceded all the country east of a line running due south from Fort Clark to the Arkansas River, and down said river to its confluence with the Mississippi River. These Indians occupied only the country along the Missouri and Osage Rivers, and if they were ever on what they claimed as their southern boundary, the Arkansas River, it was merely on expeditions.

The Cherokee and Choctaw Tribes

About 1818, Georgia and South Carolina commenced agitating the subject of getting rid of the Indians, and removing them west. They wanted their lands and did not want their presence. At first they used persuasion and strategy, and finally force. They were artful in representing to the Indians the glories of the Arkansas country, both for game and rich lands. During the twenty years of agitating the subject Indians of the tribes of those States came singly and in small bands to Arkansas, and were encouraged to settle anywhere they might desire north of the Arkansas River, on the Osage ceded lands. The final act of removal of the Indians was consummated in 1839, when the last of the Cherokees were brought west. Simultaneous with the arrival of this last delegation of Indians an alarm passed around among the settlers that the Indians were preparing to make a foray on the white settlements and murder them all. Many people were greatly alarmed, and in some settlements there were hasty preparations made to flee to places of safety. In the meantime the poor, distressed Cherokees and Choctaws were innocent of the stories in circulation about them, and were trying to adjust themselves to their new homes and to repair their ruined fortunes. The Cherokees were the most highly civilized of all the tribes, as they were the most intelligent, and had mingled and intermarried with the whites until there were few of pure blood left among them. They had men of force and character, good schools and printing presses, and published and edited papers, as well as their own school books. These conditions were largely true, also, of the Chickasaws. The Cherokees and Chickasaws were removed west under President Jackson’s administration. The Cherokees were brought by water to Little Rock, and a straight road was cut out from Little Rock to the corner of their reservation, fifteen miles above Batesville, in Independence County, over which they were taken. Their southeast boundary line was a straight line, at the point designated above Batesville, to the mouth of Point Remove Creek.

The history of the removal of the Cherokee Indians (and much of the same is true of the removal of the Chickasaws and Creeks), is not a pleasant chapter in American history. The Creeks of Florida had waged war, and when conquered Gen. Scott removed them beyond the Mississippi River. When the final consummation of the removal of the Cherokees was effected, it was done by virtue of a treaty, said to have been the work of traitors, and unauthorized by the proper Indian authorities. At all events the artful whites had divided the head-men of the tribe, and procured their signatures to a treaty which drove the last of the nation beyond the Mississippi. The chief men in making this treaty were the Ridges, Boudinot, Bell and Rogers. This was the treaty of 1835. In June, 1839, the Ridges, Boudinot and Bell were assassinated. About forty Indians went to Ridge’s house, Independence County, and cruelly murdered young Ridge they then pursued the elder Ridge and, over-taking him at the foot of Boston Mountains, as he was on his way to visit friends in Van Buren, Ark. , shot him to death. It seems there was an old law of the nation back in Georgia, by which any one forfeited his life who bartered any part of their lands.

The Choctaws by treaty ceded to the United States all their claim to lands lying within the limits of Arkansas, October 20, 1820.

On the 6th of May, 1828, the Cherokees ceded all claim to their lands that lay within the Territorial limit of Arkansas.

This was about the end of Indian occupation or claims within the State of Arkansas, but not the end of important communication, and acts of neighborly friendship, between the whites and the Cherokees especially. A considerable number of Indians, most of them having only a slight mixture of Indian blood, remained in the State and were useful and in some instances highly influential citizens. Among them were prominent farmers, merchants and professional men. And very often now may be met some prominent citizen, who, after even an extended acquaintance, is found to be an Indian. Among that race of people they recognize as full members of the tribe all who have any trace of their blood in their veins, whether it shows or not. In this respect it seems that nearly all races differ from the white man. With the latter the least mixture of blood of any other color pronounces them at once to be not white.

The Cherokee Indians, especially, have always held kindly intercourse with the people of Arkansas. In the late Civil War they went with the State in the secession movement without hesitation. A brigade of Cherokees was raised and Gen. Albert Pike was elected to the command. The eminent Indians in the command were Gen. Stand Waitie and Col. E. C. Boudinot. Until 1863 the Indians were unanimous in behalf of the Southern cause, but in that year Chief Ross went over to the Federal side, and thus the old time divisions in the Indian councils were revived.

Col. Elias C. Boudinot was born in Georgia, in August, 1835, the same year of the treaty removing the Indians from that State. Practically, therefore, he is an Arkansan. He shows a strong trace of Indian blood, though the features of the white race predominate. He is a man of education and careful culture, and when admitted to the bar he soon won a place in the splendid array of talent then so greatly distinguishing Arkansas. A born orator, strong enough in intellect to think without emotion, morally and physically a hero, he has spent much of his life pleading for his people to be made citizens – the owners of their individual homes, as the only hope to stay that swift decay that is upon them, but the ignorance of his tribe and the scheming of demagogues and selfish “agents,” have thwarted his efforts and practically exiled him from his race.

A few years ago Col. Boudinot was invited to address Congress and the people of Washington on the subject of the Indian races. The masterly address by this man, one of the greatest of all the representatives of American Indians, will be fixed in history as the most pathetic epilogue of the greatest of dramas, the curtain of which was raised in 1492. Who will ever read and fully understand his emotions when he repeated the lines:

Their light canoes have vanished From off the crested waves – Amid the forests where they roamed There rings no hunter’s shout.

And all their cone-like cabins That clustered o’er the vale, Have disappeared as withered leaves, Before the autumn gale.


Lands of the Osage Indians

Much concerning the early history of the Osages had already been told in the account of Pike’s expedition and the history of the Kansas. They called themselves Wa-zha-zhe. This name the French Traders corrupted to the present Osage. In historic times the tribe was divided into three bands:

  1. Pahatsi, or Great Osages
  2. Utsehta, or Little Osages
  3. Santsnkhdhi, or the Arkansas Band

There are different accounts as to how the tribe became separated into the two principal bands—Great and Little Osages. Some insist that the division occurred in primal times. The Osages then dwelt about a great mountain, an immense mound, or a big hill. One part of the tribe lived on the mountain, the remainder on the plain. Those on the elevation came to be called there the Great Osages, and those living in the plain were the Little Osages. It had been suggested that the names represented a social difference or some tribal distinction long forgotten by even the Osages themselves. In all probability there is no foundation for any of these explanations. Isaac McCoy, in his History of Baptist Indian Missions says the division was the result of some fault of the early traders among them. There were then two towns on the Missouri belonging to the Osages. The one above became known as the Upper town, and the people dwelling there as the Upper People. In like manner, those at the town below were the Lower People. Each town had its chief and separate local government. The white people, having an imperfect knowledge of the language and conditions of the Osages, supposed that the names of the towns signified that all the tall or large people of the tribe lived at the Upper settlement, and that all the short or small people lived in the Lower settlement. There came to be told among the white people in pioneer times the story that the tribe had made an arrangement whereby all the tall people should be in one band and live in one town, while all the short men should dwell together in another town. Intelligent travelers never did mention that there was any difference in the stature of the Great and Little Osages. The terms may not have originated as McCoy says. They may have grown out of the relative size of their two towns in early times. Or in some other way not now remembered by the Osages themselves.

The origin of the Arkansas Band is known. About 1796 Manuel Lisa secured from the then government of Louisiana a monopoly to trade with all the Indians on the waters of the Missouri River. This, of course, included the Osages. Previous to that time the trade went to traders in competition, among these the Chouteaus. The monopoly of Lisa cast out the Chouteaus. Pierre Chouteau had at one time enjoyed a monopoly of the Osage trade. When he was superseded as agent of the tribe by Lisa, he sought some means of continuing his profitable business relations with the tribe. He determined to divide it, and to settle a part of it beyond the jurisdiction of Lisa. He induced the best hunters of the tribe to go with him to the Lower Verdigris. This stream is a branch of the Arkansas River, none of the waters of which were included in the grant to Lisa. Chouteau took only young men and their families, and they were from both the Great and Little Osages. They built towns near the mouth of the Verdigris River. Later they went to the Arkansas and had towns both above and below the mouth of the Verdigris. By the French they were known as Osage des Chenes (Osage of the Oaks). Des Chenes was corrupted into a number of terms, of which Chancers was one. The date of the formation of this band and its migration to the Verdigris is given as about 1803 by Lewis and Clark, Dr. Sibley and Mr. Dunbar, in their report published in 1806. They say nearly one-half the Osage nation followed Chouteau. Also, that “The Little Osage formerly resided on the S. W. side of the Missouri, near the mouth of the Grand River but being reduced by continual warfare with their neighbors, were compelled to seek the protection of the Great Osage, near whom they now reside.” Their village was set up, on their return, where Pike found it when he ascended the Osage on his way to the Pawnee country.

Fort Osage, afterwards Fort Clark, where Sibley, Mo., now is, was established in October, 1808, as a protection to the Osage Indians, as cited in the preamble of the treaty of November 10, 1808, with the tribe. But the Government dealt unfairly in that matter. The fort and trading post had been promised in 1804 and in 1806. In less than a month after it was built, Pierre Chouteau appeared at the fort with the treaty of the 10th of November already written out. It had been prepared without any consultation with a single Osage. Chouteau had the treaty read and explained to the assembled chiefs and warriors. Then he announced that those who signed it would be considered friends of the United States and treated accordingly, and those who refused to sign would be regarded as enemies. The chief, White Hair, protested, but acknowledged the helplessness of the Indians. He signed the treaty, and fear of being counted enemies of the United States caused all present to sign. This treaty exacted a large tract of land as the price of building Fort Osage. The land was thus described in the treaty:

Beginning at Fort Clark (Fort Osage) on the Missouri, five miles above Fire Prairie, and running thence a due south course to the river Arkansas and down the same to the Mississippi.

All the land east of that line was ceded to the United States. There was much dissatisfaction on the part of the Osages, and they never did understand why the concession was enacted.

The Osages began to move to the westward from their homes in what is now Vernon County, Mo., in 1815. Some of them may have gone before that date. They fixed their new towns on the Neosho. In the year 1817 the Cherokees destroyed the Osage town on the Verdigris. They also destroyed the crops and carried off as prisoners some fifty old people and children. The warriors were absent at the time, but they took up the hatchet upon their return. The Delawares assisted the Cherokees, and the war continued until 1822.

In 1820 the Great Osages had one village on the Neosho, and the Little Osages had three on the same stream. Of these Colonel Sibley reported in that year:

The Great Osages of the Osage River. — They live in one village on the Osage river 78 miles (measured) due south of Fort Osage. They hunt over a very great extent of country, comprising the Osage, Gasconade, and Neeozho rivers and their numerous branches. They also hunt on the heads of the St. Francois and White rivers, and on the Arkansas. I rate them at about 1,200 souls, 350 of whom are warriors or hunters, 50 or 60 are superannuated, and the rest are women and children.

The Great Osages of the Neeozho. — They have one village on the Neeozho river, about 130 or 140 miles southwest of Ft. Osage. They hunt pretty much in common with the tribe of the Osage river, from whom they separated six or eight year ago. This village contains about four hundred souls, of whom about 100 are warriors, and hunters, some 10 or 15 are aged persons, and the rest are women and children. Papuisea, or White Hair, is principal chief.

The Little Osage. — Three villages on the Necozho river, about 130 or 140 miles southeast of this place (Ft. Osage). This tribe, comprising all three villages and comprehending about twenty families of Missouries that are intermarried with them, I rate about 1,000 souls, about 300 of whom are hunters and warriors, twenty or thirty superannuated and the rest are women and children. They hunt pretty much in common with the other tribes of Osages mentioned, and frequently on the headwaters of the Kansas, some of the branches of which interlock with those of the Neeozho. Nechoumani, or Walking Rain, principal chief. [Called “Nezuma, or Rain that Walks” by Pike and Wilkinson.]

Of the Chaneers, or Arkansas tribes of Osages, I say nothing, because they do not resort here to trade. I have always rated that tribe at about an equal half of all the Osages. They hunt chiefly on the Arkansas and White rivers, and their waters.

From this time until after the Civil War the Osages lived principally in Kansas. One post in Kansas resulted from trade with the Osages while they lived yet in Missouri. The Missouri Fur Company had a trading post near their towns before 1812. It was abandoned that year. When other posts were established is not now known, but the founders of Harmony Mission, who came out in 1821, found several traders seated in the country along the Osage River. One was where Papinville, Vernon County, Mo., was afterwards laid out. Another was at the Collen Ford, on the Osage. The founders of these posts are not now known. About 1831 Michael Gireau and Melicourt Papin had stores at Collin Ford. Papin had another at the site of Papinville. There were half a dozen French families at Gireau’s store, as well as some half-breed families. They were probably hunters and petty traders. In 1839 Gireau moved his store and established himself further up the Marais des Cygnes, in what is now Linn County, Kansas. The place was later known as Trading Post, a name it still bears. About 1842 this post was sold to one of the Chouteaus, probably Gabriel Chouteau, and it was then called Chouteau’s Trading Post. It bore a part in the Territorial history of Kansas.

The site of White Hair’s village had long been a matter of both doubt and controversy. In later years it had been supposed to have been near Oswego, Labette County. The correct location was determined by this author from measurements made on an old manuscript map (and other maps) in the Library of the Kansas State Historical Society, and the consultation of various authorities and treaties. The White Hair who founded this first town of the Great Osages on the Neosho was a descendant of Old White Hair, the great chief of the Big Osages, about the time of Pike’s visit. This first White Hair died in what is now Vernon County, Mo. It seems that all the chiefs named White Hair had the Osage name Pahusca, pronounced Pawhoos-ka. They had a council name—Papuisea. Also a war name, Cahagatongo. The Neosho River was named by the Osages. The name is composed of two words—ne, water and osho, bowl or basin. It was so named from the fact that it had innumerable deep places—bowls or basins of water. It means a river having many deep places.

The one village of the Great Osages on the Neosho mentioned by Colonel Sibley was that of White Hair. It was established about the year 1815, as noted before. In 1796 when the Arkansas band was induced to settle on the Lower Verdigris by Chouteau a trail from these Lower Towns to the old home on the Little Osages, in Vernon County, Mo., where Pike had found the Osage Nation, was marked, and thenceforth used by traders and Indians alike. This trail followed up the Marmaton, in what is now Bourbon County, Kansas. It crossed over to the waters of the Neosho near the southeast corner of the present Allen County, bearing all the time to the southwest. The Neosho River was reached and crossed just above the present town of Shaw, in Neosho County, Kansas. In migrating to the Neosho River, White Hair and his band followed this old trail. The Great Osage town was fixed at the crossing of the Neosho, and on the west side of the river. When the Government survey of Kansas was made the site of White Hair’s village fell within the bounds of section sixteen (16), township twenty-eight (28) range nineteen (19).1

The missionaries came down from their establishments in the old Osage country to proclaim the Gospel to Osages on the Neosho. The Presbyterians set up a mission there as early as 1824, with Rev. Benson Pixley in charge. What this effort accomplished is not fully known. In March, 1830, Rev. Nathaniel B. Dodge, was sent from Independence, Mo., where he had gone after strenuous labors at Harmony Mission, to take up the work with the Osages, on the Neosho. There he established what was known as the “Boudinot” Mission. It was on the east bank of the river opposite the town of White Hair. He remained at that charge until 1835, when he returned to the Little Osage River, in Vernon County, Mo., settling near Balltown, where he died in 1848. His departure from the Neosho was the end of the Presbyterian Mission there.

The Baptists made no efforts to establish a mission among the Osages on the Neosho. McCoy says the Osages were much to be pitied at that time, but does not explain why the Baptists were unable to help them.

The Roman Catholic Mission was founded at the point where the town of Osage Mission was afterwards located. The town was the result of the mission. In 1822 the Bishop of New Orleans appointed Rev. Father Charles de La Croix missionary to the Osages on the Neosho. He reached the field of his labors in May of that year. On the 5th of that month he baptized Antone Chouteau, who was born in 1817, and whose baptism is the first recorded in Kansas. This missionary succumbed to the hardships of pioneer life, dying at St. Louis. He was succeeded by Rev. Charles Van Quickenborn, who appeared on the Neosho in 1827. In 1828 he performed the ceremony of marriage between Francis D. Agbeau, a half-breed, and an Osage woman named Mary. There is no record of an earlier marriage ceremony in Kansas. The progress of the mission was slow. Rev: Father John Schoenmakers, S. J., arrived at the mission April 28, 1847, accompanied by Fathers Bax and Colleton. They were accorded possession of two buildings then being erected by the Indian Department. In these buildings were started two schools—one for girls and one for boys. In October a number of Sisters of Loretto arrived from Kentucky. Father Paul Ponziglioni came to the mission in 1851. The work went forward with energy from that time. Additions were made to the buildings, and attendance increased. The Civil War scattered the Osages, but Father Ponziglioni followed from village to village to minister to them.

The Osages disposed of their vast domain in Kansas in 1825. In June of that year they made a treaty with the United States by which they ceded all the land of the State of Kansas south of the land ceded by the Kansas. The Osages and Kansas were, in fact, in St. Louis together to conclude these treaties. That with the Osages was made on the second of June, and that with the Kansas the following day. The south limit of the Kansas cession had been already noted. The Osage cession extended from that line south into Oklahoma and west as far as the Kansas had claimed. It was an imperial domain, and the Osages had no good title to any great portion of it. The Government could take title from the Osages none could ever dispute this title with the United States. That is why it was accepted from the Osages.

In this same treaty a new reservation was cut from the ceded lands for the Osages. Its bounds were to be arrived at in much the same manner as in the new reservation for the Kansas. This new Osage reservation was thus defined:

“Beginning at a point due east of White Hair’s village and 25 miles West of the western boundary line of the State of Missouri, fronting on a North and South Line so as to leave 10 miles North and 40 miles South of the point of said beginning, and extending West with a width of 50 miles to the western boundary of the lands hereby ceded and relinquished.”

All this reservation was disposed of under the terms of a treaty made with the Osages at the Canville Trading Post, near Shaw, in Neosho County, September 29, 1865. By this treaty the Ceded Lands were cut from the east end of the reservation to be sold to create a fund for the benefit of the Osages. This tract was twenty-eight miles in width—east and west—by fifty miles north and south. Another cession made by the treaty was a tract twenty miles wide off the north side of the reservation as it remained after taking off the Ceded Lands. This tract was to he held in trust for the tribe and sold for its benefit at a stipulated sum. It was provided also that if the Osages should determine to move to the Indian Territory to lands secured for them there, the diminished reservation in Kansas might be sold by the Government for their benefit. They did so determine, and by an act of Congress of July 15, 1870, the remainder of the Osage lands in Kansas passed to the Government to be disposed of for their use. The Osages left Kansas in 1870. They settled on land bought from the Cherokee, east and north of the Arkansas River, where they yet live.

1. The exact date of the settlement of the Great Osages in this village on the Neosho is not known. It was about 1815, as said before. Colonel Sibley, writing in October, 1820, says it was “Six or eight years ago.” The Little Osages must have settled on the Neosho, in the great bottom about the present town of Chanute. Or they may have been on the east bank of the Neosho, opposite the town of the Great Osages. The Little Osages on the Noosho were more numerous than the Great Osages. In their three towns there were about one thousand souls, including some twenty families of Missouris, intermarried with them.