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Osage Traditions   By: (1848-1895)

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Osage Traditions

by J. Owen Dorsey

Edition 1, (October 4, 2006)

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION BUREAU OF ETHNOLOGY.

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION. TRADITIONS OF THE ELDERS. UNUn'U¢Á{~LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED K~}E. TSÍOU WACTÁ{~LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED K~}E ITÁPE. UNUn' U¢Á{~LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED K~}E. QÜ¢ÁPASAn ITÁPE. CONCLUDING REMARKS.

ILLUSTRATIONS

FIG. 389. Symbolic chart of the Osage.

OSAGE TRADITIONS.

BY REV. J. OWEN DORSEY.

INTRODUCTION.

When the author visited the Osage, in the Indian Territory, in January, 1883, he learned of the existence of a secret society of seven degrees, in which, it was alleged, the traditions of the people have been preserved to the present time. Owing to the shortness of his visit, one month and eleven days, he was unable to gain more than fragmentary accounts of the society, including parts of two traditions, from several Osage who had been initiated.

The version of the first tradition was dictated to the author by Hada {~LATIN SMALL LETTER OPEN O~}ü{~LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED T~}se (Red Corn), a halfbreed Osage of the Tsí{~LATIN SMALL LETTER OPEN O~}u wactá{~LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED K~}e gens. He obtained it from Sadeki¢e. Hada {~LATIN SMALL LETTER OPEN O~}ü{~LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED T~}se was adopted in childhood by a white man named Matthews, who sent him to a Jesuit college in Missouri(?) to be educated for the priesthood. But the boy left the institution after he had been taught to read and write, as he did not wish to become a priest. He took the name of William P. Matthews, but among his white associates he is known as Bill Nix. He has tried several occupations and is now an Indian doctor. The author was inclined at first to underrate Mr. Matthews's accomplishments and stock of information, but subsequently changed his opinion of him, as he obtained much that agreed with what had been furnished by members of other tribes in former years. Besides, the author obtained partial accounts of similar traditions from other Osage, who used the same chant which Hada {~LATIN SMALL LETTER OPEN O~}ü{~LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED T~}se had sung. None of the younger Osage men knew about these matters and the author was urged not to speak to them on this subject. He observed that several of the elder men, members of the secret order in which these traditions are preserved, had parts of the accompanying symbolic chart (Fig. 389) tattooed on their throats and chests. This chart is a fac simile of one that was drawn for the author by Hada {~LATIN SMALL LETTER OPEN O~}ü{~LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED T~}se. At the top we see a tree near a river. The tree is a cedar, called the tree of life. It has six roots, three on each side. Nothing is said about this tree till the speaker nearly reaches the end of the tradition. Then follows the "ceremony of the cedar." The tree is described very minutely. Then follows a similar account of the river and its branches.

[Illustration: FIG. 389. Symbolic chart of the Osage.]

FIG. 389. Symbolic chart of the Osage.

Just under the river, at the left, we see a large star, the Red or Morning Star. Next are six stars, Ta¢ad¢in. The Omaha know a similar group, which they call "Minxa si {~LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED T~}añga," or "Large foot of a goose." Next is the Evening Star; and last comes the small star, "Mikak'e {~LATIN SMALL LETTER OPEN O~}iñ{~LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED K~}a." Beneath these four we see the seven stars, or Pleiades (Mikak'e udátse pé¢unda, the Seven Gentes of Stars), between the Moon (on the left) and the Sun (on the right). Beneath these are the peace pipe (on the left) and the hatchet (on the right). A bird is seen hovering over the four upper worlds. These worlds are represented by four parallel horizontal lines, each of which, except the lowest one, is supported by two pillars. The lowest world rests on a red oak tree.

The journey of the people began at a point below the lowest upper world, on the left side of the chart... Continue reading book >>




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