Children of the Middle Waters: The Osage Nation Yesterday & Today, Review

On the second floor of the Tulsa Historical Society is an exhibit that features the history of the Osage Nation. In partnership with the Osage Nation Museum, both the goals of the Osage and the Historical Society were to show the culture and history of the tribe. The exhibit talks about many things, from their early contact and trade with Europeans to their wealth from oil in the early 20th century.

According to the exhibit, French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet recorded meeting the Osage people in 1673 in both central and southwest Missouri. After the initial meeting, more and more European traders came to the Missouri River to trade blankets, kettles, knives, and many other items. The exhibit states how European traders were forced to do business with the Osage or they would suffer economically, considering the Osage held a strategic location, commanding trade networks, and the strength of the tribe altogether. The part of the exhibit that some may be unaware of is the amount of oil that the Osage Nation had. The exhibit states how in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the tribe became aware of the oil they were sitting on. This discovery quickly gave them the name of the “richest people in the world,” as they began to pump it. With a continuous increase in demand, it led to a very prosperous time for the Osage Nation.

This exhibit takes a glimpse back in time to see what the Osage experienced, showing what made them the tribe they are today. If you are curious about the history of the Osage Indians, this exhibit is a fantastic start. It presents Osage history, treaties they were involved in, objects, beadwork, and even tells a story about how Thomas Jefferson may have had an impact on women’s wedding coats at the time!

Pictured are both Venetian beads and trade beads


In this image, a woman is wearing a wedding coat and a hat. When a group of Osage leaders went to meet President Thomas Jefferson in 1804, they were given military officers’ coats as gifts, according to oral tradition. Since the men were too large to wear the coats, they were given to the women. After this, the women began to use them for weddings.
Toy cradleboard, c. early 1900s