A history lesson today, and a little more about the background behind Cobwebs – A Suspense Novel during this month’s reboot of my first mystery.
Imagine you were one of those brave travelers on a wagon train, making your way west toward a place others called “The Promised Land.” If you arrived there and worked the land for a few years, it would be yours. It was a fresh start to what had become a difficult life in the crowded east coast cities of the new country known as The United States. Never mind that other people with slightly darker skin, different cultures and languages already called the land their home and could not comprehend the idea of land belonging to one individual.
Leaving St. Louis and rolling west, settlers were likely to encounter a terrifying sight, an ‘Indian’ standing nearly seven feet tall, bare-chested, with face and body paint that invoked shivers of fear. It was likely that while still in Missouri you had encountered a member of the Osage Tribe.
One of the largest in stature of the North American tribes, the Osages referred to themselves as the “Little People.” They made their home in the woodlands of southwest Missouri around the Osage River and hunted deer and bison into the plains of Kansas, but only as far west as the Pawnee would allow, or as far north as the Kansa, Omaha, Iowa and Oto, Sac and Fox tribes would permit.
Through their contact with French traders, the Osages received guns and horses, as well as other items that made life easier. They became dependent on trade, and were important allies of the French. One such French trader who exerted immense influence on the tribe was Auguste Choteau. It was Choteau who convinced nearly half of the tribe of Osages to move near a new trading post he built near the Verdigris River in 1802, in the area of eastern Oklahoma. This move signaled a split in the ancient Osage Nation.
Settlement of the west continued. Eastern Native American tribes were forced off their lands and the Osage were forced to share the land they had moved to in what was to become Oklahoma. In 1872, they signed a treaty with the United States, conceding their lands and accepting lands in Oklahoma with the stipulation that the Tribe would always own the water and minerals of the place they had purchased.
This proved to be a most wise caveat on the part of those chiefs who signed the treaty. It made the Osage Tribe wealthy beyond belief when oil and gas were discovered intherolling hills of Osage County.
Unfortunately, during the 1920s, it also brought grief, when unscrupulous men murdered and kidnapped Tribal members after being assigned to their guardianship. No one knows for certain how many of those on the Osage Roll of 1906 were affected. Many of those who went missing during that period were never found.