Osage Nation

The Wahzhazhe (wah-ZHAW-zhay), or People of the Middle Water, trace their ancestry back hundreds of years. Their name has been transliterated into the modern English spelling Osage (OH-sage).

The Osage share culture connections with the Kaw, Omaha, Ponca, and Quapaw. In ancient times, the ancestors of these people groups lived in the Ohio River Valley. By around 500 AD, they had migrated to the region where the Ohio meets the Mississippi River. Different groups began to spread out, with the ancestors of the Osage moving up the Missouri River and spreading into what became the modern states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

The Osage engaged in trade and cultural exchange with the French and Spanish who came to their territory in the 1700s. With the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the United States laid claim to Osage lands.

In 1804 a delegation of Osage traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with President Thomas Jefferson. The Osage signed seven treaties with the United States government during the first half of the 1800s, but the United States consistently violated those treaties and encroached on Osage territory. The Osage eventually purchased land from the Cherokee in Indian Territory (modern Oklahoma) on which to re-establish their sovereign nation.

This photo shows a delegation of Osage in 1874, soon after the Ingalls left Kansas.

George Catlin (1796-1872) was a self-taught painter. His stated goal was to visit "every nation of Indians on the Continent of North America." This is one of hundreds of paintings he made depicting members of native nations.

Osage Indians Painting by George Catlin

Osage Indians by George Catlin (1860s). Courtesy National Gallery of Art.

This video shows modern Osage leaders talking about their culture and their vision for their community with clips of daily life in the Osage Nation.

Learn More

The Osage Culture website has videos and other resources about Osage language, clothing, food, decorative arts, and philosophy.

Osage Culture

This video provides a quick overview of Osage history.

Journey of the Osage

Wahzhazhe: An Osage Ballet depicts the history of the Osage people: their removal from their homelands, the boarding-school era, the discovery of oil on their reservation, and the celebration of Osage life today.

Wahzhazhe: An Osage Ballet

Maria Tallchief (1924-2013), a member of the Osage Nation, is considered the first major prima ballerina in the United States.

Maria Tallchief Resources

Places to Visit

The Osage Nation Museum in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, has been sharing the enduring story of the Osage since 1938.

Osage Nation Museum

Here are some other sites related to Osage history and culture.

Osage Destinations


The Osage Nation website has lessons for K-12 students.

K-12 Lessons

Here is a puzzle using the 1874 photo of the Osage delegation.

Osage Delegation Puzzle

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