Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Osage live mostly in Oklahoma. Their language is in the Dhegiha branch of the Siouan language family, which also includes the Omaha, Ponca, Kansa and Quapaw. Traditional Osage society was divided into five named bands. Each band had its own chiefs who represented it at the assembly of clans and religious leaders called "little Old Men". Pre-reservation Osage economy was based on horticulture, hunting, the collection of wild food plants, and the fur trade. Having lost most of their land, the Osage receive income mostly from wage work, oil and mineral rights, and per capita payments from interest paid on the Kansas land sale money in the Federal Treasury.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


North America --Plains and Plateau


United States

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The Osage (NQ22) collection covers a variety of cultural, historical and environmental information on different sections of Osage society from pre-contact times to late 1990s.

The works of James Owen Dorsey (1884, no. 12) and George A. Dorsey (1904, no. 13) represent the earliest systematic attempts at understanding and reconstructing pre-reservation Osage society and culture. However, the basic and most comprehensive sources in the collection are four works by Francis La Flesche, a native Omaha who studied the Osage in 1910-1920. Topics covered in these works include marriage customs (La Flesche 1912, no. 17), ceremonies and rituals (La Flesche 1914, no. 22; 1916, no. 27) and child-naming rites (La Flesche 1928: no. 31).

The collection also includes other works by the anthropologist Garrick A. Bailey who conducted ethnographic field work among the Osage in Oklahoma in the mid-1960s and 1970s. Two of these works are broad descriptions of Osage culture and history (Bailey 2001, no. 35; 1998, no. 37). The remaining two works explore similarities and differences between the traditional Osage world described by La Flesche and the Osage world of later times with particular reference to religion and rituals (Bailey 1995, no. 31) and social organization (Bailey 1973, no. 36). Also included in the collection is an article exploring ideas of justice and punishment held by various Indians and Europeans, ending with the trial of several Osage men accused by the United States of the kind of killing that the Osage had done for a century in protection of their trade and land rights.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document. For information on the culturally related Omaha, see the Omaha (NQ21) collection in eHRAF World Cultures.

Overview by

Teferi Adem


Clan bundles Use SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES ( 778)

Ga-hi-ge –band chiefs– Use COMMUNITY HEADS ( 622) with COMMUNITY STRUCTURE ( 621)

Gentes Use SIBS ( 614)

hon-ga –“land” phratry– Use PHRATRIES ( 615)

hon-qa –“earth” moiety– Use MOIETIES ( 616)

Land allotment act Use REAL PROPERTY ( 423) with PUBLIC WELFARE ( 657)

Non-hon-zhin-ga –religious leaders– Use PRIESTHOOD ( 793)

Reservation Use SETTLEMENT PATTERNS ( 361) with REAL PROPERTY ( 423)

Treaties with the USA government Use INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS ( 648)

tsi-zhu –“sky” moiety– Use MOIETIES ( 616)

Wa-kon-tah –invisible lifegiving forces– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)


Wa-sha-she –“water” phratry– Use PHRATRIES ( 615)

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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