Barbara (Taylor) Pease passed away ten days after my brother Phil Redwine. Their Baptist Christian services were similar in several comforting ways. They were also differing as Phil’s funeral was in Norman, Oklahoma and Barbara was honored as a member of the Osage Nation in Indian Camp in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Peg and I had attended Barbara’s mother, Judy Taylor’s, funeral in 2016 and were moved by the Osage graveside rites. Perhaps the coincidence of my appointment as a Special Judge in a recent Indian law case made Barbara’s services even more impressive to Peg and me. I know I was surprised about how little I knew of Osage traditions even though I was born and raised in Pawhuska.
As part of my legal research into an area of the law completely new to me I went to my personal library and reviewed my autographed copy of John Joseph Mathews’ book, The Osages, Children of the Middle Waters. Mr. Mathews was well known to my parents and, at our mother’s request, Mathews signed a copy of his book “with special pleasure” to my brother Phil and me. Mathew’s extensive scholarship into Osage traditions brought out the beauty and solace of Osage burial rites.
Barbara’s services included former Osage Chief Johnny Red Eagle fanning over Barbara’s body with an eagle-tail fan. This impressive ritual reminded me of the following passage in Mathews’ book that described a burial of several Osage members of a hunting party who were killed by a lightning strike:
“The survivors came into the village carrying their comrades and singing their song of death. The Little Old Men looked at the sky in fear, then fanned away the evil spirit from the bodies with an eagle-tail fan…”
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At Barbara’s services Palee Redcorn sang beautiful, haunting and comforting acapella renditions of hymns in the Osage language and then transitioned seamlessly into English versions. One of those death songs was the traditional Christian hymn, “Amazing Grace”. At my brother’s funeral his youngest son, Ryan, who is an ordained Baptist minister, sang a deeply felt acapella version of “Amazing Grace” from the pulpit.
Of course, Ryan also gave a marvelous and inspiring message under the most difficult of emotions to honor his father much as Reverend Scott Kohnle of the Indian Camp Baptist Church spoke for Barbara. I do not know if Ryan’s mother’s Native American heritage influenced Ryan’s message for his Dad, but I do know Ryan and Scott both captured the essence of Barbara’s family’s and our grief and pride in our loved ones. Barbara and Phil were similar in their kindness and generosity and in their steadfast pride and support of their numerous grandchildren.
To lose two such priceless members of our small circle within ten days of one another was a lot to bear, but the thoughtful and heartfelt services helped. Peg and I now better understand the communal support of family and tribe.