Peg and I saw the movie Killers of the Flower Moon Friday, October 20th. It exposes the numerous murders of Osage Native Americans one hundred years ago. The film rightly concentrates on the sins of the Killers and the victimization of the oil-wealthy Osages. I appreciate the light cast upon the deaths of the betrayed victims but, as one who was born and reared on the Osage Nation, I hope viewers realize the tribe were and are much more than victims.
As I watched director Martin Scorsese’s 280-million-dollar epic and paean to the Osage victims I thought of the Osage friends I grew up with in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s and to the Osages I live among today. On my desk is John Joseph Mathews’ book The Osages: Children of the Middle Waters and Charles H. Red Corn’s A Pipe for February. Mathews personally signed his book for my mother. Maria and Marjorie Tallchief were Osage prima ballerinas of world-wide fame. Osage artists and sculptors such as John Free are numerous and talented. For example, among Charles Red Corn’s relatives are well known painter Jim Red Corn and writer for the award-winning TV series Reservation Dogs, Ryan Red Corn.
The Osage Nation has always been patriotic and has contributed many military services people to our country, such as WWII General Clarence Leonard Tinker and my personal childhood friends, Ralph Joseph (Bud) Malone and his twin brothers Jerry and Gary. All three Malones were Osages who served in Viet Nam. Gary gave his life for his country, The United States of America, in 1966. Bud, Jerry, Gary and I played baseball and football together throughout our childhood. Bud was a fine infielder and running back. Another Osage friend of mine was Freddy Spotted Bear who pitched on our American Legion baseball team that was coached by my oldest brother, C.E. Redwine. I was Freddy’s catcher. My other brother, Attorney at Law Philip W. Redwine, for many years collaborated on legal projects involving Native American rights with Osage attorney Browning Pipestem who was called the Legal Warrior. Bud Malone’s daughter is also a practicing attorney.
I played with, went to school with and occasionally fought with numerous Osage friends. Today our family physician is Osage Matthew Cameron Rumsey. Dr. Rumsey’s uncle, Clinton Rumsey, and his grandfather, Mongrain (Mogri) Lookout, and I played football together at Pawhuska, Oklahoma High School. Mogri also helped develop the lexicon for the Osage language that was spoken by the actors in Killers. My and my sister’s and brothers’ long-time Sunday School teacher at the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Pawhuska was proud Osage Violet Willis
In other words, the movie is an important and relevant exposé of a great tragedy, The Reign of Terror, but I would not want the audience to be unaware of the many and varied positive contributions members of the Osage tribe have made to our society; they are legion. Osages, just as non-Osages, include competent, complex, heroic, flawed, interesting, valuable, talented and justifiably proud working members of the great tribe that is America. The Reign of Terror certainly must be acknowledged for the evil it was and I am grateful the movie does so and does it so well. However, the Osages as a culture, a tribe and full-blood citizens of The United States of America should be also recognized as triumphing over that great stain on our collective history.