This Day In History: The Osage Tribe Agree to Leave their Lands (1818)

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On this date in history in a historic decision that would change the fortunes of the Osage Indians, forever. In this date, they reach an agreement with the Federal government in 1818. The tribe agreed to abandon their lands and their traditional hunting grounds in exchange for a reservation in  Kansas. This was one of the first examples of such an agreement in the history of American and Indian relations.

The Osage are a member of the Sioux tribe and are regarded as a member of the Southern Sioux. They had expelled many tribes from the modern states of Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. Here the Osage developed a remarkably sophisticated culture and society. They were the predominant tribe in a large area of the Mid-West for many years. This was all to change when white American settlers began to intrude on their lands especially in present-day Missouri. This led to violent clashes that resulted in deaths on both sides in the 1800s.

The Osage, unlike the Northern Sioux, were not nomadic and they had adopted a more or less settled lifestyle. They had villages made of sturdy log huts and lodges. The were dependent on the buffalo and other wild animals just like other tribes in the region such as the Omaha and Kansa tribes. Unlike these tribes they also grew crops and corn was an important part of their diet. The Osage had established trading networks with other tribes on the southern plains.

The Americans found it easier to negotiate with these tribes than with the Northern Sioux who were much more war-like. The Osage were persuaded by the Americans to abandon their lands and go to an area in Southern Kansas. Here they lived in peace for several decades and continued to live their traditional lifestyle.  However,  white settlers wanted the reservation lands in the aftermath of the Civil War. There was growing tension between the Indians and the white settlers. The Southern Sioux although they were much given to blood feuds once more proved to be willing to compromise and negotiate. They eventually moved to Oklahoma and their reservation gave the name to Osage County in that state.

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President Calvin Coolidge with a delegation of Osage Indians

The Osage coped better with these moves to reservations than other Indian tribes. For example, when the Kansa were forced off their lands and onto a reservation their numbers plummeted to less than 200 hundred.

The Osage because they had a sophisticated culture were able to better adapt to the new reality in the west.  They leased grazing land to white settlers and this made the tribe wealthy. In the twentieth century, oil and gas were, found on the reservation and this made them the wealthiest tribe in the United States. Today the Osage tribe are 10,000 strong and they mainly still live in Oklahoma.

 

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