Culture News

Osage

November 17, 2021

LMI Staff

As LMI recognizes National Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate diverse cultures, traditions, and histories, while acknowledging the important contributions of native people. Read Jana DiCarlo’s story to learn about her heritage as a member of the Osage Nation and the rich history of her ancestors.

Growing up, when conversation came up among schoolmates about having Native American heritage, those claiming to have it said that theirs was Cherokee. From an early age, I knew I was Osage. But, since no one I knew had ever heard of the tribe, it didn’t resonate with anyone. Unlike the rest of the kids, not only could I chime in with what tribe I was from, I knew my clan and Osage name and could rattle off notable and historical ancestors. Conversation about Native American heritage usually ended there.

The English translation of my name is Honored Eagle Woman. My clan is Spotted (or Mottled) Eagle. My cousin, Sylvester Tinker, was the chief of our tribe for 13 years. I’m a 12th generation Tinker on my mother’s side. Because of my Osage heritage, I am a member of the Osage Nation, as acknowledged by a Department of the Interior–issued card.

If you served in the military, you’ve heard of Tinker Air Force Base, named in honor of my cousin, Major General Clarence L. Tinker. He was the first major general of Native American descent in U.S. Army history. Sadly, he also holds the distinction of being the first general killed in World War II when his B-24 and all its crew crashed into the sea on the way to a long-range strike against Japanese forces on Wake Island. At the time, he was commander of the Hawaii-based Seventh Air Force.

Chief Sylvester Tinker

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Major General Clarence L. Tinker

Major General Clarence L. Tinker

My late cousin, Louis Burns, also Osage, wrote several books on the tribe, the most comprehensive being The History of the Osage People. His works include a book on the Tinker family and, thanks to him, we can follow our lineage all the way back to the year 635 (although that relative was not Osage).

Soon, everyone will become more familiar with the Osage tribe because a movie adaptation of David Grann’s book, Killers of the Flower Moon, will be released in 2022. The Martin Scorsese film will chronicle the events surrounding the murders of dozens of Osage after oil deposits were found beneath their land. The Osage immediately became the wealthiest people in the world, which did not sit well with entities hostile toward them. A custodianship was arranged to manage distribution of the profits, setting off a chain of events seeking to eliminate the Osage, one by one. After 20 murders, the case became the very first for the newly formed Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The many facts and stories about the Osage people and our contributions to our nation’s history and development are too numerous to include here. I’ve barely scratched the surface on learning about it myself. It is a heritage I’m really proud of.

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