The Oldest Tribal Museum in the U.S.

Posted on: 10:54 am, May 6, 2013, by , updated on: 10:55am, May 6, 2013

PAWHUSKA, OKLAHOMA — There are things Kathryn Red Corn can still remember and things she can still touch.

They both come together within the walls of the Osage Tribal Museum.

As she walks with a visitor looking at hundreds of old photographs, the visitor asks her, “Do you know these people?”

“I knew some of them,” she answers. “I never knew my grandparents but they’re in here.”

Red Corn can recall coming to the museum as a young girl and looking at a unique stamp collection put together by a member of the tribe.

She remembers an old, stuffed bison head as being a little scary, but she also recalled its original location which is why, as director, she had it restored and put back where it belonged.

“It’s been getting cleaned up all this time,” she says.

Kathryn is the current keeper of thousands of artifacts from Osage tribal past, everyday tools and ceremonial clothing combined.

Also here, thousands of photographs which bridge the gap from buffalo hunting past to oil boom future.

Of the more than two thousand original head right holders in 1906, the museum’s growing collection of photographs includes most of them, who lived through the tumult of the area’s rapid growth through the 1920′s.

Red Corn points to an old photograph showing two men sitting together. “These are two brothers right here,” she describes. “And it shows you the difference in the way they’re dressed.”

On a windy May 2nd, 1938 the tribe organized a big parade and picnic on the grounds of the old school and chapel.

They dedicated the first tribal museum that day.

75 years later it’s the oldest tribally owned museum in the United States.

“Different families gave to the museum over the years,” she explains.

They rang the bell to open the museum that first day.

Workers were on hand to make sure the bell would be ready to ring again, to celebrate a history like no other Native American tribe’s, and the house that’s kept it safe for the past three quarters of a century.

The Osage Tribe held another parade and picnic May 4, 2013 to celebrate the museum’s birthday.