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Leonard Maker: An Appreciation for a servant of the Osage people

Long-time Osage employee and Chief appointee dies at age 64
Leonard Morrell Maker stands next to the bust of his ancestor, Albert Penn. Maker, appointee for Chief John Red Eagle and full-blooded Osage, died on Jan. 23. Osage News File Photo

Leonard Morrell Maker didn’t say much. He was reserved, quiet, a “traditional Osage.” He chose his words carefully, unveiling his thoughts when they would make the most impact. He was strategic that way.

My uncle “Lindo” died on Jan. 23, after a massive heart attack took his life in his office. Surrounded by grieving employees and his grieving wife and youngest daughter, Lindo made his last exit from the building he had worked in for the past 10 years. He was 64 years old.

When I think of Leonard Maker, living his life in Hominy (born and raised) with his wife Anita and six children, I can’t recall many events in my life, such as dances, gourd dances, handgames, dinners, funerals – where he wasn’t there. Usually sitting in the back, observing, always observing.

It was this quality in him I believe, the ability to observe, that made it possible for him to recount events with perfect clarity, sometimes events that had happened 30 years prior. I went to him often, to get back-stories on families, oil companies, oil sales, court cases, Osage politicians, the Native American Church, the clan systems, oral histories, everything Osage really, and almost always got the information I needed. If he didn’t know, he knew who did.

Proud to be Osage and proud to serve his people, he had a long political career. He’s been a policy analyst for the Nation since 1994, but he did it as a political appointee for the past 10 years, for both the Jim Gray administration and the John Red Eagle administration. All together he worked for the tribe for more than 30 years.

He was recently tasked with reviewing policies for all the departments under the Executive Branch as part of the implementation of the new Merit Pay for Performance system. That will now be passed on to someone else.

“I was deeply saddened by Leonard's passing, as all were of those who knew him,” said Chief Red Eagle in a statement. “Our prayers go out to his family and relatives. Leonard was one of our full-blood tribal members, very knowledgeable of the Osage history, culture and lived his life in a traditional manner.

“He dedicated much of his life to the Native American people and, in particular, his Osage people. He was steadfast in his belief in the right of tribal self-governance. He was a kind and loving man, supportive of his wife and children,” Chief Red Eagle said.  “His knowledge and helpful manners will be missed by everyone who knew and worked with him.” 

Educated at the University of Oklahoma, he received his bachelor’s degree in history in 1981. Fitting because he was an Osage historian. Shortly after graduating from OU he was drafted into the U.S. Army.

Leonard was married for more than 20 years to Anita Eves Maker, Osage. Together they had six children, six grandchildren and one great grandchild at the time of his death.

Leonard wasn’t one to boast; he didn’t speak of things he felt were inappropriate. Osage men like him are few these days.

“Leonard’s knowledge of Tribal sovereignty law was extensive. While not a lawyer, he was often invited to various gatherings, whether seminars or conventions, to hear his views and opinions,” said George Shannon, Leonard’s first cousin and long-time friend. “He enjoyed breaking down complicated sovereignty decisions and informing several generations of relatives, how particular decisions affected the national Indian community as well as the effect on the Osage Tribe. His weekly or bi-weekly emails were appreciated and will be missed.”

Every year Leonard’s family dances on his father’s song at the Hominy In-Lon-Schka dances. They gather in the northwestern corner, putting on their best to pay tribute to the honor. They will be without him this year.

I rummaged through some of my old taped interviews and found one with Leonard. He is speaking of the Native American Church and of his Morrell family. I will save it for my children and give a copy of it to his family. Knowledge of those old ways are priceless, as Leonard knew.

 

Traditional funeral services will be held Friday, January 27, 9:00 AM, at the Hominy Indian Village Chapel, Hominy, Oklahoma. Steve Pratt will officiate.  Interment will be in the A.J. Powell Memorial Cemetery, Hominy.

McCartney’s Johnson Funeral Home of Pawhuska in charge of arrangements.