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Wa-Xthi-Zhi bust unveiled

Descendants of Wa-Xthi-Zhi talk of his untimely death and the important role he served in the Osage community
Osage Tribal Princess Vanessa Moore and Orion Bush, both Wa-Xthi-Zhi descendants, unveiled his bust March 18 at the Osage Tribal Museum. Photo by Shannon Shaw/Osage News

The bust of Wa-Xthi-Zhi, also known as Charles Wah-Hre-She, was unveiled at the Osage Tribal Museum March 18. But the occasion was bitter sweet as the news of how Wa-Xthi-Zhi died was brought to light.

According to a published obituary for Wa-Xthi-Zhi at the time he was listed as a “prominent Osage” who died in an Oklahoma City hospital Dec. 10, 1923. The cause of death was not named, according to his great-granddaughter Alice Jake.

However, Wa-Xthi-Zhi’s great-grandson Alfred HorseChief said that in fact Wa-Xhi-Zhi was riding in his buggy, on what is locally known as “Cotton Gin Road,” when he was shot and killed. The story was an emotional one and references to the year he was killed were pointed out to be around the time when Osages were being hunted for their headright shares to the Osage Minerals Estate.

“It was kind of a lawless time, it was also the time of the Osage Murders,” Jake said.

Known as “Generous Charlie” and a prominent member of the Osage community, Wa-Xthi-Zhi was from Hominy and participated in his Osage customs. As proof of Wah-Xthi-Zhi’s involvement, Assistant Principal Chief Scott BigHorse said he and his brothers were listening to old wax albums of Osages singing songs in ceremonies Osages no longer practice, and one of the singers was Wah-Xthi-Zhi.

Larry Taylor, whose wife Evelyn Trumbly Taylor first told the OTM about the busts, explained that two casts of Wah-Xthi-Zhi were made and his busts were displayed at the Panama California Exposition in 1915 and were shown for two years.

More than 40 people attended the event.

Wah-Hre-She’s bronze-powered bust is the eighth in a series of ten to be unveiled at the museum. The museum has already acquired the busts of Albert Penn, Shun-Ke-Ma-Lo, Charles McDougan, Henry Pratt, William Fletcher, Ah-Hu-Shin-Kah (Little Wing) and Wa-Xthi-Zhi (Charles Wah-Hre-She). The bust of Wah-Nah-She-Shin-Ki (Principal Chief Fred Lookout) will be unveiled in April.

Staff at the Smithsonian Institution recently found the tenth bust of Margaret Goode and the OTM has made plans to acquire it. The busts cost around $5,000.

Frank Micka made the original busts in 1912. He visited Pawhuska to acquire plaster face molds for the Anthropology Department at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, according to a 2007 Osage News article.

It is not known why Micka chose these individuals but the busts were displayed at the Panama California Exposition in 1915 and 1916 in San Diego. And, according to OTM officials, that was the only time the busts were displayed.

To make the busts, Micka took photographs of the individual’s faces and made molds that depicted their facial features, hair and shoulders. However, of the 10 busts that the Osage museum is acquiring, the busts of Fred Lookout and Shon-Ke-Ma-Lo were not made by Micka.

The busts of Lookout and Shon-Ke-Ma-Lo are probably the result of face molds obtained during an Osage tribal delegation visit to Washington, D.C., in 1904, according to the National Museum of Natural History. The bust of Shon-Ke-Ma-Lo was made by Frank Lemon for an exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904.

The museum learned of the busts’ existence in 2004 when the granddaughter of Albert Penn donated his bust to the museum.

The busts have an appearance of being bronze statues but in reality they are plaster copies of the originals and made of resin, mixed with bronze powder and painted to emphasize facial features.

For more information, please contact the Osage Tribal Museum at (918) 287-5441.

Location

Osage Tribal Museum
813 Grandview
Pawhuska, OK
United States