Community , Columns

Building an arbor for the Pawhuska people

Recently, I drove by the Pawhuska arbor built in 2016 for our In-Lon-Schka dances. I am amazed out how large the arbor is compared to the previous arbors. It took me back almost a half century to 1968 when I had the privilege of serving as Whipman for the Pawhuska Committee.

After the last dance in June that year, Head Committeeman Henry Lookout called a committee meeting. In his wisdom, he knew that we needed a new arbor after our last Sunday dance. After the discussion with everyone’s input, we decided to build a new arbor. Uncle Henry decided that would be the responsibility of the Whipmen and asked me as the Whipman to be in charge of building a new arbor.

With Henry Lookout, advisors Wakon Iron and Fred Lookout, Jr., I had a lot of guidance on how we would fund the building of it. Back then we didn’t have seven casinos for revenue to build a million dollar arbor for our three districts Grayhorse, Hominy, and Pawhuska. Each district had to have fundraisers to build and maintain their arbors.

When I think back on this time it makes me happy that the Osage people could come together and have multiple fundraisers like raffles, hand games, amongst other ways to accomplish a goal and in this case, it was the goal of building a new Pawhuska arbor. We eventually raised enough money for the arbor. I know that our people still have these fundraisers to help the dance committees as well.

The previous arbor was mostly made of wood poles and a tin roof. However, this time I knew that we needed something to last longer such as steel poles, the tin for the ceiling and the wood for the benches and then commenced to creating a team to build the arbor.

On the team was the other Whipman Don Big Elk, Drumkeeper Sonny Cunningham, and Treasurer Henrietta Mashunkashey. The first thing we did was enlist the help of Chief Paul Pitts. Chief Pitts procured steel poles and other materials from Phillips Oil Company. Then the agency supplied a lot of manpower, clearing and grading the ground among other tasks.   

We then commenced building the structure. Since many of us had jobs, we had to contribute our free time which was vacations and weekends. But everyone in the Osage community helped out including Osages from the other two districts, Grayhorse and Hominy.

Because we couldn’t work on the arbor on a daily basis it took us a whole year to finish the arbor right up to the Pawhuska dances in June. I would love to say it went off without a hitch but as any other kind of building, whether a house or the Empire State Building, we faced many challenges. I am thankful for all the help from the Pawhuska Committee at that time and it still makes my heart feel good thinking about what we as Osages accomplished.