The Osage Nation Foundation will be paying for most of the preservation and digitization of the historic Osage Mission Collection from the Jesuit archives in St. Louis. In January, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear asked the Fifth Osage Nation Congress for $90,000 for the project. The Congress said no.
On May 3, the Executive Branch released information that the Nation and the Foundation would be working together on the project. According to the release, the Foundation is funding the project with $84,000.
“What had been a hidden treasure is now a wonderful glimpse into the history of the Osage,” said Standing Bear in the prepared release. “Once preservation is complete, we will be able to share these letters, stories, and prayers with present and future generations to come.”
The Foundation’s five-member board consists of Alex Tallchief Skibine (chair), Monte Boulanger (secretary/treasurer), Julie O’Keefe, Nancy Pillsbury Shirley and Chad Renfro.
According to the release, the board agreed to have the papers preserved at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia. Once treated and preserved, the documents will be digitized by the Jesuit Archives staff. The digital work product will then be provided to the Osage Nation, according to the release. The entire process will take approximately six to nine months to complete.
The Osage Nation Museum, as part of the preservation agreement, will host the physical archives at the museum as a loaned exhibit. A date has yet to be determined.
“Opportunities to preserve documents like these are rare,” said Foundation Executive Director Bill Webb in the release. “The board was immediately interested in the project.”
Last year, Standing Bear and his advisor John Williams visited the archives and noticed it was deteriorating. They found the records in old cardboard boxes which included papers and ledgers. They contained an Osage translation of the Holy Bible as it was spoken in the 1840s and 1850s, dictionaries, grammar books, a letter from Pah-Ne-No-Pah-She to the Pope, a creation story, a story preparing for a big buffalo hunt, and other rare documents.
Osage Mission Collection
According to the Jesuit Archives website, the Jesuit mission to the Osage Nation, located in what is now St. Paul, Kans., was established in 1847 on the right bank of Flat Rock Creek. The Jesuit priests established a Catholic church and a school among the Osage there. The collection contains correspondence, operational records, writings, publications, photographs, and memorabilia related to the history of the Jesuit mission.
The bulk of the collection is from the period of 1845-1898 but also includes information from the period of 1832-1997. There are three record cartons and one oversized box. The Jesuits of the Missouri Province created the collection and the language in the material is English, Osage and Latin. The collection is open for research.
For more information, visit: http://jesuitarchives.org/collections/missouri-province-archive/osage-mission-collection/