History on the Osage Indians

Warriors of the Woods and Prairies
Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Osage Indians roamed a vast domain in the heart of North America. Although the Osage were a proud and powerful tribe, they could not withstand the pressure of European civilization. Soon after French fur trappers established contact with the Osages in the 1670s, their way of life began to change. By 1872, encroachment from American settlers forced the Osages to relinquish most of their remaining ancestral homelands and relocate to their present reservation in Oklahoma.

Children of the Middle Waters
A spiritual people, the Osage Indians were excellent hunters and fierce warriors. Their religious beliefs were based on Wah-kon-tah, the great mystery spirit or power. In one creation legend, the Osages believed that the People of the Sky (Tzi-sho) met with the People of the Land (Hun-Kah) to form one tribe, the Children of the Middle Waters (Ni-u-kon-ska). Living in semi-permanent villages primarily along the Osage River, the Osage Indians roamed the land between three great rivers, the Missouri to the north, the Mississippi to the east, and the Arkansas to the south. Their western boundary stretched into the windswept plains where they hunted buffalo.

Osage Lifestyle
The Osage way of life depended on hunting, since deer and bison provided food, clothing, and other essentials for them. Before leaving on the summer hunt (one of three annual hunts), the Osage planted vegetables such as corn, beans, and pumpkins. In August, they returned to harvest their untended crops, and then left for an autumn hunt. Although only the men hunted, the women did the work of butchering and preparing the meat, and tanning the hides.

Descriptions of the Osages
The famous Indian artist, George Catlin, captured several Osage Indians on canvas at Fort Gibson in 1834. He stated: "The Osages have been formerly, and until quite recently, a powerful and warlike tribe: carrying all their arms fearlessly through to all these realms; and ready to cope with foes of any kind that they were liable to meet. At present, the case is quite different; they have been repeatedly moved and jostled along…" He noted that despite their reduction in numbers caused by every tribal move, war, and smallpox, the Osages waged war on the Pawnee and Comanche. Catlin believed the Osages "to be the tallest race of men in North America, either red or white skins; there being few indeed of the men at their full growth, who are less than six feet in stature, and very many of them six and a half, and others seven feet." One of the most distinguished warriors that the artist painted was Tal-lee, who Catlin described as a "handsome and high-minded gentleman of the wild woods and prairies." Equipped with a lance in his hand, a shield on his arm, and a bow and quiver on his back, Tal-lee presented a "fair specimen of the Osage figure and dress." In 1836, Louis Cortambert, a French writer, observed that the Osage men "carefully pull the hairs from their faces, even their eyebrows, and shave their heads, leaving on the top a tuft of hair, which terminates in back in a pigtail." In 1840, a young Frenchman named Victor Tixier described the Osages: "The men are tall and perfectly proportioned. They have at the same time all the physical qualities which denote skill and strength combined with graceful movements." The Osages loved to decorate themselves, often suspending beads and bones from their ears and tattooing their bodies, Tixler observed: "Their ears, slit by knives, grow to be enormous, and they hang low under the weight of the ornaments with which they are laden."

Osage Relocation
The ancestral home of the Osages was part of the immense Louisiana Purchase that the United States acquired in 1803. Missouri achieved statehood in 1821, and soon after more than 5,000 Osages were removed west to the Indian Territory. Other Indian tribes from the eastern U.S. were also relocated west of the Missouri and Arkansas boundaries. Federal troops were stationed in this "Permanent Indian Territory" to keep the peace. After Kansas opened for settlement in 1854, many Indian tribes were again relocated. In 1872, the Osages moved to their present reservation. Like other tribes, their ancestral way of life was not compatible with the white mans way of life.

Suggested Reading
A History of the Osage People by Louis F. Burns
The Osages: Children of the Middle Waters by John Joseph Matthews
Osage Life and Legends by Robert Liebert
North American Indians (Vols. 1 and 2) by George Catlin
Tixlers Travels on the Osage Prairies by John Francis McDermott
The Imperial Osage by Gilbert C. Din and A.B. Nasatir

Gasconade County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Gasconade County and named for the Osage River. Gasconade County was formed in 1820, from Franklin County. The name Osage is generally believed to be a corruption by the French of Washazhe, the name of the Osage Indians. The name has also been given as Wawsashe, Wacase, and Wassashsha. Marquette, Virginia, and Tennessee had settled in the area. A booklet has been published, available at the Missouri Historical Society, in Columbia, Missouri, that provides a detailed description of the county and its towns. spelled the named Ouchage and Autrechacha. The name, to the Indians, meant "people."

The Gasconade River

General Description and Characteristics
The Gasconade flows out of the Central Ozark Mountains, northward to the Missouri River. At 350 miles, it is the longest river flowing entirely in Missouri. The upper section is a typical winding Ozark stream. The many small springs of the region provide a moderate flow of clear, cool water. The Gasconade is generally floatable, except during the driest of summers. Most of the Gasconade is characterized by long pools of slow water, interrupted occasionally by faster areas of gravel shoals. This river does not have the protection or official designation of some of the other rivers of the region, but it has many of the same recreational and scenic values. Because it does not have the same level of recognition, the Gasconade has the benefit of not being so crowded. However, it is locally popular as a float stream, and local fishermen will be seen on a regular basis. Aside from the upper river, which is partly in the Mark Twain National Forest, you will see some development along the river, but most of it is in keeping with the river's environment. The upper Gasconade has some riffles, but nothing that would be considered a serious rapid. As the river draws away from the Ozark Mountains, it becomes slower and wider, and flows through agricultural lands and some small villages.

Location and Canoeable Mileage
The farthest upstream access for dependable canoeing is at Buzzard Bluff MDC Access, located off highway E in Wright County (south of the town of Manes—you will need a county map to find this). From this point to the mouth of the Gasconade at the town of the same name, it is 239 miles. Depending on the level of the river, you should plan to make 10-15 miles per day. For a good week long trip in the middle section of the river (our favorite), try Hazelgreen Access (near I-44 bridge) to highway 42 (near Vienna), a run of 104 miles. There are many, many access points along the way, so you can plan a trip to match the time you want to spend on the river. If you go all the way to the mouth of the Gasconade, you can take out at the public boat ramp in town, or keep on going down the Missouri (as far as you like, or take out 11 miles downstream in the picturesque town of Hermann). If you venture onto the Missouri River, be prepared for fast water, wind, wing dams and the possibility of encountering commercial barges. There is a public landing just below the bridge at Hermann.

Interesting Features
Bluffs, springs, and hardwood forests typical of the Ozark region are found on the Gasconade. There are a few caves in the upper sections. Fall color season in mid-October is beautiful, as the adjacent hills are covered with oak and hickory, which are resplendent in their red and orange foliage. Wildlife is also plentiful along the Gasconade River. Bald eagles are seen frequently in the cool season, and they appear to be expanding their nesting range to include this area. Some of the flat bottomlands along the river are used for agriculture and cattle grazing. In the lowest section of the river at the village of Fredericksburg, there is a car ferry across the river and a very interesting restaurant. They also allow primitive camping on the grounds.

You can camp along the river on gravel bars. On the upper and middle Gasconade, you will find these in abundance, but as you come closer to the Missouri River, fewer gravel bars will be found. The state of Missouri has several riverside access parks along the Gasconade and most of these allow camping (they are accessible by road, but most are in remote areas).

Environmental Surveys
In 2005 OAC participated in a survey conducted by Midwest Forest Consultants, LLC in collaboration with the Missouri Department of Resources to develop a Forest Stewardship Management Plan for the property that OAC resides upon.

The OAC is dedicated to preserving the rivers and forests of the Meramec region. Advocating for and striving to protect and sustain the pristine natural environment of the Gasconade River and surrounding environment by protecting and responsibly managing the unique plants and wildlife, by preserving the land from development, by protecting and preserving the Indian artifacts, by protecting and preserving any geological phenomena and through responsible land management practices.

The State of MO Forest Stewardship Program which we are currently executing, is a reflection of the our intent to follow a balanced approach to forest management that considers the landowner’s forest resources and benefits the landowner’s desires from forest management. The Forest Stewardship Program guides us in achieving benefits from management of forest and forest related resources soil and water resources, recreation and aesthetics resources, wetlands, threatened and endangered species, fish and wildlife habitat, to developing a management plan with realistic and achievable goals, managing for the conservation of natural resources on the property, utilizing any available conservation programs, reintroducing native wildlife and maintaining the current population of deer.

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