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Osage Ceremonial Garments

Osage Ceremonial Garments

The Osage are one of the two main tribes that inhabited Missouri during the historic period. Europeans first encountered the tribe in 1673 in their villages along the Osage River in southwestern Missouri. The Osage believe they settled in that location hundreds of years ago, after migrating from the banks of the Ohio River. At the time they were first encountered, the Osage were a typical prairie tribe. They lived in permanent villages and their subsistence activities included hunting, gathering, and farming. In the 1800s, the tribe was relocated to reservations, first in Kansas and later in Oklahoma. Today, there are about 10,000 Americans who identify themselves as Osage. Many have remained in Oklahoma and have the same kinds of lifestyles as other Oklahomans. Osage traditions have endured through arts and crafts and through a variety of social and ceremonial activities such as community dances and feasts.

Historic Osage ceremonial garments represent a combination of earlier skin-garment styles with beadwork and other materials that were introduced after European contact. Prior to introduction of European materials, the Osage made clothing of deerskin and other prepared hides, often trimmed with dyed porcupine quills or decorated with paint. Sashes were made of twisted strands of plant fibers, fur, and buffalo hair, while animal claws and bones were used to make other accessories. After obtaining colored beads, yarn, and cloth from European traders, Osage women became artists in making garments from these new materials. Wearing blankets of broadcloth, trimmed with silk and satin ribbons, became common. Beadwork replaced quillwork and painted decorated on skin items such as moccasins. Armbands, sashes, and other accessories were woven of beads and colored yarn or thread. These kinds of garments are most often worn today at I’n-Lon-Schka dances, which are held each June in three of Oklahoma’s Osage communities—Pawhuska, Hominy, and Grayhorse. I’n-Lon-Schka, which translates as "playground of the eldest son," celebrates traditional values and continues to establish conduct and ways of living for tribal members.

This online exhibit presents a selection of Osage ceremonial garments from the Museum’s ethnographic collections. These items are the kinds of garments that have been worn at Osage dances for over a hundred years.

References and Related Links

Bailey, G. and D. Swan. 2004. Art of the Osage. St. Louis: St. Louis Art Museum.

Callahan, A. 1990. The Osage Ceremonial Dance I’n-Lon-Schka. Norman: University of Oklahoma.

Davis, M. 1996. Native America in the Twentieth Century. New York: Garland.

Bailey, G. Osage. 2001. Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 13, Plains, edited by R. DeMallie. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

Osage Nation Website.

Wilson, T. 1988. The Osage. Indians of North America Series. New York: Chelsea House.

Text prepared by Mary French, winter 2006.

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