Family Nuggets

Osage warrior

My great uncle, Fred Grove, supplied my mother with nuggets about our Indian ancestors whenever she asked. Because my family lived overseas until my step-father’s retirement, Mama didn’t return to her Osage roots until moving back to the US in the 1990s.

Uncle Fred was a writer of western novels with titles such as Comanche Captives and The Buffalo Runners. A wonderful tribute to him can be found on Wikipedia, which says that Fred Grove was the “son of a Kansas cowboy and an Osage-Sioux woman born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. His great-grandfather, Henry Chatillon, guided Francis Parkman on his tour of the Great Plains, from which evolved the classic book, The Oregon Trail. Grove was provoked into writing at an early age.”

The entry continues, noting that Fred was deeply moved by the troubling stories of the Osage murders of the 1920s which he researched extensively, partnering with the FBI agent in charge of the investigation. But they struck out with publishers, abandoned the project, and Fred pursued journalism and earned a degree at the University of Oklahoma in 1937.

Wonderful coincidence that I took a similar journey, carving out a living as a writer and journalist before embarking on a career in academia. And we shared the same birthday: July 4.

Fred told my mother in one of his letters (his papers emerged on an ancient manual typewriter; clear and concise, like his writing) that she (he called her Margaret Sue) was “more Sioux than Osage,” a fact that never really took hold because Mama considered Osage country her home, where she was born.

And when she moved back to the states, Mama convinced my step-dad to build a home within driving distance of the Osage heartland in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. On her many sojourns to Oklahoma she met friends and relatives, especially our beloved Aunt Julia, whose daughter Leaf welcomes us with an open heart whenever we visit Fairfax, and answers a million questions about contemporary Osage life.

Leaf has guided us through traditions and once helped me avoid a faux pas when dressing for the summer dances. I had my skirt fastened on the wrong side, and Leaf gently showed me how to fix it, with the ribbon work on the left, not the right.

Today I will dress for a pow wow in nearby Grand Ronde. Wee-hey (Rachel) and I will wear our Osage regalia, and for the first time since her passing, I will wear my mother’s skirt. With the ribbon work on the left.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in authenticity, Francis Parkman, Henri Chatillion, journalism, Lakota, Native Science, Osage and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Family Nuggets

  1. I enjoyed stories told by my step-grandparents (Creek/5-Tribes) and only wish I could have learned more.
    Great blog!


  2. conrad says:

    very nice to share your family thoughts and history, thank you.


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