Remembering Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief

When someone mentioned ballet my mother would chime in that a famous ballerina came from her American Indian community.

Maria Tallchief.

We learned this week that Tallchief passed on.

She and her sister Marjorie came from a prominent Osage family, whose name can be found on local memorials and in Oklahoma museums.

Even today you can walk down the main street in Fairfax, Oklahoma, and see the Tall Chief movie theatre.

You can then hike down the road to the Grayhorse cemetery. My mother’s gravesite is there, along with remembrances belonging to relatives with names like Herridge, Bigheart, Martin and Tallchief.

The Osages are proud of Maria and Marjorie Tallchief, who left Fairfax for Los Angeles in the 1930s, where the sisters studied ballet.

A loving documentary of the Tallchiefs created by Sandy Osawa was broadcast on PBS in 2007. The film skillfully weaves the Osage people with the ballerinas’ careers as dancers.

Tallchief describes dancing George Ballanchine’s Firebird—which he choreographed for her—as poetry. Here’s the clip:

The photograph of Maria Tallchief is uncredited from NPR and obtained at


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 american indian, authenticity, film, Indian, journalism, native american, Native Science, Osage, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Remembering Maria Tallchief

  1. I was so sad to hear she had walked on. I remember admiring her during her career, and I think I saw the documentary you mention.


  2. conrad s ramirez says:

    rest in peace and sleep well maria tallchief.


  3. willowmarie says:

    She was an exceptional dancer. I drew on her style when I taught ballet & modern dance to semi- professional level students. There was something about her passion that sparked the best in them. Good to see her remembered here.


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