Okla-homeward bound

George Caitlin's Osage Warrior

George Catlin’s Osage Warrior

June marks the season when families return to Oklahoma and South Dakota.

I’m packing a suitcase in my mind, getting mentally ready for the journey.

Soon we will join our relatives in Grayhorse for the Osage dances: a time when families gather, eat home-cooked meals, and honor passages into adult-hood.

Because I was raised in foreign countries, far removed from reservation life, I travel to Oklahoma and South Dakota because of the love and grace of family-members who have taken me under their wing.

Osage relatives like Leaf and Judy and Joe, and Sioux relatives like John and Butch and Ben, have welcomed me, my family, and my beloved.

It only takes one invitation.

Leaf and her family urge us “home,” where we have a fresh bed and hot coffee.

My delight unfolds when she introduces me to dancers and neighbors, and soon I discover relatives whom I’ve only read about in books.

Tinker. Revard. Wilson. Herridge. Green. Freeman.

Leaf shares with me a news story about Mark Freeman, an Osage elder who announced in May he is giving 9,000 acres to the tribe.

The story lovingly portrays the 93-year-old statesman as a raconteur who helped shape the Osage constitution.

As my eyes weave through the story I’m startled to read that Freeman is a Lessert.

I am a Lessert.

Turns out Freeman’s great-grandfather, Frank (Francois) Lessert Sr., is brother to Louis Benjamin Lessert—my great-great-great grandfather–who married Emilie Chatillon, a Sioux woman.

The Osage Lesserts—like Freeman’s family—settled in Oklahoma territory while many of our Lessert relatives remained in South Dakota with the Sioux.

And it only took one invitation to meet some of my Sioux relatives.

My grandmother’s grandmother, Julia Lessert, was sister to Ben Lessert Jr.

And Ben Lessert Jr. is John Artichoker’s grandfather.

About four years ago John telephoned me from Rapid City. Out of the blue.

He had heard about me through the Indian grapevine and invited me to come visit him and see Lakota territory.

With a deep breath and a leap of faith, daughter Wee-Hey (Rachel) and I flew to Rapid City to meet John and our relatives, and attend Sundance.

Just one act of kindness from a stranger-cum-relative was all it took for my daughter and me to feel at home.

We love John dearly for his generosity.

He shared story after story and encouraged me to continue writing.

And so I do.

Read about the Freeman gift to the Osage 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, Francis Parkman, Henri Chatillion, human origin, Indian, journalism, Lakota, native american, native press, Native Science, Osage, race, Redskins, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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