Osage (ōˈsāj, ōsājˈ) [key], indigenous people of North America whose language belongs to the Siouan branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). In prehistoric times they lived with the Kansa, the Ponca, the Omaha, and the Quapaw in the Ohio valley, but by 1673 they had migrated to the vicinity of the Osage River in Missouri. They often conducted war against other Native Americans, and in the early 18th cent. allied themselves with the French against surrounding tribes, such as the Illinois. The Osage had a typical Plains-area culture (see under Natives, North American). One distinctive trait, however, was the tribal division between the Wazhazhe, or meat eaters, and the Tsishu, or vegetarians.
In 1802, according to Lewis and Clark, three groups constituted the Osage—the Great Osage, on the Osage River; the Little Osage, farther up the same river; and the Arkansas band, on the Vermilion River, a tributary of the Arkansas. They then numbered some 5,500. By a series of treaties begun in 1810 the Osage ceded to the United States their extensive territory in Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, and they moved to a reservation in N central Oklahoma. They have since been given the right to own their land individually. The discovery of oil on their reservation land in the early 20th cent., plus their landholdings, contributed to the prosperity of the Osage. In 1990 there were over 10,000 Osage in the United States. The Osage Museum in Pawhuska, Okla., the oldest continuous tribal museum in the country, documents their history.
See F. La Flesche, The Osage Tribe (1921, repr. 1970) and War Ceremony and Peace Ceremony of the Osage Indians (1939); J. J. Mathews, The Osages, Children of the Middle Waters (1961); W. D. Baird, The Osage People (1972).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.