Chief Fred Lookout Saw Great Changes Come to His Tribesmen of the Osage


The Daily Oklahoma, April 23, 1939


By John Joseph Matthews


            In the year of 1861, the Little Osage Indian tribe was camped by a stream

just north of the place in Kansas where Independence now stands. The camp was typical of Osage camps. The lodges were rounded with flowing lines which were in perfect harmony with the lines of the prairie. They measured from 20 and 30 feet in width to 25 and 40 feet in length. They were made of elm bark around the base, with cat-tail stems in pairs forming the sides, and buffalo hide for a roof. This town of Little Osage was quite large, since the Little Osage band, the bottom-dwelling people, were a large band of the Osage tribe.


            Here in the iced-sunshine days of November, the Coon-Marriage-Moon, Fred Lookout was born. He was born into the Eagle clan, and of course he had to have a name which pertained to the symbol of his clan, the Golden Eagle. His father was Eagle-That-Dreams, but due to careless interpretation was called Lookout. An eagle sitting on some high crag or blasted tree may be a lookout as well as a dreamer.


Grandmother Taught Him

            He remembers his mother, but she "went away" soon after he was old to remember, and his grandmother taught him all the things a Little Osage is suppose to know. She told him of his ancestors in the Eagle clan. How they had fought and died as Osage were supposed to fight and die.


            When he was born on the Kansas prairie, there were no white people. There were no deep-eyed people, the French. There were no Long-knife-People, the English. There were only the buffalo, deer, prairie chicken, geese, ducks, and coons. There was plenty to eat. There were lily-roots, wild corn, etc. Later he shot little birds with his little arrows, and was allowed to go on buffalo hunts with the grown-ups, and permitted to shoot buffalo calves, if he had done well in guarding the horses. When he was named, he was called Little-Eagle-That-Get-What-He-Wants. He must have earned this great name of his clan, but he refuses to say how such a great name was earned.


            Then he saw his first white man. He doesn't know how old he was, but the white man was Isaac T. Gibson, the Quaker agent of Osage.


Moved to Reservation


            The Civil War over, then the treaty of 1864, and the Osage had no land in Kansas. They brought a million and a half acres in Oklahoma from the Cherokee, land which had belonged to them before the United States had taken it for the Cherokee. They bought it back, and in 1871 moved to the reservation which is now Osage county, Oklahoma. The great Osage were mis-located at Silver Lake in what is now Washington county, Oklahoma, but the Little Osage under Che-Topah, Nopah-Wallah and Strikeaxe, settled on Mission creek within the bounds of their new reservation.


            He remembers the activity of leaving the camp in Kansas. They got in all the horses. On the pack-horses they placed saddles made of elm wood. Over the tree of the saddle green buffalo hide from which the hair had been taken, had been stretched. sewed with buffalo sinew and allowed to dry. On each side of the saddle, hung bags made of buffalo hide. In these, they carried their utensils.


            When they arrived at Mission creek in the reservation, white men came and built a log house for Fred Lookout's father. The Father in Washington had these white men build this house. He and his father stood and looked at this house after it was finished, then they moved all of their things into it. The grandmother would not live there. She would build a lodge, she said. The Father in Washington might say that Osage must live in house made of trees, but such a house took away the sun and the wind, and evil lived always where sun and wind could not go.


Watched the Eagle


            But Fred Lookout and his father were happy in their new cabin. They would not close the door because they were afraid that it would not obey always when they turned the wah-don-skah (door knob thing). He stayed on the prairie all day the horses, and at night his father taught him the things that an Osage hunter and warrior should know. He lay on his back during the hot days and watched the circling of the eagle or listened to the talk of the prairie.


            The sun was setting one day when he was riding back to the corral by the cabin. The buffalo horses were strung out in front of him. He was worried. The coyotes were singing, much as they always sing at sunset, but there seem to be something strange in their singing. He wondered about this strange thing. Sometimes he sang back to them, but this evening, he was in no mood for play. These coyotes were trying to tell him something, it seemed.


Father Beat Drum


            His father was sitting on the floor in the semidarkness singing softly, and didn't even look up when his son entered, Fred threw his bridle and rope behind the door, as usual. He threw himself on his robes in the corner and thought of the coyotes. Soon the grandmother brought food, and he and his father ate silently.


            After the food was taken away, they sat on in silence. The father picked up a water-drum and began to beat it softly, then, after a period of several minutes he said, "My son, I have been to Strikeaxe's house. I heard talk there. I heard the head men talk. I heard this talk and my heart is heavy. In my throat the words I want to speak to you are tangled. I heard this at house of Stikeaxe. I heard them say that white man is coming here too. They say there is no place Osage can go now---white man, they say, will come there. They say he will come here like water that comes down river in flood-time. They say this flood will not go away like flood on river. This flood will stay, they say. When flood on river comes we go to high ground. We stay on high ground till flood goes away. They say this flood that is white man will not go away from high ground. They say Osage will be on high ground and flood will stay."


            The next morning before daylight, they set out for the agency at Pawhuska. The Sweat-foam dropped from the bellies of their horses as they got off and went into the great forbidding sandstone building. Fred stood with dignity, when they took his leather leggings, hide breechclout and his blanket. He heard the scissors snip the braid of his scalplock, and he saw it fall to the ground. Later, when no one was looking he stooped and quickly picked up the braid from his scalplock. Among his letters from presidents of the United States, letters and documents from senators, prized possessions, from Andrew Jackson medals to buffalo-hair ropes may be found this scalp-lock braid.


Boarded -a Train


            When he was dressed in white man's clothing, he was taken with 10 other Osage boys and five Osage girls to Arkansas City, Kansas, where under the guidance of the agent, "Thick Hand" (Major Miles), they boarded a train and began the long journey to Carlisle in Pennsylvania. The years at Carlisle were lonesome years. There was no talk of the prairie, no song of the coyote, no delightful odors of the camp fire. There was no time for lying under blackjack trees and making up songs, or dreaming dreams. The policy of the Indian office made work a virtue, and the speaking of English a fundamental for future success and happiness. During part of the year the students were placed with hard working farm families, so that they could learn the ways of agriculture, and learn to speak English.


Had a Dream


            One day in 1883 he fell asleep and had a dream, He dreamed that he was walking on the prairie ridge east of the agency in Oklahoma. In his dream he could see every sumac bush and every ravine as it actually existed. Then all the buffalo calves he had ever shot came along. They paid no attention to him but they were singing a song: "We are traveling west," they sang, "we go to grandfather, the setting sun." He thought about this dream for many days, then it faded from his memory. But when he came back from Carlisle in 1884, the dream came back to him. They told him that his father had died the day he had the dream, and that he was placed in a cairn on the prairie ridge east of the agency.


            Now that his father was dead, he must go to his uncle who was the son of Nopah Wallah, head man of the Little Osage.


            When he arrived at his uncle's house, they said he was dead. People were seated around the room mourning. He stood and looked at the form of his uncle. Suddenly the form raised and his uncle said: "My nephew, go to that trunk in the corner and bring me that bundle of papers you find there." When he had handed his uncle the papers, he handed them back to him, saying, "My nephew I turn over the chieftainship to you. I give you the authority to carry the fire. These old men sitting here have heard me say this. They will tell the people I have said this."


Was Little Chieftain


            Fred Lookout was left alone with his relative, Three Striker. After the mourning was over he rode over the prairie with heavy heart.  He felt that he had lost all of his family. He didn't know what to do. His father told him to be a white man, but his uncle had left him the authority to carry the fire. He was chieftain of the Little Osage. Perhaps he would be a better chieftain if he went back to school.


            He said goodbye to Three Striker, tied his things into a bundle, tied the bundle on his saddle, and set out for the Elgin stage. He missed it. He rode into the agency and to the house of Strikeaxe, another relative. He said, "My heart is heavy. I remember the words of my father. I shall go back to school."


            "No," said Strikeaxe. "you stay here." I shall be back soon. I go now to talk with the parents of a girl I know, This girl will be a suitable wife for you."


Plowed the Earth


            When Strikeaxe came back, he told young Lookout that the parents of the girl had accepted his word. The agreement was carried out and the wedding ceremony was held in 1887. The girl was one of the five girls that had been on the trail to Carlisle. Her name was Julia Pryor.


            Julia Pryor belonged to the Bear clan, and she and Fred Lookout stayed with her family for a year, then they moved to the ranch on ____ (note: the ranch may be named Bird Creek) where they now live. For many years Fred Lookout plowed the earth as the white man does. He planted seed. and traded hogs and cattle and horses.


            He called the clans of the Little Osage together. He appointed two Wah-Si-Si-Ki (chancellors) who announced that the new chieftain would look after his people, and that the Little Osage would now be known as the Srikeaxe  band of the Osage tribe. He gave horses to the Wah-Si-Si-Ki and told them that he wanted to do everything he could do for the good of his people. When presents came from the traders of the agency, he told the Wah-Si-Si-Ki to distribute them among the people. By such consideration and generosity he was performing the duties and assuming the dignity of a chieftain.


Chanted Death Song


            He would not be pleased to know that death had been discussed so much here, but when things deflect the current of a man's life, those things should be set down. His eldest daughter died. So great was his grief that he could not refrain from chanting the song of death as he sat at her feet on the floor, while her life went out of her frail body. When he stopped he heard her voice, and he looked into her wide, feverish eyes. Slowly she said: "When my brother and grandmother died, you mourned and did not eat and did not drink until the sun set. You wore old clothes. You did all the old things which we have left behind. The Savior doesn't mean that. Enjoy yourself and wear good clothes. You will mourn and you will not forget me, but you must be happy. I go to a good place. I can see Jesus reaching out his hand to me, but when you mourn in the old way, He takes his hand back."


Told Him of Christ


            The sisters in their black veils knelt by the pallet on the floor, and prayed for the soul of the departed, and the old women chanted softly the song of death, But Fred Lookout remained silent.


            After the funeral he gave away everything he owned. He wandered from place to place over the reservation. People pitied him in his grief. They fed him and his family.


            On day as he sat alone under a blackjack tree, a man of the Wah-Ti-Anka band came up. He got of his horse and talked of the new religion of Peyote. He told Lookout of the Christ and of Moon Head the bringer of the new religion.


            That was about 1900. He is now a road man in this beautiful religion of resignation. He has a Peyote church on his ranch and every week he performs his duties as road man, and listens to the troubles of his people.


Is Now Chief


            He is now the elected chief of his people. He sits at the head of the table in the council room, and with his long copper-colored hands folded, listens to the councilmen talk. Sometimes he gives advice, which he invariably prefaces with these words: "You are young men. You have the thoughts of white men, but you have the interest of your people in your hearts. Do what you think best. You know how to say things so that people will understand. Old men should advise young men, but those things which we meet today are not the things which I know about. The things which I know are gone. If you let your white man tongues say what is in your hearts, you will do great things for your people."


            Though the name of this man of the Eagle clan implies aggressiveness, yet there is no attribute of the eagle that would fit the character of the chief of the Osage better than his own name, Little-Eagle-That-Gets-What-He-Wants.