According to the Puma clan’s origin tradition, the Osages came from the sky, from among and of the stars. In the upper worlds, the Osages existed first as spirit beings and in their humility called themselves the Little Ones. The Little Ones decided that they should go down to earth to become a people. After receiving help and advice from four gods: the god of day, night, male star, and female star, the Little Ones asked Hon´-ga A-hiu-ton, the immature golden eagle, to lead them below to become a people. Hon´-ga A-hiu-ton led the Little Ones down through the four divisions of heaven.
As Hon´-ga A-hiu-ton approached earth, he came upon the tops of seven red oak trees. The Little Ones followed closely behind in three separate groups. As they approached the earth, the Little Ones floated down with outstretched legs and arms up like the wings of an eagle and landed in the seven treetops.
Sunrise at Pawhuska Indian Village
Water covered all of the earth below the tree branches. They asked Radiant Star, their messenger, to seek help. Radiant Star brought O´-pxon Ton-ga, the Great Elk, who was a sacred person. O´-pxon Ton-ga threw himself down on the water four times to lower the water so that land appeared. The Great Elk proceeded to offer more gifts by creating all of the grasses on earth and all of the landforms, streams, and rivers from his different body parts. The people remember O´-pxon Ton-ga. We call him Mon-zhon ga´-xe, Earth Maker.
After the children from the sky came down to earth, they proceeded to walk the earth in three groups and learned the ways of survival. Upon meeting the river spirit, Wah-zhá-zhi, the first group decided to call themselves Wah-zhá-zhi, the Water People and Name Givers. They symbolized all the waters of the earth.
The Wah-zhá-zhi then named the second group, the People of the Land, Hon´-ga, meaning the Sacred One, and the third group, the People of the Sky, Tsi-zhu. Now the three divisions were named, but they still had to find the indigenous people of the earth, the Isolated Earth People, or U-tah-non-dsi. Upon finding them, the Little Ones would be a tribe.
After traveling the land for some time, the Little Ones finally came upon the village of the Isolated Earth People. The three divisions were afraid to enter the village, so they sent a messenger. When the messenger came close to the village he was repulsed by the smells and what he saw. Throughout the village there were human bones mixed with animal bones, excrement, buffalo intestines, and garbage scattered everywhere. He saw half-dressed women, men fighting with clubs and killing one another, and even men in women’s clothing. The men were tattooed around the mouth and eyes, and they wore their hair with bangs. He also saw women with tattoos on their breasts.
Despite the deplorable conditions, the leader of the Wah-zha´-zhi went into the village, met with the leader of the U-tah-non-dsi, and smoked the pipe. After much discussion, they agreed to join their people and move to a new land away from the death, decay, and disease of that place.
The grand divisions of the tribe were then established. Together they formed the Ni´-u-kon-çka, Children of the Middle Waters, which is the ancient name of the Wah-zha´-zhi, the Osage people. Together the divisions symbolize the universe of sky, earth, land, and water.
Dr. Andrea A. Hunter
Osage Nation Historic Preservation Officer