American Indians •  Anthropology and Folklore

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Traditions of the Osage: Stories Collected and Translated by Francis La Flesche

Edited by Garrick Bailey

The forty-nine traditional Osage narratives presented here, collected in Oklahoma between 1910 and 1923 for the Bureau of American Ethnology, have never before been assembled in one book. What makes these stories especially important is that they were collected in their original language, Osage, by a scholar who was a native speaker of a mutually intelligible language, Omaha, and who was also highly educated and articulate in English. As contextualized in Garrick Bailey's introduction, these stories offer insights into Osage culture and society that are not available elsewhere.

Bailey divides the stories into sacred teachings, folk stories, and animal stories. To the Osage, the sacred included not only religious but also what we would consider social and political institutions. Unlike the sacred teachings, which were known only to priests, folk tales were public property. Sacred teachings were always educational, whereas folk stories served a variety of purposes. Some were entertaining, some humorous, some frightening, but all were also designed to instill the proper social norms and values of the Osage. The animal stories, intended for children, also illustrate Osage values, as well as conveying information about
the animals themselves.


Garrick Bailey is professor of anthropology at the University of Tulsa. Among his earlier books are The Osage and the Invisible World and the coauthored study Art of the Osage.


"Highly recommended."



"This valuable collection of Osage verbal art, previously buried in the National Anthropological Archives, has been ably revived, edited, and made available to us through the efforts of Garrick Bailey....It is a real contribution toward recognition of the indigenous oral literatures of the Americas, particularly as it highlights a very rich and complex Osage narrative tradition that has attracted too little attention."


Journal of Anthropological Research

"La Flesche’s goal was to let the Osage narrators speak so as to be understood by non-Indian audiences. In that he succeeded, and thanks to Garrick Bailey’s editorial work these stories have now been made available."


Journal of Folklore Research

"A fine contribution to Osage scholarship."


Kansas History

6 x 9 in. 192 pages 5 halftones, 4 figs., 1 maps