William Least Heat-Moon will be at the Osage Tribal Museum to talk about his latest book, “An Osage Journey to Europe, 1827–1839,” and will autograph your personal copy on Saturday, Nov. 16, from 10 a.m. – noon.
Copies are available for sale in the museum’s gift shop. Refreshments will be provided afterwards.
In 1827, six Osage people — four men and two women — traveled to Europe escorted by three Americans. Their visit was big news in France, where three short publications about the travelers appeared almost immediately. Virtually lost since the 1830s, all three accounts are gathered, translated, and annotated here for the first time in English. Among the earliest writings devoted to Osage history and culture, these works provide unique insights into Osage life and especially into European perceptions of American Indians.
Mr. Least Heat-Moon’s introduction tells of people leaving one alien nation, the United States, to visit an even more alien culture an ocean away. In France, the Osages found themselves lionized as “noble savages.” They went to the theater, rode in a hot-air balloon, and even had an audience with the king of France. Many Europeans ogled them as if they were exhibits in a freak show. As the entourage moved through Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, interest in the Osages declined. Soon they were reduced to begging in the suburbs of Paris, without the means to return home.
Translated by Heat-Moon and James K. Wallace, the three featured texts are surprisingly accurate as basic descriptions of Osage history, geography, and lifeways. The French authors, influenced by racist and sexist expectations, misinterpreted some of the behaviors they describe. But they also dismiss rumors of cannibalism among the Osages and observe that “the behavior of some whites … was not conducive to giving the Indians a favorable opinion of white morality.”
An Osage Journey to Europe, 1827–1839 offers scholars and general readers both a compelling story and a singular glimpse into nineteenth-century cultural exchange.
Following the discussion of his book, he will make a very special announcement.
The museum is located at 819 Grandview Avenue in Pawhuska. The public is cordially invited to attend, and, as always, there is no admission fee.