Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson

The Osage is one of America’s Indian tribes. As one who knows very little about their history, I recently found it interesting to be confronted by one of their current newspapers.

The Osage News was given me by Newton County Sheriff Department’s Captain Keith Crum who is a member of the Osage tribe.

Volume 16, Issue 2, February 2020, of this newspaper has a photograph of Captain Crum’s great grandfather, Joe Boulanger, who in 1894 was a member of the Osage Tribal Counsel.

Aside from this photo were the interesting Indian names of some of the counsel members. Reported colorful names included Henry Red Eagle, Alottee Black Dog, James Big Heart, Frank Corndropper, Joe Tall Chief, Peter Big Heart, Elizabeth Grayhorse and Raymond Red Corn.

Chief Standing Bear was among those featured in the paper.

The French translation of Osage was “warlike,” but aside from fighting to protect their territory, the Osage hunted and farmed. They sought buffalo, rabbit, deer, squirrel and other wild game. Indian women had gardens where they grew corn, squash and other vegetables. And, they collected nuts and berries.

Knowing how they provided for themselves made it especially interesting to read the recipe in the paper about how to prepare and cook squirrel.

Adding to this interest was my own recollection about my grandmother, who wasn’t Indian, but also cooked squirrel back in our small coal-mining town in Pennsylvania during the Depression. Back then, we relied on a lot of wild game to provide meat for our table.

I don’t know what grandmother’s recipe was for cooking squirrel, but here is the Osage recipe from the “American Indian Recipes” as reported in The Osage News.

“Southern squirrel of the Fox and Gray variety, which feed on hickory nuts, acorns and pecans are among the most delicious small game to be found. Rocky Mountain squirrel are not good eating and young squirrel can be fried like chicken and older squirrel are delicious stewed with salt meat and pepper to taste. Another method is to stew the squirrel until tender and most of the liquid is cooked out. Take one cup of cold coffee and thicken with enough flour to make a paste. Add this to the squirrel broth and make a thick gravey.”

So, if there are many who enjoy wild squirrel on their menu, here’s how our early natives might have chosen to cook game.

The Osage were “Plain Indians,” residing in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys. Their headquarters is in Pawhuska, Okla. They provide for the tribe in part now with funds from mineral rights and from casinos.

Reading one of their newspapers is certainly educational, enlightening and enjoyable.

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Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each week in the weekend edition of this newspaper.

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