Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Osage Indian
tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students
and teachers to visit our main Osage site
for more in-depth information
about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with
Osage pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.
How do you pronounce the word "Osage"? What does it mean?
Osage is pronounced "oh-sage" in English, but in their own language, it is pronounced similar to "wah-zah-zhay." The pronunciation got changed
so much because it was first written down by French speakers (who don't have any W in their language and pronounce soft g's like ZH, as
in mirage), and then later the word was re-pronounced by English speakers.
Where do the Osages live?
The Osage Indians are original people of Oklahoma,
Most Osage people live in Oklahoma today.
How is the Osage Indian nation organized?
The Osages live on a reservation, which is land that belongs to them and is under their control.
The Osage Nation has its own government, laws,
police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Osages are also US citizens and must obey American law.
In the past, each Osage band was led by a chief who was chosen by a tribal council. Today, the Osage chief is elected by all the tribal members.
What language do the Osage Indians speak?
The Osage people speak English today. Only a few Osage people, mostly elders, still speak their native Osage language.
But some young Osage Indians are working to learn their ancient language again.
If you'd like to know an easy Osage word,
"howa" (pronounced hoh-wah) is a friendly greeting.
What was Osage culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Osage Tribe.
On their site you can find information about the Osage people in the past and today.
How do Osage Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house.
Many Osage children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more
chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have
dolls, toys, and games to play.
Here is a picture of a hoop game
played by Plains Indian kids.
An Osage mother traditionally carried a young child in a
on her back--a custom which many American parents have
What were men and women's roles in the Osage tribe?
Osage men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Osage women were farmers
and also did most of the child care and cooking.
Only men became Osage chiefs, but both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.
What were Osage homes like in the past?
Most Osage Indians lived in settled villages of round earthen lodges. Osage lodges were made from wooden frames
covered with packed earth. When the Osage tribe went on hunting trips, they used buffalo-hide
tipis (or teepees) as temporary shelter, similar to camping tents.
Here are some pictures of lodges, tipis, and other Indian houses.
Today, Native Americans only put up a tepee for fun or to connect with their heritage, not for housing.
Most Osages live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.
What was Osage clothing like? Did the Osages wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Osage women wore long deerskin dresses and leggings, which they decorated
with fancy beadwork and ribbon applique.
Osage men wore breechcloths with leather leggings.
The Osages wore moccasins
on their feet, and in cold weather, they wore long buffalo-hide robes.
Later, Osage people adapted European costume such as cloth dresses and vests.
Here is a site with pictures of Osage ceremonial garments,
and some photos and links
about Indian clothing in general.
Osage Indian leaders sometimes wore the long
Native American warbonnets that Plains Indians are famous for,
but more often, they wore headbands or turban-like caps made of otter fur, with feathers sticking up in the back.
Some Osage warriors shaved their heads except for a scalplock (one long lock of hair in back) and
wore a porcupine roach on top. Other Osage men wore their
hair long. Osage women wore their hair either loose or braided.
Both men and women wore tribal tattoos, which were marks of honor
that only distinguished warriors and their wives or daughters could earn.
All Osages could paint their faces for special occasions.
They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.
Today, some Osage people still have moccasins or a buckskin dress, but they
wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths...
and they only wear traditional regalia on special occasions like a wedding or a dance.
What was Osage transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Osage Indians didn't live near the ocean.
When they traveled over land, the Osages used dogs pulling travois (a kind of drag sled) to
help them carry their belongings. There were no horses in North America
until colonists brought them over from Europe.
What was Osage food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Osage Indians were big game hunters. They especially liked to hunt buffalo. Traditionally, Osage men hunted buffalo by driving them off cliffs,
but once they acquired horses, the men hunted buffalo on horseback instead.
Osage women worked together to raise crops of corn, beans, squash, and pumpkins. Here is a website with more information
about American Indian crops.
What were Osage weapons and tools like in the past?
Osage hunters used bows and arrows. The Osage were known for their especially well-made longbows.
In war, Osage men fired their bows or fought with war clubs and spears.
Here is a website with pictures and information about weapons of Native Americans.
What other Native Americans did the Osage tribe interact with?
The Osages traded regularly with other tribes of the Great Plains and the Western Plateau. Osage traders often delivered goods between
southern tribes like the Comanches and northern
tribes like the Sioux.
These tribes usually communicated using the Plains Sign Language.
The Osages also fought wars with other tribes. Plains Indian tribes treated war differently than
European countries did. They didn't fight over territory but instead to prove their courage, and so Plains Indian war parties
rarely fought to the death or destroyed each other's villages. Instead, their war customs included
counting coup (touching an opponent in battle without harming him),
stealing an enemy's weapon or horse, or forcing the other tribe's warriors to retreat.
Some tribes the Osages frequently fought with included the
What are Osage arts and crafts like?
Osage artists are famous for their woodcarving and
Here is a museum website with photographs of different Osage art forms.
What kinds of stories do the Osages tell?
There are lots of traditional Osage legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the
Osage Indian culture. Here is one story about
how the spider became the symbol of the Osage tribe.
What about Osage religion?
Sorry, but we cannot help you with religious information. Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately
in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about
Osage religious beliefs or this site about
Native American religion in general.
Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy a biography of famous Osage dancer Maria Tallchief, such as
Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina.
If you want to know more about Osage culture and history, two good books for kids are
North American Indians Today: Osage
and Native Peoples: The Osage.
A more advanced book for older kids is
The Osage in Missouri.
You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Native American books in general.
How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and
Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization
working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization
here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in
Thanks for your interest in the Osage Indian people and their language!
Learn More About The Osages
Osage Indian Tribe
An overview of the Osage people, their language and history.
Osage Language Resources
Osage language samples, articles, and indexed links.
Osage Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Osage tribe past and present.
Osage Indian vocabulary lists.
Return to our Native American Indians homepage for kids
Return to our menu of American Indian tribes
American Indian Heritage
American Indian Names
American Indian Poetry
Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?