Osage People Return to the Ozarks

Smallin Civil War Cave honors the Osage people at bicentennial celebration
506f3fcc34c8dbf6e214bf493f6a2b435682dfc9 adam mcmullin 201931 m Written by Adam McMullin on March 29, 2018.

The Osage people have returned to the Ozarks. 


Smallin Civil War Cave, just south of Springfield, welcomed members of the the Osage Nation back to the area they inhabited for 1,000 years with the dedication of a new “marker tree” on the cave’s property. 

Smallin Civil War Cave in Ozark, Missouri.

Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear led the delegation of his people at the ceremony where prayers were offered up and the tree was washed with cedar smoke. 

“Thank you all for inviting us back home to our homeland here,” said Standing Bear. “Our people believe this is important or we wouldn't be here and we’re very honored to be part of this event and be back in the area where we once lived.”

The pignut hickory marker tree bent toward the east at Smallin Civil War Cave in Ozark, Missouri.

The Osage Indians lived in what is now southern Missouri, northern Arkansas and parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. They utilized the Ozarks woodlands as their fall hunting grounds. The new marker tree, a pignut hickory, faces east, the same as the 230-year-old black walnut marker tree already standing on the property. Historians believe the walnut was likely a trail marker or a marker for the cave and its fresh water source. Marker trees were bent into shape with rocks and rope — causing them to grow into a certain shape. 

  

The 230-year-old black walnut marker tree at Smallin Civil War Cave in Ozark, Missouri.

Smallin Cave owner Kevin Bright said the preservation of the Osage culture has been a priority since purchasing the cave in 2009.

“When we purchased the cave, one thing that stood out was the marker tree and that tree is a symbol, a living witness, to all the people who have come and gone," he said. "To go back 230 years when the Osage were here, and to have these people come back, is very important. We have to remember where we came from.”

Bright says the young marker tree is now a direct link to the Osage people. “They were here for 1,000 years. We need to not forget.”

Take a tour of Smallin Civil War Cave and experience the history of the Ozarks and those who first called it home. One hour guided tours and group tours are available. 

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