Osage Nation Language Department
Our mission is to revitalize the Osage Language to its purest form and teach our people to speak Osage within our unique ways and in daily conversation—our endeavors will be unwavering; our future depends on it.
Osages were originally in what is now Missouri, Arkansas, and Kansas, and they were removed to what is now Osage County in the late 1800s. In spite of their circumstances, they were able to hang onto their language and ways.
As time passed, the “pure Osage” language was diluted by European influences. Osages who were born in 1906 and later were sent off to boarding schools; while there, they were forced to quit speaking Osage and speak English.
Speakers between 1906 and 1940 continued to hear and speak Osage in their homes but took up more English and European ways.
Osages who were born from 1940 forward had English as their first language; they heard Osage speak. The language was diluted even more, and much of the meaning was lost.
Many attempts have been made to keep the language alive. These attempts have laid a foundation for words and developed an ongoing interest in learning and preserving the language. Unfortunately, no fluent speakers were developed.
Currently, between 15 to 20 second-language speakers and elders can speak or pray at a meeting or cultural activity.
Due to the efforts of our previous tribal council and new Constitutional government, we are on the road to preservation and revitalization. In the fall of 2003, the council created the Osage Language Program and hired Mongrain Lookout as the director.
Their efforts have proven successful. We currently have five advanced students who have made tremendous progress toward fluency and approximately 300 currently enrolled in the tribal program classes.
Mongrain is constantly evaluating and making an effort to upgrade the teaching methods and techniques in order to help students learn the language more efficiently.
We will continue to make an aggressive effort to revitalize the Osage language. Because of what we have experienced, we know it can be done.
We cannot quit; our future depends on it.