Book Reviews of Osage-Life and Legends.

1. "Beginning in childhood, most Americans develop a fascination with American Indians, imitating such traits as bravery, stealth, and their colorful rituals. But it was only imitation because few understood the legends and lifestyles of the Indian portrayed in such symbols as the sun, the buffalo, the moon, and even the lowly spider. The Osage who were the principal native inhabitants of the Ozarks were often described as the most handsome of the Native Americans. Bred tall, proud and humble, they had a complicated and ritualistic lifestyle which, at long last, is clearly described by Robert Liebert in his book Osage Life and Legends.

"The author calls this volume a 'rounding out' of the work done by Francis La Flesche, son of an Omaha chief and an employee of the Bureau of American Ethnology early in this century. Using La Flesche's research, especially the many original 'wi-gi-es' (Indian poems) as his base, Liebert added his own work to pull back the curtain of mystery which for so long hung between modern man and the lifestyles and legends of the proud Osage.

"The first part of the book is a crisp and interesting portrait of the Osage people. It tells who they were, where they lived and worked, how they hunted and gathered, and even how they dressed. 'The Osage women wore a long skirt attached at the right shoulder, the left arm was not covered....The women wore perfume made from the sweet flag plant, horsemint, and the crushed seeds of the columbine. The hair was worn loose and parted in the middle....The appearance of the Osage men was quite striking....They shaved all of the hair from their heads, leaving only a crest of hair down the middle....In warm weather the dress of the men consisted of a simple loincloth, secured in the front and back by a belt of woven buffalo hair....Most of them pierced their ears....' Writing in an easy, friendly style, Liebert almost takes the reader along into the tribal gardens and on the buffalo hunts.

"The second section details the rituals which were at the heart of Osage life and beliefs. Liebert explains what each represented and how each came into being. Every hope, fear and fate of the Osage hung on a symbol which was traditionally passed through the generations. Everything from the simple act of rising in the morning to the deadly act of going into battle was a ritual faithfully observed.

"Leibert describes the various clans and sub-clans within the tribe and how together they created the personality of the tribe as a whole.

"Finally, the author reveals how the sacred customs contributed to the tribe's downfall. The approach of other tribes and the advance of the white man created cultural clashes which virtually destroyed the Osage. Even the tribal wealth which came when oil was discovered on their Oklahoma lands contributed to the demise of the Osage. Liebert estimates there are less than 100 full-blood Osage left in Oklahoma in the far western foothills of the Ozark Mountains.

"Any student of Ozark or Native American history will treasure this book. It's good reading and a valuable historical resource." (Kay Hively, The Ozarks Mountaineer, Jan-Feb. 1988, pp. 56-57)