Monday, May 19, 2008

My Osage Presentation:

SOOOO... I have to put together a presentation for my Education for Social Justice class and I am really struggling on how to do that. The point is to offer content, understanding of a certain topic to a classroom in a way that upholds social justice, equality, fairness etc. The point is to offer different sides of the story, or allow the story, if of a non-dominant culture, to be told by its members. Right ok. Well because I am working on the Osage reservation this summer I thought what better of a chance would I have to explore the Osage history, context, situation etc than via this project. Ok great.. so now I know a whole lot about the timelines, the place, some of the cultural context etc. but that doesn't mean I can pull together a socially just presentation of that content without some sort of outside help. So I have a few things mulling around in my head.

How can I present the culture of the Osage to the students who are coming for one week? Who do I talk to to walk through this "brief" and make sure that it is congruent with who they think they are? How can I present a people who have been around for a few hundred years, who have been exploited, pressed, and pushed around into a tiny space? How do I present on current issues facing the Osage such as jurisdiction within their reservation, Oil rights, Indian Casinos, and the cross-section of poverty and reservation life. I have no idea.

A few cool things that I have gotten from my research so far (Disclaimer.. this is what I have come to understand after like 2 days of research, not through experience with people, conversations, or prolonged exposure... so don't take my word for it.. I just click and read :P):

The culture of the Osage has a focus on balance and dichotomous interconnectedness: aka two groups who are opposite, have different skills, tools, needs- must interact together in a spirit of interchange in order to be a "whole" and surviving tribe.

The larger tribe is split into the Earth people and the Sky people. One group focuses on agriculture, gathering, peacemaking, spiritual wellbeing etc; the other focuses on hunting, defense/war making, material wellbeing of the tribe as a whole. On their own they cannot meet all of their needs, together they are successful. They cannot marry within their own, they must intermarry between the groups. Earth and Sky come together to create "children of the middle", which is congruent with their story of creation. (where earth and sky met, there was land; where people of the roots met people of the branches, there was land; it continues.. interesting stuff)

The other interesting piece of the puzzle is the orientation towards time. Shuffling through a billion forums/blogs/websites looking for different things I often came upon the understanding that the Osage have a time orientation that is represented by the infinity symbol. They are not past, present or future oriented because all are one. It made me incredibly intrigued because as a nation they are working towards a 25 year strategic plan, and trying to decide what they need to be doing to preserve their culture and language. I wonder how the process might go in a culture of such a time orientation. Does it hinder? Or do they have such great oral history and understanding of their past that it becomes easier to see the themes and threads they value.

I don't know.. this is just a few of the things coming out for me. Now how to present on it?

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