Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Welcome back. In 1875 Pawhuska got its first post office and not long after that what had been Indian Territory became the State of Oklahoma. in 1909 one of my favorite organizations, the Boy Scouts of America, established its first troop in Pawhuska. The town is also the capital of the Osage Nation and there is a very nice informative museum there about Osage history and culture.

Home to the National Indian Taco Festival, the Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping competition, the International Round-up Club’s annual Cavalcade which is the largest amateur rodeo in the world and a dozen other events, Pawhuska always draws a crowd. When you add the Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile, which just reopened last week, to the mix and its no wonder new businesses keep popping up. A new bank, a new dentist’s office, a furrier and the newly reopened Ben Johnson Museum, well friends I can tell you from my recent two-day visit signing books there this past weekend, the town is busy once again.

I’ve also noticed that Pawhuska offers a lot of interesting free attractions. The Immaculate Conception Church which was built in 1910 is known around the world for its spectacular stain glass windows depicting real Osage people from that era. Admission to the Osage Nation Museum is free as well and it is the oldest museum of its kind. The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is a protected tallgrass prairie ecosystem and has one of the largest herds of free ranging bison in the country. There is no charge to visit the preserve where you can also see a wide variety of birds, small mammals and lizards in addition to many species of wildflowers and native grasses. Then add the Osage County Historical Society Museum to your list of interesting, free places. At this museum you’ll learn about the great ranching empires that started here along with the bad boys, bank and train robbers, bootleggers and murders who hid out in the area.

Another cool thing to do is to walk over Oklahoma’s only swinging bridge. The bridge goes over Bird Creek and crossing it is especially exciting when the creek is high but I warn you it’s a bit scary. Trust me, a visit to the swinging bridge will keep you talking about it for a long time.

Do the names Elizabeth Marie (Maria) Tallchief and Marjorie Louise Tallchief ring a bell to you? If they don’t, they should because back in the 1930s these two Native American sisters made history together. Maria was the first American to dance with the Paris Ballet, the Ballets Russes and the Balanchine Ballet Society, becoming the first Prima Ballerina in America. Maria’s little sister Marjorie was also a renowned ballerina in both Europe and the United States. Both women were members of the Five Indian Ballerinas of Oklahoma all of whom are featured in a mural at the Oklahoma State Capital. They are members of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and Maria also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center among other awards.

Another name you may hear in Pawhuska is that of John Stink, an Osage Indian with the power to rise from the dead. It’s true, this guy was pronounced dead twice and even buried under a pile of rocks on his property yet he came back to life and continued to walk the streets of Pawhuska until he was 75. Although he had money, he preferred to live as a hermit and some say he still walks the tallgrass prairie at night.

With both old and new attractions, Pawhuska is now officially reopened for visitors.

Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road…


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