model of the Chief James Bigheart statue to be unveiled at
10 a.m. on June 22. Osage News File Photo
A statue of Chief James Bigheart, renown among the Osage for his
wise leadership, will be unveiled in front of the new Law Building
on the Osage Campus.
The event begins at 10 a.m. and all living past principal chiefs
will be in attendance, said Patricia Bright, one of Bighearts
Chief Bigheart is known for his leadership in negotiating the
1906 Osage Allotment Act that preserved and provided ownership of
the Osage Mineral Estate, leading to great wealth among the Osage.
He is credited with holding up the signing of the act for 10 years
until the mineral rights were preserved.
The statue is nine-foot tall and cost an estimated $90,000 to
make. Osage-owned sculpting studio, The Bronze Horse, designed and
sculpted the statue.
Its beautiful, Bright said. Im
striving for unity, and Chief Bigheart strived for unity. He brought
the Osage together
until we unite together were never
going to get anywhere.
According to a 1954 article by Orpha B. Russell in Chronicles
of Oklahoma, Bigheart spoke seven languages and was a converted
Catholic. He was born in an Osage village near St. Paul, Kans.,
and was named Pun-Kah-Wi-Tah-An-Kah by his parents in 1838, according
to the late Julia Lookout in the article.
He fought in the Civil War in the Kansas Volunteer Cavalry at
Iola, Kans., and was honorably discharged as a first lieutenant
in 1865, according to the article. He stood six-feet tall and worked
as an interpreter and clerk at the agency offices before he became
active in Osage politics.
Bigheart is credited for introducing political parties among
the Osage; he helped write a Constitution modeled after the federal
government; he was elected President of the first National Council
of the Osages; he encouraged education among Osage youth in Catholic
boarding schools. He was one of the wealthiest Osages in the tribe
before the Osage allotment, running a successful cattle ranch and
owning interest in a number of companies and stores.
Although he wasnt chief at the time of the allotment acts
passage in 1906, he is responsible for getting a rider clause on
the bill that secured the mineral estate to the tribe.
According to the article, Bigheart lived in a cabin overlooking
Bird Creek, about 15 miles southeast of the Osage capital and he
is buried there in a family plot. He died at the age of 70.