Wahzhazhe is the Native American name for the tribal people we know as the Osage.
A dance academy in Pawhuska, OK has created a ballet telling the 400 year-old story of the Wahzhazhe.
The performers are mostly from the Dance Maker Academy in Pawhuska, in Osage County, which is home to the Osage tribe.
There are about 24,000 Osage people throughout the world, Randy Tinker-Smith, the ballet producer said.
Tinker-Smith said the 20 children dancers in this ballet are from different tribes, not all Osage.
The ballet is “an artistic expression of who we are,”Tinker- Smith, who is Osage, said. “We are not history, we are still here.”
They performed the Osage story at the Smithsonian Institution in 2012, she said.
The scene that resonated with viewers there, was the last one, where the performers demonstrate walking in two worlds, the Osage world and the other white people world, she said.
The ballet is the story of tradition, adaptation, tragedy, triumph, survival, and the enduring spirit of the Osage people, told by the Osage Nation, according to a press release from the FSNHS.
“This is not our story to tell, but it is our responsibility to provide a platform for these stories to be told,” said Carl Brenner, FSNHS Chief of Interpretation and Resource Management.
“This area was their native homeland,” Brenner said. “This (ballet) is part of a Native American series (at the Fort). We will continue to talk about this.”
“We jump started our relationship with the Osages,” Jill Jaworski, FSNHS Superintendent said. “There are a lot of doors being opened for having conversations with the Osage. We are looking to update our exhibits and are asking ‘What would you like shared?'”
Ballet: an Osage Tradition
The first five prima ballerinas in the United State were Native Americans, two of them Osage, Tinker-Smith said.
Lavender Sarroll, a mom accompanying the ballet troupe, said her daughter, Lilliana Guillen, 17, has been dancing since she was six years old at the Dance Maker Academy.
The ballet still is emotional for her, Sarroll said.
“To this day, when they get to the place in the ballet, where they rise from defeat, I cry every time,” she said.
Sarroll said the Wahzhazhe have their own government and language.
Doors are opened to a college education for some through the ballet.
Several of the ballet performers are offered dance scholarships to colleges, including her daughter, Sarroll said.
Fort Scott National Historic Site and the Friends of Fort Scott National Historic Site, Inc. offered special access for the media to the Wahshazhe ballet producer, Randy Tinker-Smith, and for viewing rehearsals on Wednesday, July 19.
The rehearsal was a prelude to the three performances, today, Friday, through Saturday at the Danny and Willa Ellis Family Fine Arts Center on the Fort Scott Community College campus, 2108 Horton St.
There are 50 people involved in the production of the ballet, but some parents accompany the group, with a total of 70 people. Most arrived on Wednesday and are staying in the FSCC Residential Halls.
Thursday was the dress rehearsal, then the performances are today, Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with a Saturday matinee at 3 p.m.
Youth tickets are just $15, adults are $35. Go to Friends of the Fort Facebook page or at OsageBallet.com.
Or one can take a chance, wait, and hope it’s not sold-out and purchase tickets at the door.
There is a question and answer session following the ballet.
The performance is for those who are interested in Kansas and American history, Native American culture, the arts and dance, and those wanting to experience something spectacular and different from anything they have seen before, according to the press release.
Killers of the Flower Moon-The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, a story on a tragic part of the Osage tribe is a book that has been made into a movie and will be open in theaters this years, Tinker-Smith said.
“Mollie Burkhart is in the book,” she said. “Her grand-daughter is in the ballet. This movie, we can let people know, we are still here.”
For a synopsis of the book: