Michael Snyder will be in Pawhuska from 5-7 p.m. June 21 at the Osage Nation Museum to discuss and sign his new biography titled “John Joseph Mathews: Life of an Osage Writer.” This work is published by the University of Oklahoma Press.
Michael Snyder, Ph.D., is an English professor at Oklahoma City Community College. He earned degrees from Haverford College, the University of Colorado and the University of Oklahoma. His poems and works of literary and cultural criticism have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines and books.
Snyder said in his latest work, “I tried to do justice to a great and complex man who was not only a ‘prose poet’ — as David Grann calls him in his best-seller Killers of the Flower Moon, which owes much to Mathews — but also an early aviator, traveler, naturalist and tribal councilman who envisioned and secured funding for the Osage Nation Museum, the first that was tribally owned and operated.”
Mathews is remembered locally for his autobiography about his friend E. W. Marland in “Life and Death of an Oilman.” He also received recognition for other books, including “Sundown” and “Talking to the Moon.”
Mathews is known as an historian and novelist and was born in 1894, the only son in a family of five children all born in Pawhuska. He was one-eighth Osage. He was the grandson of Bill Williams, the legendary mountain man who lived and worked among the tribe.Mathews attended public schools in Pawhuska. As a young boy he rode his horse through the Osage Hills, developing an appreciation and love for his native culture and terrain. During World War I, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the cavalry, but he later became a pilot in the 25th Squadron, flying the Jenny, Curtis H, and DeHavilland airplanes. His experiences gave him a lifelong interest in aviation.
After military service, he returned to the University of Oklahoma and in 1920 graduated with a degree in geology. He attended Oxford University at his own expense and finished in 1923 as one of that school’s first graduates of American Indian descent. He then studied international relations at the University of Geneva while the League of Nations was in session. During a hunting trip in North Africa in the late 1920s, after observing a native tribe’s rituals, he decided that his own people had a culture that should be preserved. Mathews returned to Oklahoma and started collecting, restoring and preserving Osage culture.
Mathews served on the Osage Tribal Council from 1934 through 1942 and was a major figure in the development of the tribal museum in Pawhuska. He was working on his autobiography at the time of his death in June 1979. In 1996 the Oklahoma Historical Society posthumously inducted John Joseph Mathews into the Oklahoma Historians Hall of Fame.
Brace Books & More will have signed copies on hand after the signing. Bookstore owner Jerry Brace said, “We will be glad to reserve signed copies for those who are unable to attend the event in Pawhuska. Local interest books always make great gifts for those interested in local and state history.” Call Brace Books at (580) 765-5173 before the signing date if you wish to have copies personalized by the author.