ON to commission design for expansion

Robert Smith
The Osage Nation Congress has agreed to appropriate $250,000 for a design for the expansion of the Osage Nation Museum. In this Journal-Capital file photo, the museum can be seen in the background, behind the Osage Nation Veterans Memorial.

The Osage Nation Congress recently agreed to spend $250,000 on a design for a multi-million-dollar expansion of the ON Museum, and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear is looking forward to collaborating with interested parties to raise the needed funding for construction.

Chief Standing Bear confirmed that author David Grann, who wrote the bestseller “Killers of the Flower Moon” about the murders of numerous of the Osage during the early 20th century, is among those interested in helping with the project.

“We’re looking forward to working with all of our people here and with David,” Standing Bear told the Journal-Capital. “It’s teamwork, and that’s what makes things happen.”

Standing Bear also expressed thanks to the ON Congress, which passed legislation June 24 to appropriate $250,000 out of the existing Museum Fund to cover design costs.

“I’m so glad our Osage Congress agreed to pursue this opportunity,” he said.

Congressman R.J. Walker, who sponsored the legislation, said he had not been in favor of appropriating new money for the museum expansion design, but he had been willing to use $250,000 of roughly $275,000 that was in the Museum Fund to pay for design work. That still left some $25,000 in the Museum Fund for other purposes, he said. The important thing is the ON will have a conceptual design to use in attracting financing for the museum project, Walker said.

Standing Bear said Grann’s interest in the project grew out of conversations that began about a year ago. The author expressed an interest in helping to memorialize murdered Osage people, the chief said, explaining that Grann wasn’t really interested in a plaque or a statue. The two stayed in touch and Grann later asked if Standing Bear had thought of something.

Chief Standing Bear said he told Grann that the ON Museum, which is the oldest tribally owned museum in the U.S. (dating back to 1938), is in need of expansion.

“Well, I would be very interested in that if you decide to go in that direction,” Standing Bear recalled Grann saying. “I would like to see what private money we could raise to help the Osage on a museum expansion.”

The idea that arose in conversation was for a possible New York City fundraiser, and Chief Standing Bear said he was attracted by that concept.

“OK, I think that sounds like a really great idea,” he recalled telling Grann, asking what the author would need in order to be able to approach potential donors.

Standing Bear noted he called for internal discussions involving new museum director Marla Redcorn-Miller, former museum director Kathryn Red Corn, and his chief of staff, Jason Zaun.

Pointing out that museum spaces have special needs when it comes to temperature, light and ventilation controls, Standing Bear explained he was interested in developing a detailed estimate of what expansion costs might come to, so that interested parties like Grann would be in a position to talk with potentially generous people about what levels of support they might be willing to provide.

Grann told the Journal-Capital he looks forward to helping.

“Chief Standing Bear shared with me the Osage Nation’s wonderful plans for the museum. It’s such an important project, and I’m eager to help anyway I can,” he said.