Osage Nation breaks ground on new chapel

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Osage Nation leaders gathered the afternoon of June 30 to take another step toward providing for the long-term vitality of cherished tribal institutions.

The occasion was the groundbreaking for a new Wakon Iron Chapel building in the Pawhuska Indian Village. The construction of the chapel will be the first phase in a two-phase project. The chapel construction is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $1.72 million. The second phase will be a $5.75 million effort to erect a new Wakon Iron Hall in the Pawhuska Indian Village.

Principal Osage Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear eschewed the use of the word “replacement” at the June 30 ceremony.

“It’s not a replacement. It’s an evolution,” Standing Bear, explaining that in another century he hopes the Osage people are looking back on this time and are able to say that the current generation did its best.

Standing Bear noted that a lot of Osage people no longer live in Oklahoma and could not be present for the groundbreaking.

“I want to see them come back," he said. "A lot of our people need to come back.”

Jodie Revard second speaker of the Osage Congress, reflected on how very emotional the Wakon Iron projects are for the Osage people.

“This is much needed for our people. It’s very personal to me. There is a lot of hard work that’s going on behind the scenes," Revard said.

Congresswoman Paula Stabler, who formerly served as chair of the Pawhuska Indian Village five-person board for more than 10 years, was similarly emotional about the groundbreaking. She was the primary congressional sponsor of the project legislation.

“A lot goes into maintaining these properties," Stabler said. "The people out here are good people and dedicated people. I think of the people and the faces and what goes on in those buildings.”

Marjorie Williams, the current chair of the board, lamented the need to replace the Wakon Iron buildings.

“It is heartbreaking that we are tearing down that chapel," Williams said. "So I understand. There are memories and a lot of feelings.”