Big Rain Gallery to hold book signing

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Residents of Pawhuska and Osage County will have the special opportunity this Friday evening, Dec. 9, to meet and talk with the editor/author of a book that collects certain writings by John Joseph Mathews (1894-1979) and brings context and perspective to them.

Big Rain Gallery, at 617 Kihekah Ave. in Pawhuska, is scheduled to hold a book signing from 6-9 p.m. Friday for Dr. Michael Snyder, in regard to his book “Our Osage Hills: Toward an Osage Ecology and Tribalography of the Early Twentieth Century.”

The book, published by Lehigh University Press and The Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group in 2020, contains columns that renowned Osage author John Joseph Mathews wrote in the 1930s for publication in the Pawhuska Daily Journal-Capital. “Our Osage Hills” also includes essays that Snyder wrote to illuminate the historical and cultural contexts of Mathews’s columns.

“I am grateful for the special opportunity to be hosted in the capital of the Osage Nation, at a Wahzhazhe-owned business, Big Rain Gallery,” Snyder told the Journal-Capital. “Pawhuska is the hometown of John Joseph Mathews, the preeminent Osage writer, historian, and naturalist of the twentieth century. Pawhuska is where he was born and raised, and to where he returned and built his sandstone cabin on the prairie that he dubbed ‘The Blackjacks.’”

“Our Osage Hills” has been described as “an Osage-centric chronicle of the Great Depression, a time of environmental and economic crisis for the Osage Nation and country as a whole.” The book signing at Big Rain Gallery will include other books by Dr. Snyder. He has also written a biographical volume about Mathews titled “John Joseph Mathews: Life of an Osage Writer,” which was published in 2017 by the University of Oklahoma Press.

Snyder is an assistant teaching professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma.

In comments for the Journal-Capital, Snyder noted that Mathews “served as tribal councilman for two terms, helped establish and secure federal funding for the Osage Tribal Museum (now the Osage Nation Museum), remarried a widow with two children, and published five books that made his name.”

Snyder also noted that Mathews’s first book, "Wah'Kon-Tah: The Osage and the White Man's Road"(University of Oklahoma Press, 1932) was a Book of the Month Club selection that “helped establish the concept of an American Indian author in the national consciousness.”

In addition to columns from the 1930s by Mathews, and essays by Snyder, “Our Osage Hills" contains two short but important forewords, one by lawyer and nature photographer Harvey Payne, and the other by Osage playwright and collegiate administrator Russ Tall Chief.

Payne recalls meeting Mathews in April 1973, when Mathews made a presentation to the Pawhuska Rotary Club regarding prairie chickens. The presentation included a film Mathews had made of the spring courtship behavior of the prairie chickens. Payne recalls that he came away from that encounter with an enhanced desire to photograph wildlife and nature.

“I wanted to be like Mathews and photograph prairie chickens and other wildlife,” Payne writes.

Tall Chief describes Mathews as a man of ironies – a wildlife conservationist who was also an enthusiastic hunter, and an opponent of oil pollution who maintained strong friendships with oilmen.