Scholar signs books, reads at gallery

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

A scholar of the life and work of the Osage writer, John Joseph Mathews (1894-1979), last Friday shared his enthusiasm for Mathews’s observations of nature with visitors to a book signing at the Big Rain Gallery, 617 Kihekah Ave. in Pawhuska.

Dr. Michael Snyder, a member of the faculty at the University of Oklahoma, signed copies of “Our Osage Hills: Toward an Osage Ecology and Tribalography of the Early Twentieth Century” (2020), as well as other books he has authored. “Our Osage Hills” contains newspaper columns that Mathews wrote for the Pawhuska Daily Journal-Capital in the early 1930s, and essays that Snyder wrote to provide context for Mathews’s writing and life experiences.

Snyder, 49, who is originally from Ohio and earned a master’s degree at the University of Colorado, said it was during his doctoral studies in English at the University of Oklahoma that he became aware of the writing of Mathews. He credited members of the OU faculty, as well as his own readings, with the beginnings of his interest in Mathews and the Osage people.

Snyder is also the author of “John Joseph Mathews: Life of an Osage Writer,” a 2017 biography that was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award, and “James Purdy: Life of a Contrarian Writer” (2022).

Snyder read Friday night at Big Rain Gallery from two pieces -- a newspaper column that Mathews wrote about the effect of severe winter weather in Osage County on the quail population, and an essay of his own about Native American interest in and participation in baseball.

Among those who attended the event for Snyder at Big Rain Gallery were nature photographer Harvey Payne and Osage playwright Russ Tall Chief, who wrote forewords for “Our Osage Hills.”

Jill Jones, of Big Rain Gallery, created a welcoming environment at the gallery for the event.