'Gigantic' Wakon Iron center completed

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Osage Nation dignitaries on May 4 gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new, approximately 17,000-square-foot community center in the Pawhuska Indian Village. The building, like Osage community centers in Pawhuska before it, is named for tribal elder Wakon Iron, who passed away in December of 1967.

Wakon Iron is remembered by all who speak of him as a gentle, thoughtful, devout man who looked out for the well-being of his fellow Osages. This is the third consecutive Osage community center in Pawhuska to bear his name. Community members refer to the first two community centers affectionately as the “Little Wakon” and the “Big Wakon.”

Head Committee Man George Stabler, a step-grandson of Wakon Iron, joked that the new building might have to be called the “Gigantic Wakon.”

“I know he’s smiling, looking down on us today,” Stabler said. He noted that he lives in the same house where Wakon Iron and his grandmother lived, and said he thinks often about Mr. Iron.

Osage Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear also reflected on his youthful experiences of the community leadership of Wakon Iron. Standing Bear shared that he had recently listened to a recording of Mr. Iron by clicking on an interactive link.

“So he’s closer to us than we think,” Standing Bear said. He characterized Wakon Iron as a “kind, kind man.”

Cherokee Cheshewalla, chair of the Pawhuska Indian Village board, said the new building will make a huge difference in terms of comfort.

“If this was last year, we would have trash cans lined up to catch the rain,” Cheshewalla said, reflecting on the condition that the previous community center was in.

Osage Congresswoman Paula Stabler, who sponsored legislation for the new community center, also recalled the previous center was increasingly difficult to maintain.

“We knew this had to come about somehow,” Congresswoman Stabler said. “I think this is a wonderful building. I think it’s going to have a wonderful future, and I wish we were dancing today.”

Osage traditional dances are scheduled for June.

Chief Standing Bear voiced admiration for the capacity of the new community center to offer seating to a crowd. He said he’d been told there were hundreds of chairs in storage.

“It’s great big and I’m glad I don’t have to clean it,” Osage Nation Secretary of Development Christian Johnson said.

The new community center is located near a chapel completed last year, which is also named for Wakon Iron. Both buildings are on a street named for him.

Photo Caption: Pawhuska JOM Princess Madison Bighorse and Osage Nation Princess Lawren Michele "Lulu" Goodfox cut the ribbon for the new Wakon Iron Community Center during a ceremony May 4.