Osage Nation

Pawhuska, OK

Osage Heritage Sites Visit and Stabilization of Sugarloaf Mound

The Osage Nation has an unprecedented opportunity to preserve Sugarloaf Mound, the last surviving prehistoric mound in the city of St. Louis and an Osage sacred site, which it purchased from private owners in 2009. The Phase 1 grant supported a critical step in the preservation of Sugarloaf Mound, removal of overgrown brush and trees to deter adverse effects to the mound. The removal of harmful trees and brush allowed plans for the removal of a house that had been built on the mound to move forward. Finding a qualified landscaper with the ability to adhere to Osage Nation guidelines for work on or around the Mound took longer than expected. However, we were able to find a landscaping firm that carefully removed the vegetation and trees without impacting the subsurface in any way.

The second aspect of our grant was the 2016 Osage Heritage Sites Visit, which focused on Osage sacred rock art and cave sites in northwestern Arkansas. The Phase 1 grant allowed nineteen Osage Tribal members to travel together to visit ancient Osage sites while learning from professional presenters, including archaeologists and rock art experts from the Arkansas Archaeological Survey and from the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. The Heritage Sites Visit was regarded as an outstanding success; in 2017, the number of applicants for the Heritage Sites Visit doubled. The success of this project has enabled the Osage Nation Historic Preservation Office (ONHPO) to expand the Heritage Sites Visit program and begin broadening trip locations to new areas of Osage ancestral territory.

The Phase 1 grant helped us establish new and stronger relationships between the ONHPO and Osage tribal members. Several tribal members have since worked with the ONHPO to help identify and preserve Osage burials and sacred sites. We created new partnerships with the archaeologists and rock art experts who participated in the 2016 Osage Heritage Sites Visit. The Nation will continue to use the landscaping firm that we found to work on Sugarloaf Mound in a respectful and diligent manner for future work at Sugarloaf Mound.

The Osage Nation contributed $16,000 toward the cost of the 2016 Osage Heritage Sites Visit. A number of volunteers contributed their time, including Dr. George Sabo of the University of Arkansas, who led tours to multiple ancestral Osage rock art sites, Dr. Emily Beahm of the Arkansas Archaeological Survey’s Winthrop Rockefeller Institute Research Station, who presented information regarding prehistoric rock shelters. Dr. David Jurney, District Ranger Jim McCoy, and four other Forest Service staff at Blanchard Springs Caverns led tours and gave presentations.

The Osage Nation contributed $18,000 to cover additional costs associated with the tree and brush removal at Sugarloaf Mound. Next steps include the careful removal of a house that was that was built on the summit of the mound in the 1920s, which will be accomplished with CRF Phase 2 funds. Future plans include an Osage-run interpretation center on adjacent property.

The outcome of our Phase 1 project benefited not only the Osage Nation and its members, but the community of St. Louis and the general public who will visit the mound and future interpretive center for generations to come.

© Copyright - Cultural Resources Fund