News | Published:

Research Items

Nature volume 145, pages 3335 (06 January 1940) | Download Citation



Osage Warfare THE late Francis La Flescbe, himself an Omaha Indian and a member of the staff of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, among his numerous studies of the American Indians, made an elaborate record of the rites and ceremonies observed by the Osage Indians in connexion with the conduct of tribal warfare (Bull. Bureau American Ethnol., No. 101,1939. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 35 cents). Before taking any action against an enemy, a council meeting was held to choose a leader. This leader had to fast for seven days, and then three complicated and elaborate ceremonies had to be performed. The rituals making up the Wa-sha-be A-thin or war ceremony comprised twenty-eight separate songs, which, interspersed with processions, ceremonial dances and ancient rites, must be sung at just the right times, in proper order, and by the properly designated singers. The Osage, essentially a peaceful tribe who lived in three separate villages in Oklahoma, had also an elaborate peace ceremony, which was intended not only to promote peace within the tribe, but also with their neighbours. They held the peace ceremony in profound veneration because it was believed that the man who had formulated the rite had received supernatural aid in so doing. Though they were peace-loving, intolerable aggression by a neighbouring tribe would force them to take up arms. At the close of the war ceremony a band of warriors was dispatched to meet the enemy. If victory were achieved the band returned with scalps and prisoners, and victory songs were sung.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

About this article

Publication history





    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

    Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing