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Nancy Bellzona's Picture Book
The Osages -
Sam Mashunkashey

third from the left is Ben MeshunkasheyBen Mashunkashey Osage Allottee N. 457 December 1, 1881_January 12, 1940

Ben Mashunkashey was a relative of Bertha Big Eagle Jones. The heirs of this man are too many to list here in this limited space. Records of this huge family are kept at the Osage tribal affairs building on KiHeKah Hill in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The members of the family are largely buried toward the middle of the cemetery at Pawhuska. There are many markers there. Some are large and some are very small. They all are striking in that they show the care put into the remembering the deceased.

Ben Mashunkashey was the first "keeper of the drum." This today is a respected position in the tribe. Any family that takes on this position is aware of the responsibilities involved. The American Indian culture is directly opposite to the Anglo culture in that those who hold honored positions are expected to "give away." This is a term that means they offer gifts at gatherings to the people. There was a time when expensive Beaver State blankets, horses, cattle, etc. were given away. Today the gifts are much more modest as a rule, such as fabric, soap, towels, linens, or anything generally, that is useful, but not providing a long range benefit. So, in order for a position as "keeper of the drum," to be held, one must certainly be financially able to meet the obligations.

There are Ponca women, Creth, Annie, Fannie, also pictured in this record. They spent months before a celebration sewing great numbers of dresses, vests, articles of clothing to "give away," at the occasion scheduled to honor a family member. Needless to say, these events were supported by most of the tribe as a time to dance, banquet, and exchange gifts.

The person honored was someone who had achieved an accomplishment. It could be a warrior returning home, or an elder deserving of family gratitude.

In this picture, third from the left is Ben Meshunkashey.



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