Toward an Osage Ecology and Tribalography of the Early Twentieth Century

Michael Snyder AND John Joseph Mathews - Edited by Michael Snyder - Foreword by Russ Tall Chief and Harvey Payne


This revealing book presents a selection of lost articles from “Our Osage Hills,” a newspaper column by the renowned Osage writer, naturalist, and historian, John Joseph Mathews. Signed only with the initials “J.J.M.,” Mathews’s column featured regularly in the Pawhuska Daily Journal-Capital during the early 1930s. While Mathews is best known for his novel Sundown (1934), the pieces gathered in this volume reveal him to be a compelling essayist. Marked by wit and erudition, Mathews’s column not only evokes the unique beauty of the Osage prairie, but also takes on urgent political issues, such as ecological conservation and Osage sovereignty. In Our Osage Hills, Michael Snyder interweaves Mathews’s writings with original essays that illuminate their relevant historical and cultural contexts. The result isan Osage-centric chronicle of the Great Depression, a time of environmental and economic crisis for the Osage Nation and country as a whole. Drawing on new historical and biographical research, Snyder’s commentaries highlight the larger stakes of Mathews’s reflections on nature and culture and situate them within a fascinating story about Osage, Native American, and American life in the early twentieth century. In treating topics that range from sports, art, film, and literature to the realities and legacies of violence against the Osages, Snyder conveys the broad spectrum of Osage familial, social, and cultural history.





Reading the book is like being part of a conversation with multi-generational references, listening to gossip from relatives.

 —Ruby Hansen Murray, Osage News


An important contribution to our understanding of the writer, the era, and, most significantly, the place: the Osage hills of Oklahoma. Michael Snyder has uncovered lost gems of John Joseph Mathew’s work and offers them in extraordinary bites, accompanied by his own interstitial essays that illuminate backstory and sociohistorical context. Coupled with his biography John Joseph Mathews: Life of an Osage Writer, this book affirms Snyder’s place as a significant scholar of Mathews’ work.

 —Rilla Askew, author of Most American: Notes from a Wounded Place


John Joseph Mathews observed and immersed himself in the natural world, documenting, honoring, and defending it. In Our Osage Hills, Michael Snyder revisits Mathews's early lost writings, contributing his own valuable perspective and historical context. From where we stand now, we would do well to pay attention.

— Laura Mathews Edwards


Michael Snyder is to be praised for his profound literary archeological work in unearthing and contextualizing previously unknown writings by John Joseph Mathews. Snyder’s short essays and commentaries punctuate Mathews’s texts, reminding readers that Mathews was a nature-writer and philosopher as well as a chronicler of the Osages who is to be reckoned with.

— Lionel Larré, Directeur de l’UFR Langues et civilisations, Université Bordeaux Montaigne


Michael Snyder has done an excellent job of collecting and providing context for Mathews’ pieces. This is an important book about an important literary figure.

— Alan Velie, University of Oklahoma



Our Osage Hills