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JOHN JOSEPH MATHEWS


On November 17, 2009, the Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma (FOLIO) honored John Joseph Mathews and the Osage Tribal Museum with a Literary Landmark dedication. Mathews authored four nonfiction and one fiction book in his lifetime. Wah’Kon-Tah: The Osage and the White Man’s Road (1932) was the first university press book selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club and sold 50,000 copies. His second book, Sundown (1934), while categorized as fiction, is semi-autobiographical and noted for its depiction of the struggles experienced by a young Indian as he leaves the reservation during the early 1900s. In Talking to the Moon: Wildlife Adventures on the Plains and Prairies of Osage County (1945), Mathews describes his own experience of living ten years on the plains in a small rock cabin. Mathews’ writing is poetic, philosophical, and sometimes humorous. Talking to the Moon, with its observations of nature, is often compared to Thoreau’s Walden and the writings of John Muir. Mathews’ Life and Death of an Oilman: The Career of E. W. Marland (1951) is the biography of a colorful but somewhat complicated Oklahoma oilman, politician and philanthropist. The Osages: Children of the Middle Waters (1961) is considered the definitive history of the Osage Nation. Mathews’ incorporated oral history recordings and extensive research for this epic story.


Award-winning author Michael Wallis served as Master of Ceremonies for the dedication. Keynote speaker was Dr. Carter Revard, Osage poet and scholar. Mathews’ daughter, Virginia Mathews, staff director of the National Book Committee from 1957 to 1974, was guest of honor at the dedication. Attendees for the dedication included Peggy Sullivan and Loriene Roy, Past Presidents of the American Library Association; John Red Eagle, Osage Assistant Chief; Kathryn Red Corn, Director of Osage Tribal Museum; Susan McVey, Director Oklahoma Department of Libraries; Kay Boies, Executive Director Oklahoma Library Association; Gerry Hendon, President of FOLIO; Connie Armstrong, Director Oklahoma Center for the Book; Lu King, Director Pawhuska Public Library; and Mayor of Pawhuska, Mark Buchanan.


In conjunction with the dedication, Oklahoma State University Librarian Karen Neurohr edited and coordinated a 28-page booklet about John Joseph Mathews, including information about the Osage Tribal Museum, Osage Nation, FOLIO, and Literary Landmarks. The booklet was distributed to over 3,000 high school 11th grade English students and teachers at 23 schools in 5 Oklahoma counties. The booklet’s purpose was to introduce John Joseph Mathews and his writing, encourage literacy, and help instill pride in the Osage Nation and Oklahoma’s literary heritage. Organizational partners for the booklet include the Oklahoma State University Library, Osage Nation, Osage Tribal Museum, University of Oklahoma Press, FOLIO, Oklahoma Humanities Council and WE the People project of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, and the Oklahoma State University Native American Student Association.