An Osage Journey to Europe, 1827-1830: Three French Accounts

Overview


In 1827 six Osage people—four men and two women—traveled to Europe escorted by three Americans. Their visit was big news in France, where three short publications about the travelers appeared almost immediately. Virtually lost since the 1830s, all three accounts are gathered, translated, and annotated here for the first time in English. Among the earliest writings devoted to Osage history and culture, these works provide unique insights into Osage life and especially into ...
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An Osage Journey to Europe, 1827-1830: Three French Accounts

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Overview


In 1827 six Osage people—four men and two women—traveled to Europe escorted by three Americans. Their visit was big news in France, where three short publications about the travelers appeared almost immediately. Virtually lost since the 1830s, all three accounts are gathered, translated, and annotated here for the first time in English. Among the earliest writings devoted to Osage history and culture, these works provide unique insights into Osage life and especially into European perceptions of American Indians.

William Least Heat-Moon’s introduction poignantly tells of people leaving one alien nation, the United States, to visit an even more alien culture an ocean away. In France the Osages found themselves lionized as “noble savages.” They went to the theater, rode in a hot-air balloon, and even had an audience with the king of France. Many Europeans ogled them as if they were exhibits in a freak show. As the entourage moved through Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, interest in the Osages declined. Soon they were reduced to begging in the suburbs of Paris, without the means to return home.

Translated by Heat-Moon and James K. Wallace, the three featured texts are surprisingly accurate as basic descriptions of Osage history, geography, and lifeways. The French authors, influenced by racist and sexist expectations, misinterpreted some of the behaviors they describe. But they also dismiss rumors of cannibalism among the Osages and observe that “the behavior of some whites . . . was not conducive to giving the Indians a favorable opinion of white morality.”

An Osage Journey to Europe, 1827–1839 offers scholars and general readers both a compelling story and a singular glimpse into nineteenth-century cultural exchange.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
02/01/2014
The Osage, who resided along the Missouri River and its tributaries until being removed to a reservation, first came into contact with the French along the river in the 1670s. In 1827, six of the Osage (four men and two women) were conducted overseas to France by American guides. They visited Paris and began a tour of Europe. Least Heat-Moon (Here, There, Elsewhere) and Wallace (French, emeritus, Univ. of Missouri) have translated, edited, and annotated three contemporary French accounts of the Osage visit: Six Red Indians; History of the Tribe of the Osages, by M.P.V; and Remarks About the Six Red Indians. (Note that only one has a partially ascribed author.) These accounts were virtually lost, obscure sources that few scholars used. They contain fairly accurate descriptions of Osage culture but also reflect the arrogance and prejudice of the French, who, according to M.P.V., were viewed by the Osage as "demigods." The French paraded the Osage through Europe until people quit coming to view them, then abandoned them. The Osage were penniless and forced to beg for food and passage home. Fortunately, some benefactors, most notably the Marquis de Lafayette and Bishop William du Bourg, helped them. VERDICT These newly available translated accounts are highly recommended to all readers interested in the globalization of the Atlantic World.—John R. Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806144030
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 10/10/2013
  • Series: American Exploration and Travel Series
  • Pages: 168
  • Sales rank: 774,921
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


William Least Heat-Moon is the author of Blue Highways: A Journey into America and, most recently, Writing Blue Highways: The Story of How a Book Happened.

James K. Wallace is Professor Emeritus of French at the University of Missouri.

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