Metzahe Bertha Big Eagle Jones was
not one‑half, one quarter, or a fraction of another tribe. She was
full‑blood Osage. Her lineage came through the grandfather, Big Eagle or
sometimes called Bloody Hands, because of referring to the talons of
the eagles, as they made their kill. The Big Eagles were large and
strong people, who had the gentleness, kindness, and meekness of a lamb
but the courage of a lion. Bertha was no exception. This was the way
of their personalities going back to the mighty chieftains of the Osage.
It was how they led their people.
Metzahe (First Daughter) Bertha waited at the
edge of the small stream that was a tributary flowing into the Arkansas
River. Her tribe's encampment was close, but she had slipped away from
the teepee. The girl did so at the risk of causing the death of the
duenna*, an elderly female guardian who was appointed to watch over the
young maidens of the tribe.
Guardians accepted the position of duenna,
knowing they would have to give up their lives if one girl slipped away
while under their watch. This ancient Osage tradition was a way of
preserving social order in tribal communities, and it had the added
benefit of keeping a young woman pure before marriage.
As Metzahe looked out across the
stream, she could see the bright reflection of the moon playing
like a child in the quiet waters. Suddenly she was aware as her
loverís approach. Dean was a young American boy with Scots‑Irish
ancestors. They knew each other well, in fact since they were
children. Later on as she matured, the girl had fallen in love with
him. He, too, had slipped away from his people's place to meet her
here. When she looked toward the woods the foliage broke apart as he
stepped out into the light of the moon. His lithe body and strong
stride could have been that of one of her people, and the boy‑man
covered the distance between them in a moment, it seemed.
"Dean, Dean! This is so dangerous! If they
miss me, Old One will give up her life."
"I know, Metzahe, but this is to be
the last time. Tomorrow, be here at the same time and we will leave
together. I have everything arranged for our marriage in another
True to his word, Dean met Metzahe
the next night, and together they fled the area. Because Metzahe
simply disappeared into the night, there was no blame attached to
the guardian. It could have been kidnapping, or animals might have
killed the girl. Meanwhile, the couple was married in a civil
ceremony and they stayed at a hotel in the largest city at the time,
Kansas City, Kansas. The lavishly decorated rooms and fine linen
were what Bertha, Metzahe, would never forget. Even then, Kansas
City was a center of civilization for the western states and was
truly a place of awe for a young girl, who had just stepped away
from the place of her teepee. She was fourteen, and Dean was
They were young lovers who were
learning to know each other. Certainly their lives were meant to be
shared Dean was one race and Metzahe wass a Native granddaughter of
a mighty chief. The girl soon learned she had conceived their
"We must return home." Dean told
his wife, "Now that you are with child, your people will have to
accept our marriage."
"No, Dean! It will not be that easy.
They will try to kill you. I have broken one of our most sacred
laws by marrying outside my tribe, and you will be held partially to
"I will not be killed that easily," Dean
As soon as the two returned, the
war against Dean and Bertha began. Dean knew he must carry a small
pistol with him at all times. The prairie nights were black without
a moon and this was protection, too. They were constantly on the
move, so never could there be more than one night in the same
place. Fortunately, some people came to their aid and hid the couple
away from the men of Metzahe's family, who were duty bound to kill
The young married couple could not
hide forever, and they were eventually discovered. One night, the
Native men of Berthaís family came upon their resting place. One
called out to Dean. His deep, strong voice almost echoed through the
darkness. That was enough to suddenly awaken the two.
"Come on out, White Man, it is time for you
to meet your God!"
Dean picked up the little pistol he
kept with him even as he slept, and he waited. The oldest and
biggest of Metzahe's brothers was now coming toward him. The young
man knew the MEN would beat him to death if given the opportunity.
In a flash, they were on Dean: When one large man grasped him in a
bear hug, Dean brought the cold steel of the pistol up against the
larger man's head.
"Enough! Enough!" The attacker was not
willing to die.
Standing up against the men showed that
Dean was willing to fight for the right to keep his Native wife and
they left him alone. They were warriors who respected him, because
Dean had no fear. Was this characteristic of courage from his
Scottish blood, Irish, or maybe even from the strong vein of Welsh
he carried through his fatherís family?
Now that a small bridge had been built, the
women of the tribe were communicating with Metzahe.
"You know it is very necessary you be
married in the ways of our people," they told her.
"We are married, by his ways," said
"No, you are not married," they were
firm with her. "Not until you are joined in our tribal ceremony.
Our children, as you know, mean everything to us. If you donít have
the blessings of the tribe, how can the child you are carrying be
considered as one of us?Ē Bertha understood and even though the
American schools had fostered in her a different way of living,
still she felt obligated to hold to her traditional ways.
With Metzahe's and Deanís agreement the
wedding was planned. The dress Bertha wore was the customary coat
of a United States officer, which was given to the respected chief
as a gift. All in all there were probably five brides in one
ceremony that day because this was the custom. Some of the brides
wore traditional stove pipe hats made tall with long, standing
feathers. The hats were at least 36 inches tall and the girls were
forced to hold them on their heads while the prairie wind, always
present, tried to jerk them away from their heads.
The coats now worn by the women held no
interest for the men, but somehow, the young brides were attracted
to them, so they were used as a wedding coat. It reflected to those
around that this was, indeed, the daughter of the chief, and in
Metzahe's case, the granddaughter of one of the mightiest chiefs. He
was the chief, who was respected for his valor and intelligence in
protecting and governing his own people with strength, love and
kindness. He would be sensitive to every individual's needs and
that went down to small things such as school clothing for the
children, food for those who needed that, and any other thing to
make their living happier.
Dean wore a full regalia of Metzahe's
tribe, except for headgear. The beaded garters on his leg below
each knee were that of the Faw‑Faw design. There were broadcloth
leggings under the fully beaded britchlot. The colorful ribbon shirt
was out of the finest silk. Finger‑woven belts drops hung down the
side of his legs from the waist. The groom wore no roach because
he was American, not Osage, and he had no Osage name given to him.
The bridesmaids wore the traditional wool
blanket which was folded in such a way as to keep their right arm
free. This was so the girl could cook or work without the blanket
hampering any of her activity. A mixing of blood between the
Scot‑Irish, French and the Natives had already taken place. These
bridesmaids had beautiful features inherited from each race as
well as their Osage lineage.
The finalizing of their vows was to have the
inner forearm of the bride and groom slit with a sharp knife. The
two then placed their arms, one upon the other, so blood flowed
from their veins, together. The wide strip of a finger‑woven
chevron‑patterned belt was draped over the coupleís arms and the
native blood from Metzahe's veins mixed with that of Deanís blue
blood from Scotland, Ireland and Wales causing him to become as
one known to be of her native tribe, Osage and she to be equally as
accepted by his family. Years later this tradition was honored by
the tribal leaders when it was time for Dean to inherit Bertha's
A White man could not be a
beneficiary but Dean was now considered to be Osage and did inherit, by
blood, a fact for which he was proud and told to those around him.
"I'm Osage," he would say. Not
documented today, are the roots that would again agree to this heritage.
* A Spanish word meaning, chaperone.