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Nancy Bellzona's Picture Book
The Osages -
Metza Bertha Big Eagle Jones


Metza Bertha Big Eagle JonesMetza Bertha Big Eagle Jones died January 31, 1938. This photograph was probably taken sometime in the years shortly before her death. She died at her ranch home five miles between Foraker and Grainola, Oklahoma. The home her husband built for her as a bride followed the tradition of the groom building a "long house," for her before they were married.

Bertha was ill when she died. Not only was she suffering from diabetes but with the pulling of her teeth she endured excruciating pain. She had just returned from the agency where they had told her she did not have enough money to go to the Mayo clinic for help.

Shortly after, a scandal was uncovered as to the theft of large sums of money which had to be paid back to the Osage people by the Federal government because of dishonest handling of their monies. Great sums of money were refunded to the people. Since Bertha was no longer living, no money was refunded to her or her estate!

One wonders if in some way she knew about this theft and radically committed suicide, bringing the attention of the authorities to the area. She was very angry with the agency when they left and according to Dennis, she was very verbal with the bureaucrats, contrary to Bertha's peaceful nature. This brings another question to mind. Did the people at the agency take her seriously when she threatened an investigation? One can only speculate as to the reason for such a tragedy.

Everyone who knew Bertha spoke well of her. The neighbors, Anglo-American and German, said she was gentle and patient. They said she was superbly kind to her children. People remembered her as always pleasant and never cross. Some tell how she took time out for them, her neighbor's children, kindly asking of their welfare as to how they were getting along.

Velma Jones, Lee's wife, and Bertha's sister-in-law, remembers a dream she had the night after Bertha's funeral. She said she dreamed she was weeping beside her casket. In her dream Bertha looked up at her, smiled mischievously and said, "Don't cry kid, I'm not really dead, I'm just 'foolin' them."

Bertha was generous. She alone was responsible for the survival of many families in a large radius reaching out to broad areas of Oklahoma. One has to remember how impoverished people were. Just by helping them with the purchase of children's school clothes became a great contribution to their needs.

She was modest herself. However, any gift she shared as to children's toys, machinery for the ranch, wages for the hired hands, clothing for her own children, food, and any material thing was of the best quality. She never skimped on the needs of the people around her. Only recently a man remembered how she brought his own father, Ed Dunlap, out of an impoverished area. She gave him a job on the ranch. Later she saw to it he was employed at Conoco oil in Ponca City where he worked until he retired. The woman to the left of Bertha is Mary Smith, Murray, a cousin. Her Indian name was Ke-Ah-Som-Pah. Her roll number was 831. Her allotment number was 781.

A young man of the Red Corn family saw this picture in 1990 and said, "I like this photograph. It shows our people as they really were, fun loving and happy," This is a good observation because Bertha was fun loving and only at the sunset of her life was she depressed and this mostly over her health condition




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