Lillie Morrell Burkhart, an Osage tribal member, was born in 1907 near Fairfax, Oklahoma. Lillie was a descendent of Chief White Hair and Chief Pawhuska and was known as the Pawhuska Princess. She was designated Keeper of the Drum in each of the three Osage tribal headquarters - Pawhuska, Fairfax, and Hominy - all Oklahoma towns. Lillie studied journalism at the University of Oklahoma. During her lifetime, she lectured widely on the culture and traditions of her people. She was also well-traveled making several trips across the United States and to Europe on behalf of the Osage people. In 1949, Lillie acted as an interpreter and aid for Osage Chief Fred Look Out accompanying him to Washington D.C. on an official Indian affairs mission. She represented the American Indian at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium and attended a press conference in Mannheim, Germany. The costumes Lillie wore on both trips are now a part of the Marland’s Grand Home collection.
Lillie Morrell married Bryon Burkhart when she was 36 years old. Bryon was the brother of Earnest Burkhart, the only man convicted of any of the multiple 1920’s Osage murders. These murders were a part of a widespread scandal of lawless corruption across northern Oklahoma in the early twentieth century. One of the murder cases sparked a federal investigation. A lawyer traveling to Washington, D. C. to gather evidence was mysteriously thrown off a moving train and killed. Due to this particular crime happening outside of Oklahoma, the case was investigated on the federal level and prompted the establishment of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by J. Edgar Hoover. The bestselling book, Killers of the Flower Moon by David Graham, was written about the murders and released this past year.
The Burkhart’s were childless, so the worry of their children inheriting head rights and possibly being murdered for them did not exist. Lillie was able to stay alive as well; no attempts were made on her life. In turn, she held on to her head right inheritance and died a fairly wealthy woman. Lillie spent her monies traveling and collecting Osage artifacts and clothing items. Lillie died in 1967. Her home, located on Arrowhead Ranch near Ralston, was converted into the White Hair Memorial, a repository for Osage tribal educational materials. In addition, some of Lillie’s artifacts were placed at the memorial and others were given by her to the City of Ponca City’s Indian Museum in the 1950s. These Indian artifacts are now located at the Marland’s Grand Home.
The Marland’s Grand Home recently created a new Lillie Burkhart Clothing Exhibit, as some artifacts were previously interspersed in the American Indian Matriarchal and Patriarchal Rooms and others were in storage. “Lillie’s items, however, were not labeled as belonging to her in those rooms,” said Jayne Detten, Marland Estate and Marland’s Grand Home Assistant Director. “We wanted to showcase Lillie and her contribution to the Osage tribe by displaying more of her beautiful clothing items in a case all of its own.”
The Friends of the Marland’s Grand Home provided funding to purchase additional museum cases last year. Within the American Indian Matriarchal Indian Room, visitors will now find a new Bead and Fabric Exhibit and the new Lillie Burkhart Clothing Exhibit. The touch and feel Bead and Fabric Exhibit features fabrics, beads, and other adornments used by American Indian women to create clothing, shoes, bags, and other items. Burkhart’s exhibit is back to back with the touch and feel exhibit and features ceremonial clothing with related items that belonged to her.
The Marland’s Grand Home is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission costs are $5.00 for adults, $4.00 for seniors 65 and over and military, and $3.00 for youth 17 and under. Ponca City residents are free of charge. For more information on the Marland’s Grand Home, go to marlandgrandhome.com or call 580.767.0427.