Free Public Event Celebrates Maria Tallchief Quarter, Unveiling of New Statue Honoring Marjorie Tallchief
OSAGE NATION RESERVATION, OKLA. (October 2, 2023) - The Osage Nation, in partnership with the United States Mint, the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, and the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum, invite the community to celebrate Osage prima ballerina Maria Tallchief’s image and Osage name being featured on the 10th coin in the American Women Quarters™ Program. The event will be held on Sunday, October 29, 2023, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum. The program notably includes an unveiling of a new bronze statue of Marjorie Tallchief, Maria’s sister, whose original statue, created by Monte England and Gary Henson and unveiled in 2007, was stolen last year from the Five Moons sculpture garden, located on the front lawn of the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum. The event is free and open to the public.
Special guests include elected officials from the Osage Nation along with representatives from other sovereign tribal nations, as well as Marilynn Malerba, the United States Treasurer and 18th chief of the Mohegan Nation. Key presenters on the program include Elise Paschen, Maria’s daughter, who is a world-renowned poet and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who will also offer a book signing during the event. Special guest speakers include the Smithsonian Under Secretary for Museums and Culture, Kevin Gover (Pawnee), as well as Misty Copeland, former principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre and the first African American woman to earn the position in the company’s history. The festivities include performances by the Wahzhazhe Ballet and students from Daposka Ahnkodapi, the Osage Nation’s immersion school. Children’s book readings and activities will be provided by staff from the United States Mint and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum.
Maria Tallchief is considered America's first major prima ballerina, an accomplishment amplified by the fact that she is also the first indigenous woman to earn the rank. A member of the Osage Nation, Maria was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996 and received a National Medal of Arts in 1999. Maria joins the short list of exceptionally accomplished women featured on the United States Quarter, including Wilma Mankiller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, Celia Cruz, and more.
“The Maria Tallchief Quarter” depicts Maria in one of her break-out roles, “The Firebird,” in a spotlit balletic pose. Significantly, Maria's Osage name is etched on the coin, an act of tribal sovereignty guided by numerous Osage leaders, including Dr. Herman Mograine Lookout, Vann Bighorse, and Chad Renfro. “Wa-Xthe-Thoṉba,” her Osage name highlighted on the coin, translates to “Two Standards” and was given to Tallchief by the Osage Tribal Council when the state of Oklahoma created “Maria Tallchief Day” on June 29, 1953. The name was selected by her grandmother, Eliza Bigheart Tall Chief, to reflect Tallchief’s life in two worlds – as an Osage woman who danced to traditional songs and as a prima ballerina who danced her way into the hearts of ballet lovers worldwide. Seventy years later, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum will proclaim Sunday, October 29, 2023, Maria and Marjorie Tallchief Day.
For more information, contact the Osage Nation Communications Department at @email or call (918) 770-3931.
Maria Tallchief (1925 - 2013) was born to Alex and Ruth Porter Tallchief in Fairfax, OK, and as a young girl excelled at dance and playing piano. In 1933, Alex and Ruth moved Maria and her sister Marjorie to California, where they began more formalized ballet training under Ernest Belcher and later Bronislava Nijinska, a respected Russian dancer and choreographer and sister to the esteemed Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.
After graduating from Beverly Hills High School at the age of 17, Maria went to New York and earned a spot in the preeminent Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. George Balanchine, an acclaimed Russian dancer and choreographer, joined the company in 1943. Maria and Balanchine married in 1946, and the couple went on to originate some of the most iconic roles still performed in ballet today, including Swan Lake, Orpheus, The Firebird, and The Nutcracker. Although the couple’s marriage was annulled, together, they revolutionized ballet in America and continued to work together during the rise of the New York City Ballet as a leader in the ballet world.
In 1956, Maria married Henry “Buzz” Paschen – her “blue-eyed sailor,” as she called him. Their daughter, Elise, was born in 1959. Tallchief retired from performing in the 1960s, founded the ballet school of the Lyric Opera, and served as artistic director at the Chicago City Ballet.
Marjorie Tallchief (1926 - 2021) was the first American and first indigenous woman to earn the rank of première danseuse étoile at the Paris Opéra Ballet. Marjorie was married to artistic director, ballet master, and choreographer George Skibine. Their twin sons, Alexander and George, grew up surrounded by ballet and went on to become attorneys with expertise in indigenous law.
Marjorie performed with the American Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (1946-47), the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas (1948-55), Ruth Page's Chicago Opera Ballet (guest artist, 1958–62), and the Harkness Ballet (prima ballerina, 1964–66). Her most acclaimed roles were performed in Night Shadow (1950), Annabel Lee (1951), Idylle (1954), Romeo and Juliet (1955), and Giselle (1957). She served as director of dance for the Civic Ballet Academy in Dallas, Texas, and for the Chicago City Ballet. In 1989, she became the director of dance for the Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, FL, where she remained until her retirement in 1993.
Marjorie was the last surviving dancer of the “Five Moons,” a group of indigenous ballerinas from Oklahoma who rose to fame during the 20th century. Maria and Marjorie, along with Rosella Hightower (1920 - 2008), Moscelyne Larkin (1925 - 2012), and Yvonne Chouteau (1929 - 2016), comprised the Five Moons, who were also featured in Chickasaw artist Mike Larsen’s tribute mural “Flight of Spirit,” located in the Great Rotunda of the Oklahoma State Capitol.
# # # #