Osage Nation Historic Preservation Office Provides Cultural Sensitivity Training to Blanchard Springs Caverns
Ozark-St. Francis National Forest, Arkansas -The Osage Nation Historic Preservation Office (THPO) traveled to an important Osage Sacred Site, Blanchard Springs Caverns, to educate Forest Service staff on the sacredness of the caves and the history of the Osage people in the Ozarks.
Ancestral Osages utilized Blanchard Springs Caverns for over a thousand years as a sacred site; however, after the forced removal of the Osage, the cavern became part of the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. Unfortunately, in the 1970s the Forest Service turned the cave system into a tourist attraction. Since the founding of the Osage Nation Historic Preservation Office in 2007, the Osage Nation has worked with the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest to advocate for more of a respectful and appropriate handling of an Osage Sacred Site.
As part of this effort, all staff at Blanchard Springs Caverns and the Sylamore Ranger District were required to attend the Osage Cultural Sensitivity Training in June 2019. Dr. Andrea Hunter (THPO/Director) shared Osage history and detailed the Osage Nation’s relationship with Blanchard Springs Cavern’s administration over the last decade. Sarah O’Donnell (NAGPRA Coordinator) discussed federal preservation laws, threats to Sacred Sites, and the types of Osage sites that require protection. Kilan Jacobs (Tribal Research Assistant) presented information on traditional Osage cultural practices to contextualize Blanchard Springs as sacred.
After this presentation, the Blanchard Springs Caverns administration requested the Osage Nation Historic Preservation Office review and revise the current training guidebook for the cavern’s new staff.
For more information about this effort, please contact:
Location: 100 West Main, Suite 201, Pawhuska, OK 74056