Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp

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Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. Seeking to attain his tribe's highest war honor by touching his enemy. This action among indigenous peoples is called "Counting Coup".
Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. “Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp” is a bronze created by Osage Artist John Free. The bronze, eight feet high and twelve feet long) was enlarged to 1-1/4 life size through the efforts of John Free of the Bronze Horse foundry in Pawhuska and Hugh Pickens. Pictured (L-R): Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear of the Osage Nation.

Seeking to attain his tribe's highest war honor by touching his enemy. This action among indigenous peoples is called "Counting Coup". One example of counting Coup in Indian wars would be when a warrior would hit his enemy with a stick. This would change the enemies energy, by just letting him know that you are not frightened and if you had really wanted to hurt him you could have. This act of physically touching your enemy without seriously hurting him can take away or disarm the enemy's anger. It creates an opportunity for the enemy to think about, and consider what he is doing and gives him a chance to remember that all life is sacred.

Counting Coup

Among the Plains Indians of North America, counting coup involved the winning of prestige against an enemy. Native American warriors won prestige by acts of bravery in the face of the enemy, which could be recorded in various ways and retold as stories. Any blow struck against the enemy counted as a coup, but the most prestigious acts included touching an enemy warrior with a hand, bow, or coup stick and escaping unharmed. Touching the first enemy to die in battle or touching the enemy's defensive works also counted as coup, as did, in some nations, simply riding up to an enemy, touching him with a short stick, and riding away unscathed.

Counting coup could also involve stealing an enemy's weapons or horses tied up to his lodge in camp. Risk of injury or death was required to count coup. Escaping unharmed while counting coup was considered a higher honor than being wounded in the attempt.

After a battle or exploit, the people of a band would gather together to recount their acts of bravery and "count coup". Coups were recorded by putting notches in a coup stick. Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest would tie an eagle feather to their coup stick for each coup counted, but many nations did not do so. Among the Blackfoot nation of the upper Missouri River Valley, coup could be recorded by the placement of "coup bars" on the sleeves and shoulders of special shirts that bore paintings of the warrior's exploits in battle. Many shirts of this sort have survived to the present, including some in European museums. In some tribes, a warrior who won coup was permitted to wear an eagle feather in his hair, and if wounded in the attempt, he was required to paint the feather red to indicate this.

Among the Plains Indians

Counting coup, or striking an enemy, was the highest honor earned by warriors participating in the intertribal wars of the Great Plains. Native peoples recognized precise systems of graduated war honors, and usually the greatest exploit was counting coup. Key to a man's success in Plains combat was demonstrating his own courage by proving superiority over his opponent and, in a competitive sense, over his own comrades. Killing was part of war, but showing courage in the process was more important for individual status. This was best accomplished by risking one's life in charging the enemy on foot or horseback to get close enough to touch or strike him with the hand, a weapon, or a "coupstick."

Humiliating the enemy also played a part in this fighting, as illustrated by an account from the Jesuit missionary Father Pierre-Jean De Smet. In De Smet's 1848 visit to the Oglala Lakotas, the Oglala leader Red Fish related to the priest how his men had just suffered a disgraceful defeat at the hands of the Crows. The Crows killed ten Oglalas, then chased the others for a distance. The Crows then were content merely to repeatedly count coup on their enemies with clubs and sticks, thus demonstrating to the Oglalas that they were not worth the ammunition needed to kill them.

Counting coup carried over into the battles against American troops. For example, the Northern Cheyenne warrior Wooden Leg related how, as a young man at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, he and his friend Little Bird chased a soldier across the river, counting coup on him with their whips and grabbing his carbine. They did not kill him, said Wooden Leg, because after counting coup it did not seem particularly brave, and besides, it would waste bullets. Counting coup, then, was the epitome of a type of warfare that pitted the skill and daring of one man against another.

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About Pickens Museum

Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. Seeking to attain his tribe's highest war honor by touching his enemy. This action among indigenous peoples is called "Counting Coup".
Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. “Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp” is a bronze created by Osage Artist John Free. The bronze, eight feet high and twelve feet long) was enlarged to 1-1/4 life size through the efforts of John Free of the Bronze Horse foundry in Pawhuska and Hugh Pickens. Pictured (L-R): Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear of the Osage Nation.
Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman by Artist Daniel Pickens. “Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman” is a mural painted by fine artist Daniel Pickens. Daniel was born in Lima, Peru in 1974 and is currently living in Stockholm, Sweden. This mural is at our Ponca City location.
Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman by Artist Daniel Pickens. Our mural "The Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman" is located in City Central at our Ponca City location.
Doctor Pickens Museum of Turquoise Jewelry and Art. Pickens Museum displays art works at NOC Tonkawa campus. Pictured (L-R): Dr. Cheryl Evans, NOC President, Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum, and Sheri Snyder, NOC Vice President for Development and Community Relations. (photo by John Pickard/Northern Oklahoma College) This art is at our Tonkawa location
Native American Artist Yatika Starr Fields Completes Mural for Pickens Museum.
The World's Largest Naja. Future location of Pickens Museum on Route 60 and "U" Street West of Ponca City
Architectural Renderings of Pickens Museum.
Display of Turquoise Jewelry.
"Red Man" by Native American Artist Fritz Scholder. Pickens Museum Director Hugh Pickens on right.
Native American Jewelry Artist Tonya Rafael with a silver frame she created to honor my wife Sr. S.J. Pickens. My wife and Tonya worked together over the years creating new jewelry art pieces. My wife had an eye for color and would often design a spectacular piece and ask Tonya to execute it for her. A skilled silversmith, Tonya would sometimes stay in our guest house, set up a workshop, and work for days at a time on a Squash Blossom, Bolo, or Bracelet my wife commissioned. The piece is a silver picture frame that Tonya cut out of thick silver plate. Around the edge of the picture frame are 95 small turquoise stones. In the top is a large spiny oyster stone in the shape of a heart. The frame contains a photo that Tonya took of my wife a few years ago. Dr. Pickens is wearing one of her favorite outfits and if you look closely you can see a special squash blossom and necklace that Tonya created for my wife. In the bottom of the frame is an inscription.
Native American Artist Jolene Bird. Jolene Bird is an accomplished artist who learned her craft from her grandfather over 20 years ago. Jolene makes her jewelry in the tradition of the Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico. This is a Fender Stratocaster guitar onto which Jolene has attached pieces of Kingman and Sonoran Turquoise highlighted with Jet. The stars are in Abalone, Mother of Pearl, Pipestone, Yellow Serpentine, and Spiny Oyster. The artistry in this piece is simply breathtaking and has to be seen to be believed. Consider that this is a three dimensional mosaic, a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle if you will. Jolene told me that each individual piece of turquoise had to be cut, shaped, and ground down to fit perfectly with the other pieces. Each individual piece probably took six to eight hours to produce and there are literally hundreds of pieces covering the guitar.
Painting by Peruvian Artist Josue Sanchez. Photo Credit: Hugh Pickens Pickens Museum

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