Biographical / Historical
George Conner, also known as Tse-dah-ha (Buffalo Hide), was born on the Osage Reservation in Kansas in 1870. His parents were Wah-kon-tah Shinka (Little Doctor) and Le-ah-tsa, both of the Little Osage tribe. Le-ah-tsa was the daughter of Wa-caba-shinka (Little Bear) who was the Principal Chief of the Little Osage.
Kansas Militia killed George's father on a return hunting trip shortly after George was born. George's mother married William Conner (Oh-hunka-moie) and approximately five years later, she was also killed. William Conner played a prominent role in reformulating the Osage government in the new Oklahoma Reservation and helped write the first Osage Nation Constitution.
William sent George to live with his Aunt Margaret "Maggie" Lawrence on her ranch west of Grainola. He attended Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania from 1885-1890 and was re-admitted in 1896 and stayed until 1899. During his last years at Carlisle, George assisted with the physical education of fellow students including exercise drills using 3.5-pound Spaulding Indian clubs, a set of which he brought home (now held in NMAI's collection). He also assisted with coaching younger boys in baseball and other athletics at Carlisle. While at Carlisle the second time, he learned harness making and saddle repair. He also participated in Carlisle's "outing" program, which placed student on neighboring Pennsylvania farms in the summer.
Upon return to the Osage Reservation at age twenty-nine, George moved from his boyhood home on the Lawrence ranch to the Osage Nation capital, Pawhuska. There he opened a harness shop and met his wife Lillian House, a matron at the Osage Girl's school. They had five children Letha, Adelia, Victor, Lester, and Don. George served as the Osage National Council Secretary for a number of years.
George and his step-father William also got involved with Osage resistance to the U.S. Government's Allotment Act, otherwise known as the Dawes Act of 1887. This law was designed to open up remaining Indian land in the West to white settlement, by dividing large reservations among the tribal members. Each would receive a small parcel and then U.S. made the remaining "surplus" land available for settlement. The Osage opposed this and William, George, and the tribe worked collectively for nearly two decades to prevent the reservation from allotment. In 1906, U.S. Congress passed the Osage Allotment Act, making the Osage one of the last tribes in Oklahoma to accept allotment. The tribe was also able collectively to retain the mineral rights of the reservation.
George and Lillian moved from Pawhuska, started farming west of Grainola, Oklahoma, and remained on the farm the rest of their lives. George died in 1936 at the age of 66 years old.
[Biography written by Dr. Joe L. Conner (George Conner's grandson) in 2012 and edited by E. Moazami (NMAI Assistant Head Archivist) in 2018.]