Senator Charles Ford announced the dedication of another original painting commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc. The painting, titled “Mahongo” by nationally renowned artist Mike Wimmer of Norman, was unveiled during a ceremony in the Senate Chamber this afternoon.
Mahongo was an Osage woman at the Chouteau camp on the Neosho River in Indian Territory, who was among a group taken to Europe under false pretenses. In 1827, a French adventurer, David Dulauney, falsely assumed the role of U.S. representative and persuaded a group of Osages to accompany him to Washington to meet the President. Instead they were taken to Europe where they were forced to perform native dances in a Wild West show that traveled throughout the continent.
The Osage dancers were very popular and were presented to and performed for the royal court of Charles X of France, the event portrayed in the painting. Unfortunately they were eventually abandoned in Paris and wandered homeless until they came to the attention of Lafayette who paid for their return to the United States.
Three years after arriving in Europe, Mahongo eventually did meet President Andrew Jackson and was given the peace medal. Charles Bird King painted her portrait with her child, which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
“This is an exceptional piece that displays the exploitation that Native Americans faced. This is an interesting story that most citizens would have never known about,” said Ford.
Jessica Moore, the 2003-2004 OSU Native American Student Association princess, was chosen as the model for Mahongo. Jessica’s grandfather Joe Benny Mason also posed for art in the State Capitol. He is depicted as the central figure of an Osage Chief in Charles Banks Wilson’s mural titled “Frontier Trade 1790-1830,” in the rotunda.
The painting is a gift from Senator Ford. He will end his thirty-eight year legislative career in 2004. He was first elected in 1966 to the Oklahoma House of Representatives, where he served for fourteen years, and was then elected in 1981 to the Oklahoma Senate. Because of his efforts, generations of Oklahomans will be able to enjoy a beautifully restored Capitol building decorated with fine art. He is the founder of the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc., a non-profit organization which has commissioned numerous works of original art depicting scenes from Oklahoma history and portraying prominent Oklahomans, all at no cost to the state.
“It has been such an honor and a pleasure to be able to oversee the restoration and preservation projects. When I came to the Legislature, I was embarrassed by the appearance of the Capitol. Here was a noble, historic building that no one wanted to come visit because there was nothing to look at inside. It was plain and ugly,” noted Senator Ford. “That’s what inspired me to create the fund. I wanted the people of Oklahoma to have a building that they could be proud of – a building filled with our rich history. Today, the Oklahoma State Capitol is one of the most beautiful government buildings in the country.”
After the unveiling, Principal Chief of the Osage Nation, Jim Gray presented Senator Ford with a blanket, an Osage tradition symbolizing friendship.
This and other art commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc. can be found on the Internet at: http://www.lsb.state.ok.us/senate/welcome.html.