PAWHUSKA, OK – The Osage Nation, in partnership with the U.S. Mint, the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, and the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum, will 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 1:00 to 5:00pm 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. quarter, including Wilma Mankiller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, and Celia Cruz, to name a few.
“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.