This is George Catlin’s painting of Osceola.
Iowa has an Osceola County and also a city named Osceola, which is located in Clarke County.
A high school girl’s basketball team, the Clarke County Indians, put together a poster celebrating their upcoming season. The poster was very well made from a photographic standpoint, but totally clueless in its sensitivity to cultural and racial issues. There is a fairly active debate on Facebook regarding whether or not it was culturally insulting, with some people arguing that this is a made-up issue, or political correctness gone wild.
The answer is pretty obvious. We are all clueless here.
Race doesn’t matter in America. Until it does. Then it can become everything.
I went to North Mahaska schools, never knowing who Chief Mahaska was. (There were actually two). Poweshiek, Keokuk, Black Hawk, Wapello, and Appanoose all spent time in Iowa. Osceola did not.
Osceola was of mixed blood, probably mostly Caucasian but also Creek, and raised as a Creek. He was part of a band that fled to Florida after being defeated by United States troops. There he joined the Seminole, and fought with them in the Second Seminole War.
He was captured under a flag of truce in 1837, and placed in prison. Americans generally were pretty ashamed of the treatment he got, and it caused a national scandal. George Catlin rushed to South Carolina and convinced Osceola to allow him to paint his portrait, which is shown here. Osceola died of disease while in prison within a few months of this painting.
I think it is great that we have counties and cities in Iowa that are named after Native American leaders, even those that did not live here.
But we should take the time and effort to know who they were.