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TIXIER, VICTOR (1815-1885)

The author of an important book describing the Osage in Kansas and Oklahoma, Victor Tixier was born in the French village of Clermont-Ferrand on March 24, 1815. As a young man he studied medicine in Paris. When ill health interrupted his studies, he decided that travel might speed his recovery and determined to visit America. He arrived in New Orleans on January 27, 1840. With two French companions and James De Berty Trudeau, grandson of Zenon Trudeau, lieutenant-governor of the Illinois country under the Spanish regime, Tixier traveled up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, up the Missouri River to Lexington, Missouri, and then overland to the Osage villages in southeastern Kansas. In June the visitors traveled to the western prairies with their Osage hosts for the annual summer buffalo hunt. Tixier returned to France at summer's end, sailing from New York on September 25, 1840. He later completed his medical studies and settled into practice in the French village of Saint Pont, where he also won recognition for his research and publications in philology and archaeology. He died there in 1885.

In 1844 Tixier published Voyage aux Prairies Osages, Louisiane et Missouri, 1839-40, an account of his American adventure. He was a careful, articulate, and generally objective observer, interested in everything about his hosts and their way of life. His friendship with the well-connected Trudeau won him entry into the inner circles of the old French families of Louisiana and Missouri, as well as the leading families of the Osage. Although his visit was brief, he immersed himself in Osage life and produced a vividly detailed narrative of his experiences and observations among them. He described Osage villages, the dwellings and their occupants, Pierre Papin's trading post and the life of a post trader, as well as customs of Osage daily life such as foodways, rules of hospitality, dress, gender roles, amusements, and fishing and hunting methods. He discussed at some length Osage medical practices, political structure, religious rituals and beliefs, warfare with the Pawnee, the place of mixed-bloods within the tribe, and the organization and conduct of the summer buffalo hunt. As detailed and comprehensive as a trained ethnologist's report, Tixier's description of Osage life remains an invaluable portrait of the people at that moment in their history.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: John Francis McDermott, Tixier's Travels on the Osage Prairies (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1940). John Joseph Matthews, The Osages: Children of the Middle Waters (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961). Willard H. Rollings, The Osage (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1992).

Mary Ellen Rowe

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