1.	George Catlin, An Osage Indian Lancing a Buffalo, 1846–1848. [Smithsonian American Art Museum, 1985.66.567]

The name of this Osage chief is variously rendered Gra-Mon, Gra-moie, Gra-to-moh-se, and Gleh-mon. French orthography reduced the name to Clermont, which Americans anglicized as Claremore. He was probably born in the mid-1720s. By the mid-1760s he had assumed the hereditary office of peace chief (Tsi-zhu Gahige) of the main village of the Big Osage in present-day Vernon County, Missouri. Because the duties of his office included diplomatic negotiations with foreigners, French and Spanish officials assumed Clermont was the head chief of the Osages. From at least 1767 through the 1780s, he used the prestige derived from European recognition and trade to strengthen his hand in Osage politics.

In the mid-eighteenth century, some Osages established new villages on the Verdigris and Arkansas Rivers, drawn by the abundance of game and access to trade and war routes southward. The “Arkansas band” became a haven for malcontents from the older villages and was perceived by Osage leaders as a threat to tribal unity. Clermont sought to reestablish the traditional chiefs’ authority over the dissidents by isolating them from the French and Spanish traders and denying them access to the new wealth and weapons revolutionizing Osage life. By channeling trade through his village, he attempted to create a monopoly that would strengthen his prestige and that of his clan.

Although he was a shrewd diplomat and trader, Clermont met his match in St. Louis traders Auguste Chouteau and Jean Pierre Chouteau. The Chouteaus built a trading post, Fort Carondelet, near the Big Osage villages in 1795, after the Spanish government granted them a monopoly of the Osage trade. While Auguste generally managed affairs in St. Louis, Pierre spent much of his time in the Osage villages, consolidating his power there. The Chouteaus’ meddling in tribal politics angered Clermont, and he attempted to limit their influence. They in turn supported his rivals in factional disputes.

After 1796 Clermont seems to disappear from the documentary record; he probably died about that time, though neither the Chouteaus nor the Spanish government recorded the fact. White Hair (Paw-Hiu-Skah), Clermont’s chief rival and the Chouteaus’ chief ally, successfully claimed the office of Tsi-zhu Gahige of the Big Osage villages, though he had no hereditary right to the title.

Further Reading

Burns, Louis F. A History of the Osage People. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2004.

Din, Gilbert C., and Abraham Nasatir. The Imperial Osages: Spanish-Indian Diplomacy in the Mississippi Valley. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1983. 

DuVal, Kathleen. The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

Mathews, John Joseph. The Osages: Children of the Middle Waters. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961. 

Olson, Greg. Indigenous Missourians: Ancient Societies to the Present. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2023.

Rollings, Willard H. The Osage: An Ethnohistorical Study of Hegemony on the Prairie-Plains. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1992.

Published June 26, 2024; Last updated June 27, 2024

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