'Flower Moon' film song is an ode to endangered Osage language

The song is featured in the final scene of the Oscar best-picture nominee ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ a drama directed by Martin Scorsese

Rollo RossReuters
Published : 21 Feb 2024, 06:17 AM
Updated : 21 Feb 2024, 06:17 AM

Songwriter Scott George is looking forward to the performance of the Osage Nation song "Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)" at the 96th Oscars ceremony on Mar 10. 

The song is featured in the final scene of the Oscar best-picture nominee “Killers of the Flower Moon,” a drama directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Indigenous actor Lily Gladstone and Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio. 

“The song itself is telling our people to get up,” George, a member of the Osage Nation, told Reuters during a rehearsal of the Oscar-nominated song at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. 

"It's ‘Wahzhazhe no-zhin te-tha-bey,’ which means just ‘to stand up,’ and then the next phrase is ‘Wa-kon-da they-tho gah-ka-bey,' which means 'God made it for us,'” he added. 

For George and others in the Osage tribe, the performance of the song before millions Oscar viewers on TV will remind everyone that their people still exist. 

“We still have what we've always had for thousands of years. It's sitting here and here it is in front of you," he said. 

“Wahzhazhe” will be performed live by members of the Osage tribe who will gather in a circle around a sacred drum. 

George wants the audience to watch the performance with an open mind. 

“Most people, they don't hear our music. They hear the same thing, and they think all of our songs sound the same,” he said. “But if you'll train your ear for it, you'll know everyone is different.” 

The song's title, “Wahzhazhe,” refers to the original name of the Osage people before it was changed by French colonisers who could not pronounce it. 

Colonisation also took a toll on the native Osage language, which now barely survives. 

"It's in an endangered state,” Vann Bighorse, an Osage performer and cabinet minister for language, culture and education, said. "We don't have any more fluent speakers, but we are working towards fluency the best we can." 

For the Osage people, the tradition of song helps keep the language and culture alive. 

"We're not doing any of this for ourselves. We just do it for our love of our culture,” said one of the Osage singers, Angela Satepauhoodle Toineeta.