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Famed Oklahoma ballerina sisters are being memorialized in metal

Marjorie Tallchief's statue before it was stolen in 2022 and Maria Tallchief is featured on coins minted in 2023.
Tulsa Historical Society
U.S. Mint
Marjorie Tallchief's statue before it was stolen in 2022 and Maria Tallchief is featured on coins minted in 2023.

The famed Tallchief ballerina sisters — Maria and Marjorie — are having a moment this month in Tulsa.

The Tallchiefs were Osage citizens and were considered to be two of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th Century, at a time when European women dominated the art form. They grew up in Fairfax, where a theater is named after them. The family eventually moved to Los Angeles, so they could better study ballet.

Maria Tallchief was considered America's first major prima ballerina, while Maria Tallchief was the first Native American to be become première danseuse étoile in the Paris Opera Ballet.

First, Marjorie Tallchief’s statue is coming back to Tulsa.

Last year, her bronze statue was stolen from the Five Moons sculpture garden in front of the Tulsa Historical Society. It was eventually found in a nearby scrapyard, but was in pieces.

The community and the original sculptors Monte England and Gary Henson rallied, and a new one was created. The new statue will be unveiled and rededicated during an event this month in Tulsa.

The event will also celebrate "The Maria Tallchief Quarter", depicts Maria in one of her break-out roles, "The Firebird," in a spotlit ballet pose and includes her Osage name etched on the coin.

The event will take place on Oct. 29 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Tulsa Historical Society, and is open to the public. The collaborative event will be put on by Osage Nation, The United States Mint, Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, and Tulsa Historical Society & Museum.

To top it all off, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum will declare that day Maria and Marjorie Tallchief Day.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
Oklahoma Public Media Exchange
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