In his first speech as Principal Chief, John Red Eagle said he would “call for a day of reconciliation” to bring everyone together.

And the hundreds of people who watched him get sworn into office Wednesday in Pawhuska applauded several times as Red Eagle took them through several historic remembrances, acknowledgements of the Nation’s past principal chiefs and some of his initial plans as the Executive Branch’s leader.

Former Oklahoma state Rep. Scott BigHorse also took oath of office as assistant principal chief Aug. 4 after Osage Nation Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Lohah swore Red Eagle into office. Red Eagle and BigHorse earned the most votes over their fellow candidates in the June 7 election and both won the July 19 runoff election.

“This day of reconciliation will bring us back together so we can bring those communications so we can walk together, the rancher, the Indian, the workers” Red Eagle said in his remarks shortly after taking oath. “We’re going to look to these things, the things we want to accomplish, the things we want for this government, the things we want for our culture, the things we want for our people, the education you want your children and grandchildren to have. That’s that day of reconciliation, that’s that day of prayer, that’s that day of unity and we will have it.”

Red Eagle is the second principal chief sworn into office since the Nation’s reformed government started in 2006. He said he plans to move past the political tensions which occurred between the legislative and executive offices in the three-branch government as it took off during former Principal Chief Jim Gray’s second tenure.

“I’m going to do my best to strive for a unity that’s going to bring these branches as a culture-working unit together,” said Red Eagle, “and I will protect and serve the Osage people to the best of my ability and forever uphold this title of principal chief with my upmost respect because of men who have served before me. Men like Chief Charles Tillman, men like Chief Jim Gray, Men like Chief Paul Pitts and George Tall Chief because they see and they foresaw what this Nation needs as a government and they see and they foresaw what this Nation needs as a people and they see and they foresaw what the headright shareholder needs and we’re going to look even further than that in the people of this community, the people of this area. We’re going to see that, we’re going to look and see what they’re in need of and we can help. We will be in power.”

Full house

The 10 a.m. inauguration was held at the Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center which had a full parking lot prior to its start. Osage Nation maintenance crews controlled the traffic flow and gave rides for the elderly and handicapped who parked far from the Cultural Center. An overflow parking area was created in the neighboring ALCO store’s lot.

More than 300 people filled the Cultural Center which had every chair taken and required maintenance crews to bring in additional chairs for those who arrived shortly after the event started. Officers from the American Legion Post 198 and Marine Corps League Osage Detachment No. 669 posted the flag colors then Congressman Archie Mason greeted the crowd.

“What a beautiful and historic day this is. Welcome to you all as you witness and sanction this extremely newsworthy event,” Congressman Archie Mason told the audience in his welcome address. “Two men will soon become our Nation’s leaders. The title of Ki-He-Kah will be bestowed upon one of these men – duly elected by you Osage people. The title of Ki-He-Kah O-Wah-Tah will be bestowed upon the other man… a historic moment indeed.

“We the Wah-Zha-Zhi, based on centuries of being the people, watch the beginning of change this day and strengthening of our government and Nation in order to preserve and perpetuate a full and abundant and prosperous way of life that benefits all Osages, living and yet unborn.

“We continue to pay homage to generations of Osage leaders of the past. We shall never ever forget their wisdom,” Mason said. “We now come together this day, this moment so that we may once more unite as a Nation and as a people. We asked these men to represent us as they pursue justice, fairness, passion and respect for and protection of our children, our elders – all fellow beings in our Osage Nation.”

Red Eagle was sworn into office by Lohah at 10:39 a.m. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. Two minutes later, BigHorse took oath with the same pledge and also received a standing ovation.

A ‘humbled’ Principal Chief

Red Eagle, who is the first full-blooded Osage to be elected principal chief since Chief Paul Pitts, told the attendees he is “very humbled this day, this time I speak to you as your principal chief.”

Red Eagle recalled the 1950s when his uncle Paul Pitts was Chief and his family went to Washington, D.C., to testify before the U.S. Congress. “I never thought I’d be standing in the same shoes he was standing in today.”

“I grew up in this area, I grew up in Pawhuska. I was born in my grandfather’s allotment in Barnsdall, Okla. One of the things I said when (my father) passed, the late Ed Red Eagle Sr., I said he taught us one thing: He taught me and my brothers … my mother… they taught us how to be Osage and I’m very proud of that today.”

Red Eagle spoke about the stories shared by his relatives growing up including that of Wa-Ti-Anka who visited the present-day Osage Country shortly before the 1870s land purchase and saw “black stuff” which rose out of the ground. “This is what my father told me: This man, he went back to the tribal leaders and he told them that what’s coming out (of the ground) is going to benefit your people in the days to come. He said ‘I don’t know how and I don’t know why but it’s going to benefit them.’

” Red Eagle referred to the Nation’s government reform period which called for “economic renewal” and eventually led to the creation of the Nation’s Limited Liability Company which seeks to create non-gaming revenue-making business opportunities for the tribe and more resources for education and health care, including the $500 health benefit card.

“And that can only be a start, I feel that we can offer you even more than that. If we get together, we can do what we have the ability to do for our people,” Red Eagle said, which earned one of several rounds of audience applause and drum beats from the drum group which performed the event’s flag and honor songs.

Red Eagle reiterated his pledge to support “that I would support the independence of the 1906 Act and the people of the Minerals Council – they have a special place in my heart.”

“My dad served in the 1950s and the 1960s and the 1970s. I’ve seen the Minerals Council change every four years. I’ve sat up there on that Agency Campus in the day and we’d wait all night (during elections) before the results come in,” Red Eagle said. “I remember those days – we had to do that in this last election with this Minerals Council. We didn’t get the final results until 6 o’clock (a.m.).” The crowd laughed as Red Eagle quipped: “We were goin’ back to the old days!”

“I’m going to give them (Minerals Council members) the independence that they have need of to help us… That means that if they should go to Washington to talk to (the U.S.) Congress, then they have the right to do that,” Red Eagle said which earned applause.

Red Eagle also acknowledged the economic development efforts started, which includes the LLC, as these developments could create more job opportunities so tribal members can move back. “And I think that we need it. As I came home six years ago, I used to drive Highway 11 over the hill by Avant and I’m looking at the rolling hills of the Osage and I said: ‘there’s a lot of people who need to see this, there’s a lot of people who need to know about this area and what it represents.’”

Initial announcements, plans

Red Eagle announced several people who will have appointed positions in his cabinet. They are: Raymond Lasley Jr., Everett Waller, Paul Allen, Leonard Maker and Chris White. Red Eagle did not say what titles or duties they will have but will announce them next week. Also joining Red Eagle’s cabinet is Deidre Bigheart.

Linda Teeman, who was Red Eagle’s executive assistant while he was assistant principal chief will keep her post. Carrie Rogers, who was an assistant in Gray’s administration, will be BigHorse’s assistant. Former Congresswoman Faren Revard Anderson will be the executive adviser.

Red Eagle then announced he is dropping two lawsuits Chief Gray filed against the Legislative Branch during his second term as well as the communication protocol (referred to as a “gag order” by several tribal members) set by Gray which limited communication between Executive Branch employees and the ON Congress on his branch’s operations.

“I’m going to drop the OFPR lawsuit and open meetings lawsuit against the Osage Nation Congress. I’m going to drop the so-called ‘gag order’ and set new guidelines,” which also garnered a round of applause and cheers.

Red Eagle closed his address with some Biblical verses before saying aloud: “Thank you Lord for creating me as an Osage.”

Tribal member Patricia Bright, who worked on Red Eagle’s campaign as his treasurer described Inauguration Day as a “great” one.

“My heart is full and I feel like the tribe’s been blessed again,” she said. Red Eagle and BigHorse raised their right hands when taking oath and swore on the following pledge:

“I (state your name), do proudly swear or affirm to carry out the responsibilities of (the office elected to) to the best of my ability, freely acknowledging that the powers of this office flow from the Osage people and Wa-Kon-Tah. I further swear or affirm always to place the interests of all Osages above any special or personal interests and to respect the rights of future generations to share the rich, historic and natural heritage of our Osage people. In doing so, I will always uphold and defend the Constitution of the Osage Nation, so help me God.”