Editor's note: This story was used with permission.
The Pawhuska school board had five applicants to fill the vacancy created by the death of Dr. Mike Priest, and after meeting behind closed doors Aug. 9, the remaining members made their choice: John Star Bighorse.
Bighorse, who works as an inspector the Osage Nation Tax Commission, will serve until Feb. 8 of 2011, when Priest's term would have expired.
Also applying for the spot were Priest's mother-in-law, Nila Thomas, oilman Mark Helmer, funeral director Mark Suiter and chiropractor Garen Kirk.
The appointment means that the school board is unusually populated with Osages: Three of its five members are now Osage – Bighorse, Tom Boone and board president Justin Sellers. Also on the board are Lori Loftis and Donnie Smith.
"It seems like it's our turn," said Bighorse. "Justin got on there first, then Mr. Boone. It's not that we've been treated different but we've been around here forever. And now we happen to have three, and we are all going to work hand in hand and do the best thing for all of the kids."
Bighorse has a degree in education from Haskell University and is the father of three with a fourth child due next month.
"I was born in Pawnee and lived in Pawhuska my whole life except when we pulled stakes and went to Haskell," he said. "We graduated and came back home because we always promised my son John we'd go back to Pawhuska."
He said he wants to teach and coach, but when he graduated from college, it was mid-year and no teaching jobs were available, so he wound up working for the Osage Nation Boys and Girls Club, then transferred to the Tax Commission.
Bighorse currently coaches football with the Bartlesville Bruins White team. He also coaches soccer and baseball and has worked with the 21st Century program in Wynona.
"Just about the only sport I don't coach is basketball," he said. "You can tell by looking at me that I don't play basketball."
Bighorse said he still yearns to teach math and coach, but has decided to pursue a master's degree first. While certified to teach in Kansas, he is not yet certified in Oklahoma.
"I wish I'd never stopped my education," he said. "Now I am anxious to get my master's.
"I feel very honored and privileged to be considered for the school board and look forward to working with the other members and with the superintendent and helping kids."