Principal Chief John Red Eagle spent the week of Sept. 27 in Washington D.C. meeting with Department of Interior officials about placing three tracts of Osage land into trust.
“I met with Interior Assistant Secretary Larry Echohawk and his top staff in Washington on [Sept. 29] and Mr. Echohawk reaffirmed his commitment to expedite the processing of our applications,” Red Eagle said. “He directed his staff to ensure that his commitment is followed by BIA staff at the Pawhuska and Muskogee offices.”
The Nation has until Oct. 22 to file its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Nation’s reservation status case.
“Our attorney in the case is Patricia Millett, who is very competent and well known at the Court,” Red Eagle said. “I will confer soon with [Osage Nation Congressional] Speaker [Jerri Jean] Branstetter to determine if there is interest from Congress in hearing an update from Millett.”
Millet, of Washington D.C.-based firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, co-heads the firm’s Supreme Court practice and has argued 28 cases before the Supreme Court, according to the firm’s Web site. From August 1996 to September 2007, Millett served as an assistant to the solicitor general in the Office of the Solicitor General at the U.S. Department of Justice, in Washington, D.C. During that time she argued 25 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and she briefed more than 50 cases.
Three casinos still in jeopardy
The three casinos in question are located in Skiatook, Ponca City and north Tulsa. The state of Oklahoma could shut down all three casinos because they are not on federal trust land, which is required by the National Indian Gaming Commission. However, all three of the tribe’s land-into-trust applications have been filed with the DOI and the state has not shown any interest that they will shut down the Nation’s casinos.
The tribe found itself in this situation when their nine-year-old case against the Oklahoma state Tax Commission, in which the tribe alleges the state of Oklahoma does not have the right to tax Osage tribal members who work and live on the Osage reservation, didn’t go in their favor.
The tribe was denied a rehearing May 25 by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, forcing the tribe to either live with the decision or file an appeal to the Supreme Court. The tribe was granted an extension to Oct. 22 by Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor July 14, since the tribe was going through runoff elections and new leadership would be deciding the tribe’s next move. The original deadline was Aug. 23.
The land-into-trust process is a difficult one and could take anywhere from six months to three years.
“While the Interior Department employees must follow appropriate federal laws and regulations, they continue to be very diligent and helpful in this process,” Red Eagle said.