Osage Congresswoman Shannon Edwards is the subject matter of some angry Osage shareholders lately.
Edwards introduced a bill, ONCA 11-51, during the congressional Hun-Kah session that asked for an audit of the Nation’s S-510 account. She asked that the ON Treasurer audit and segregate the funds in the account.
The S-510 account contains money that is generated by a piece of Kansas property left to the Nation by a non-Indian for the benefit of Osage tribal annuitants, or Osage shareholders. The management of the property has been with the Osage Minerals Council since 2006.
The bill prompted many angry posts about Edwards personally on osageshareholders.org, which is mostly populated by anti-Osage Constitution shareholders who are adamant the Congress and Chief’s Office stay out of Minerals Council business.
“This money does not relate to the mineral estate, it is not Osage minerals, it’s in Kansas, but it does require the Osage tribe annuitants benefit from it,” Edwards said in a Congressional Governmental Operations committee meeting April 1. “And from its current status . . . I don’t think that is happening.”
Edwards pointed out that as a shareholder herself, and others like her, she has never been told exactly what funds are held in the account and that the account is under the Nation’s control. After some investigation, she found that not only is there income from grazing leases, but there is income from map sales, interest has accrued on the account and headright money is also going into the account.
According to Edwards, more than $565,000 sits in the S-510 account, but the money sits in multiple bank accounts and she couldn’t tell if they were in separate banks or not. She also noted that there were expenditures by the current OMC out of the account under the name Osage Tribal Council, but she didn’t know what for.
The S-510 account drew notice last year when the OMC voted to send $50,000 out of the account to the plaintiffs in the Jech vs. United States case, a case that sought to dismantle the 2006 ratification of the Osage Constitution and 2006 elections and return the new government to the old Osage Tribal Council. The case was dismissed March 31 because the plaintiffs did not exhaust all their legal avenues before filing the case.
To date, the OMC has not sent the $50,000 to the Jech plaintiffs.
Members of the OMC that attended the committee meeting April 1 voiced their opposition to the bill, including Councilwoman Cynthia Boone who said she was “disappointed” that the Osage Congress would meddle in OMC affairs. She also said the account is for the benefit of the shareholders and has always been managed by the OMC.
Many members of the Osage Congress kept mum about the bill until the day of the vote April 12, but Edwards alluded to much lobbying on behalf of the OMC to vote the bill down.
“Some of you might have been caught off guard by the pressure put on you by individuals in our chambers, in our offices, and in our homes – trying to keep this bill from passing,” Edwards said during the congressional session April 12. “Why would anyone try to keep the Osage people from knowing about the existence, source and amount of these funds?
“Well, no matter, these funds are known now, and their existence cannot be ignored or defined away.”
The bill failed, 8-4, with the four “yes” votes coming from Congressmen Eddy Red Eagle, Anthony Shackelford and Congresswomen Shannon Edwards and Jerri Jean Branstetter.
Those who spoke in opposition of the bill, Congressmen Archie Mason, Mark Simms, Raymond Red Corn, William “Kugee” Supernaw and Geoffrey Standing Bear all had the same premise – that yes, the account needs to be audited but that it was a matter between the OMC and the Chief’s Office – not the Osage Congress.
Osage Minerals Councilman Galen Crum posted to the osageshareholders.org Web site April 13 that the four congress members who voted for the bill should be remembered at election time next year.
“If one is going to put a big black mark on their re-election score card beside the names of those that voted for the bill (Edwards, Red Eagle, Shackelford [and] Branstetter), one should also put two big shiny gold stars beside the names of those that voted against it,” he wrote.
Edwards, Red Eagle, Shackelford and Branstetter are all up for re-election in the June, 2012 elections that will ask Osages to vote for six Congressional offices. So far no one has declared his or her candidacy.
The Osage News asked OMC Chairman Dudley Whitehorn whether or not the council will be publishing or making public what is exactly in the S-510 account or if they will be doing an audit.
“I can’t speak for the mineral’s council on whether or not they want to talk about the S-510 account, if they want to then we’ll put that on the agenda for the next meeting, but I can’t speak for the council,” Whitehorn said.
The next OMC meeting is 10 a.m. Friday in the council chambers.
The Chief’s Office did not comment by the time this story was published on whether the chief will be addressing the S-510 account with the OMC.