Several years ago the giant Italian energy company, ENEL signed leases with a small number of greedy landowners in the western half of the Reservation to build a wind farm north of Fairfax. ENEL is building an 8,000 acre industrial wind refining plant; euphemistically called a “wind farm” 10 miles as the “eagle flies” from the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve.
After I alerted the Chief who in turn alerted the BIA that ENEL was digging and using 1000’s of tons of minerals owned by the Nation, the BIA ordered ENEL to cease. The Osage mineral estate includes rocks like limestone, not just oil and gas. ENEL did not seek BIA or the Osage Nation approval and claims it did not need their permission to use Osage rock for its’ 90 plus, forty story tall wind turbines.
When ENEL arrogantly ignored the BIA order, the U.S. Attorney in Tulsa filed two suits, one to stop construction and one to tear down turbines already built. ENEL ignoring these suits has continued to build at a frantic pace. About this time and after much cajoling the Osage Congress voted to give the Chief permission to file a suit against ENEL in Osage Tribal Court.
Not long after the U.S. Attorney’s last filing, the Osage Nation Attorney General filed a suit in Tribal Court asking the Court to order ENEL to tear down the turbines. This suit is on hold, as the Nation waits on the federal judge to rule on federal suits.
In the meantime the most important tangible link to our heritage, an unpolluted prairie landscape is being destroyed by gigantic wind turbines. The undisturbed prairie landscape is visual reminder of how our ancestors lived on this sacred land. They lived, loved, and buried their dead on the prairie we inherited. Our ancestors watched the path of Grandfather sun as it rose and set on a pristine prairie horizon. This path over the prairie was symbolic of life’s path, and where the sky (Tzi-Zho) meets the earth (Hun-Kah) on unencumbered horizons that inspired our ancestor’s understanding of our beginnings as a people. The majestic landscape our ancestors lived on will no longer be available to us or our grandchildren if wind turbines are allowed to destroy our link to the past.
While it is true that the U.S. (BIA) has a responsibility to protect the Nation’s assets, it is also true that we Osages as a sovereign Nation have equal responsibility to protect them. Over 100 years ago, Osage Indian Agent Laban Miles commented on the Osage’s fierce opposition to the Allotment Act, wrote, “The Osages believe they are a nation with a capital N”.
We must have the courage to be a Nation with a capital N and not leave the fight to the U.S. So, I say let our Osage Courts hear the case, and assert our sovereign right to protect our property and heritage, and God willing order ENEL to tear down the turbines!
Dr. Joe L. Conner Former Osage Government Reform Commissioner