Osage Congress passes graves protection law

During the Sept. 18 session, the Fourth Osage Nation Congress unanimously passed legislation to protect Osage graves and allows families to visit their loved ones’ graves on lands no longer owned by Osages.

The bill (ONCA 15-75) is titled the “Osage Grave Protection Act” and states that “any relative of the deceased who wishes to visit or maintain an abandoned cemetery or burial ground which is surrounded by privately owned land shall have the right to reasonable ingress or egress for the purpose of visiting” if no public access way exists and “the right of access to such cemeteries and burials extends to visitations during reasonable hours following a good faith effort to notify the (land’s) owners and tenants.”

Congressman John Maker, who sponsored the bill, said he did so after hearing from Osage families who said they had difficulty visiting their loved ones’ graves that are on land owned by non-Osages.

The proposed law also requires authorities to work with the ON Historic Preservation Office regarding newly reported graves of remains on tribal trust lands.

Also added to Osage law, the bill states that unlawful interference with places of burial will result in monetary fines. Disturbances to graves include removing bodies from graves and stealing objects from the graves. The penalty is a $1,000 fine and/ or a one year jail term.

ONCA 15-75 passed with an 11-0 vote and will be sent to Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear’s office for consideration of action. The Congress meets today at 10 a.m. for Day 12 of the Tzi-Zho Session.