Government , Candidates

Second group in Congressional Debates discuss Osage language participation, Constitutional amendments and WYA

SKIATOOK, Okla. – The second group of candidates took the stage in the Osage News Congressional Debates. The second group consisted of: Archie Mason, Hank Hainzinger, John Maker, Jacque Jones and Brandy Lemon.

Each candidate was given two minutes for opening remarks, three minutes to answer each question, one minute for a rebuttal or additional comments and two minutes for a closing statement.

Opening statements

Mason, who has been on the Congress since 2006, and when he started they were learning the new government, trying to decipher and understand the new Constitution. He said for the past two years he has seen change in the Nation’s government and some of that might be the wording of the Constitution.

Hainzinger, a lifelong rancher, he graduated from Oklahoma State University and lives on his family’s original allotment. His family has doubled the original allotment over the years. He said if you take care of your land, it takes care of you. He feels the same way about the employees, if you take care of them, they will take care of you.

Maker said there has been a lot of change in the last four years and he looks at all aspects of the nation when making decisions. He’s a shareholder, landowner, and he’s taken an oath to defend all of the Nation’s assets. “That’s what I have done, and intend to do and that’s what I will do in the future,” he said.

Jones said it’s time to elect strong leaders to carry the nation forward through controversy. She said she is committed to the democratic process and will be the people’s voice in a professional manner. She’s worked for the nation for the past 11 years, nine years as the Constituent Services director.

Lemon is a nurse from Fairfax and supervises a community health center, with sites in Hominy and Fairfax. She said she is a natural advocate for the people and has strong beliefs in ethical behavior, diplomacy and personal boundaries. If elected she would leave her current profession because she believes Congress is a fulltime job.

First Question

The language program has been successful at giving tribal members an opportunity to revitalize our language by offering free classes in many areas. Do you currently participate in the language program? And if not, why? Submitted by Ericca Unap Dennis.

Hainzinger said he does not participate in the Osage language program but he thinks it’s important to continue the program and spread it across the country. He said it’s hard to get people to the language classes, whether they’re in Fairfax or Pawhuska.

“It’s very important to preserve our language.”

Maker said he taught the Osage language for seven years and also taught the language in the Pawhuska High School.

“All our leaders understand how important it is to have a language. You can’t be a tribe without a language, that’s just how it is. You have to do your best to ensure people are going to our language school and it’s available,” Maker said. “The last time I went there weren’t very many people there, it made me sad.”

Jones said she has been involved in the language program since it started.

“I believe it’s very important to our sovereignty. I live it, I attend language classes underneath Mongrain Lookout, my daughter is currently in class, we speak it at our home. It’s important to keep that momentum going, it’s important we do not become complacent,” Jones said. “We incorporate that activity in day to day business at our offices. I would continue to support our language, language program and immersion.”

Lemon said she currently does not participate in the language program but she would love to.

“Our language is our identity, and if we lose our language we lose our identity, we have to continue this program,” Lemon said. “Today’s children and technology is vital to our youth. With our young who are on social media, using online and Internet as much as they do, it is a great way to push our language classes.”

Mason said he began his language program 71 years ago. He was born and raised listening to his grandparents speak it in the home. He said he supports the language program but he is very busy and can’t always make the classes but he does listen in every once in awhile. His granddaughter and grandson take the classes.

Rebuttal

Hainzinger said the immersion school is wonderful. He said the land and language go together and if the tribe has their land they will have their language.

Maker said the language is difficult to learn but he supports all the initiatives Chief Standing Bear has implemented with the immersion program.

Jones said the question was about whether or not they take classes and she does and she said it’s crucial to the nation’s sovereignty and mandated in the Constitution.

Lemon said the language is taught in high schools as a foreign language requirement and it is imperative the nation’s tribal leaders always support it.

Second question

What should happen BEFORE an appropriation for several million dollars for a special project is introduced? Submitted by Asst. Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn.

Maker briefly described the process a bill goes through before coming law. He said first the legislator discusses the bill with the Congress’ legal team, a budget analyst reviews it, the impact on the Treasury is discussed, the bill goes to the Clerk of Congress, it’s filed, discussed in committee, then voted by the Congress and then goes to the principal chief to become law. “There is a process we go through as legislators that has a substantial appropriation.”

Jones said many things need to happen before money is actually appropriated. She said first and foremost communication is key. She said departments, the Chief’s Office, they all required to have a yearly plan, but she hasn’t seen Congress make a plan.

“We need to ask ourselves a few questions first. Is it feasible? Is it what the people want? Is there a plan?” Jones said. “That’s one of the biggest issues in many areas of our government, is there a plan.”

Lemon said Congress can utilize the rules and hold congressional hearings, look at the purpose of a bill, and during those hearings ask the questions, document the hearings and post the results for the public to view. “We have to be open and honest within.”

Mason said the Congress has a limited amount of money to spend each year and after the nation purchased the Bluestem Ranch there will be debt owed. He said government works slow, and he is in favor of being deliberate with legislation.

“First of all we see if the constituency actually needs this, did it come from them? I don’t want to be the one to stand up here because I think we need this and that, it’s if you need it,” he said. 

Hainzinger said the Congress needs to come together and make a decision on the legislation. Special projects need to be reviewed by experts and he said with all the talented individuals on Congress there is someone who can bring an expert opinion to any issue.

“We all can’t be expert in all the fields, that’s why there needs to be diversity,” Hainzinger said.

Rebuttal

Maker said when he was first elected the first thing he realized is that anyone can come to the Osage Congress with an idea for legislation.

Jones said she has seen legislation that only benefitted a certain group of people and she believes legislation should be for all the people and Congress needs to be diplomatic with funding.

Lemon said appropriations can get “sticky” and hurt feelings can result or bills are enacted for personal gain. She said she plans to utilize congressional hearings more.

Mason: “It’s important and we’ve been trying for 10 years to get it right, and I bet in 10 more years they’ll still be working on it. That’s just how government is.”

Hainzinger: “We all have to work together … there’s a time when to stand up and fight for what you believe and then there’s times to work with your neighbor.”

Third question

If you could author a Constitutional Amendment that would go into effect immediately, what is it that you would add to our Constitution? Submitted by Billy Keene.

Jones said she would need to speak with the Osage people and get a consensus of what amendment they would like. She said she would have community meetings throughout the country, seeking input from Osage constituents.

“It would probably be to strengthen the need and importance of understanding the separation of powers. We need a group of legislators who aren’t always going to constantly spend the money that we have and borrow, borrow, borrow and waste. I believe we have to be fiscally responsible.”

Lemon said she has been thinking about the Constitution and studying up on the Congressional rules. “I would like to see our legislators require this be a fulltime job, and hold no other interest in receiving other employment from other entities and make this our sole focus,” she said.

Lemon said if elected she would resign from her job and focus on the Congress fulltime.

Mason said the 24-day length of the Hun-Kah and Tzi-Zho sessions isn’t long enough to perform due diligence, ensure fairness and quality on the many bills coming through Congress. He said the legislation they pass affects many and it’s a hard job to consider funding for projects when so many people need help. “My constitutional amendment would be to expand the length of these sessions in the fall and spring,” he said.

Hainzinger said he hasn’t thought much about what he would change in the Constitution, but rather “the thing I do think is we need to follow the ones [laws] we have first and foremost … there are a lot of laws to follow and the more we have to follow the more we have to stay up with them.”

Maker said the writers of the Constitution were some of the tribe’s most brilliant minds of the time. They made it hard to amend the Constitution for a reason, he said. “I think that the 65 percent of the Osages voting could maybe be looked at and lowered some, as I said it was put that way for a purpose and it’s something you have to look at ... you have to be very careful because any changes you make affects our entire people.”

Rebuttal

Jones said she would need to gather information from meetings with constituents around the country and see what they need.

Lemon said she would support increasing the days of the session and added it would increase bills submitted for Chief Standing Bear’s signature.

Mason said the government is still young and the Constitution isn’t a perfect document but the Congress works as best they can to make sure good laws are passed.

Hainzinger said Congress is there to work for the people and he is an advocate of following the laws the nation already has.

Maker said he would look at term limits again if he had the chance.

Fourth question

As a member of Osage Congress would you be supportive or introduce the use of DNA Technology for verification of Osage Blood or Tribal Enrollment?

Lemon said DNA testing is a touchy subject for some but not for her since she is in the healthcare field. She said she would want to make sure someone has the right to be called Osage. “We are a smart people, we are intelligent and people want to be us. I would support that.”

Mason said he would be supportive of DNA testing and that he has nothing to hide. He comes from a long line of full bloods and there’s no question to his DNA. But, he said he didn’t know the legal questions on the issue and before they proceeded they would need to consult with their attorneys. “Whatever it takes to make it right, legal and fair, for our children, grandchildren, unborn, then make it so.”

Hainzinger said he had nothing to hide and he thinks it would be fine.

Maker said he is ¾ Osage and comes from a long line of full bloods. He said other tribes are doing DNA testing but would it be good for the Osage tribe? He said that is a question for everyone.

Jones said she had nothing to hide and definitely supports the idea of DNA testing. “The question is do I support it? Yes, I do.”

Rebuttal

Lemon said she too had nothing to hide and would be first in line.

Mason said there would be questions as to how much, they would need to communicate with the Executive Branch, appropriate money, and that’s when Congress begins to do their due diligence.

Hainzinger said they would need to research it, he believes it would be a legal fight, would the nation have to spend $500,000 in legal fees “my only problem is will it cost us more than we can get back?”

Maker said the membership process is currently being looked at and there are many people wanting to be Osage because of the benefits.

Jones said the Congress would need to prioritize their money before looking whether DNA testing was economically feasible.

Fifth question

We’ve seen a lot of chatter regarding the changes to the Wah-Zha-Zhi Youth Academy, what used to be the Boys and Girls Club, with a new “Pay for child” service. Do you think this is a smart idea or do you think that providing Osage children a “free” place to spend their after school hours is a basic Osage right? Submitted by Billy Keene

Mason said he didn’t like to see the Osage people paying for anything in regards to Osage children.

“This academy, I believe should be of no cost to our people and I believe it should be for our children to get the maximum they can from us,” he said. “When it comes down to our decision making process we only have 24 days, and it compresses us. We have to be sure the input that comes to us is accurate and fair and equal to all.”

Hainzinger said he believes there are options to keeping the facility open. He said the Congress and Executive staff could have put their heads together to work something out.

“Anything we say about education and our youth we have to do it, and they’re our future. It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “I think there is ways to working around things to keep things open and I support all forms of education.”

Maker: “When the subject of charging came up, I was immediately against it. We don’t know some of these kids, what their circumstances are at home. Maybe they’re from a single parent family. I asked what is the assessment, prediction of how much you’ll make in a month, it was very small, very minimal,” he said. “We spend millions of dollars that go through this Congress and I think it was a bad idea. Most of the kids dropped out after that and that’s why we have the predicament we have now.”

Jones said she asked parents if they mind the cost for $40 a month for an afterschool program that had a STEM program. She said she couldn’t understand why Congress wouldn’t support an afterschool program and she said new Congress members need to be voted in. “It’s not a Boys & Girls club anymore, it’s a place for our children’s minds to be fed. They have to start at a young age.”

Lemon said being from Fairfax, their Boys & Girls Club closed 6-7 months ago. She said there was a lot of talk, backlash, mostly from non-Indians who sent their children there but some Osages were upset too. “Our Constitution says we have to support the children. We have immersion and elders, but we have left out our juveniles.”

She said Congress can research other tribal afterschool programs and find something that works for the nation.

Rebuttal

Mason said the Executive Branch turned in their plan for the afterschool program and budget with six days left in the Hun-Kah Session. He said the Congress did not have time to look at the bill, do their due diligence. “Nothing is permanent, it’s not written in stone, and if these things come back to us and if this particular piece of legislation came in on Day 1, but it came late. The money that was needed for that [afterschool program], the money was already gone.”

Hainzinger: “I support all forms of education and the childcare thing is a wonderful thing and we have to figure out how to keep it.”

Maker said he sponsored the bill for the afterschool program and was disappointed that only he and Congressman RJ Walker voted for it. “I don’t know what the priorities are for some people but for me it’s the children of our nation. I don’t know where that $5 thing came from, it might work in Chicago or New York somewhere but it didn’t work in the Osage Nation.”

Jones: “I’ll say it again, there’s power in what the people want, and I believe that is imperative as a legislator and we keep an ear to what the people want. When we don’t fund for a place for children to go to, that’s safe, cost efficient, to be better than who or what we are, then we’re failing as a government.”

Lemon said making people pay for afterschool care is a touchy subject. “It’s all about priorities, so we have to be careful about what free really is. When most people get a service they really don’t mind giving time to volunteer, and teach your children to volunteer.”

Closing remarks

Hainzinger said the Bluestem Ranch, increasing our land base, the Osage language, keeping our casinos competitive, are all very important. He said the nation needs to diversify its businesses. EcoPark, youth, fresh vegetables for immersion and Title VI. “If elected to Congress, I’ll get back in there and do the best that I can do.”

Maker asked that constituents re-elect him so he can continue his work on preserving the nation’s culture, protecting the mineral estate, protecting all Osage properties. He hopes the nation has a financial institution some day, more senior housing is needed, assisted living centers and more child care.

Jones said she wants to build sustainability in the nation’s budget process, increase profitability, meaningfully involve Osages, protect the culture and language. She said she will work well with other elected officials and keep an ear open to the constituency. “I am proud to be Osage and would be honored to serve you.”

Lemon said there were so many great initiatives to work with, EcoPark, growing organic vegetables, the Bluestem Ranch, getting back to the land and tying it with education. “These initiatives can all be tied together and benefit the Osage people. I would just like to remind you that I would like to be your voice.”

Mason said he would like to see more education programs for students 7-12th grades, summer programs for accelerated students, camps. “I’m an Elder, 72 years young, class of 62 of Pawhuska High School, it was a good year. It’s good to be here ... obligation as a leader is not to be popular or to make people happy, my obligation is to make Osage people better.”

To watch the 2016 Osage News Congressional Debates, visit the Osage Nation’s YouTube page at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OY1ut74501A