Government , Minerals Council

Self-governance compact resolution withdrawn over minerals concerns

An Osage Nation Congressional resolution to approve the execution of a self-governance compact between the Nation and the U.S. Department of Interior failed to garner support for a vote during the July special session.

As a result Congressman RJ Walker withdrew the resolution (ONCR 16-34) during the special session held July 19. Walker did so after several Congressional and Osage Minerals Council members expressed concern with the proposed resolution, compact language and questioned whether the Minerals Estate would be impacted.

According to ONCR 16-34, the resolution seeks “to approve and authorize the execution of a self-governance Compact between the Osage Nation and the United States of America through the Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs for the delivery of programs, services, functions and activities.”

At the start of the session, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear described a compact as a “government-to-government relationship between the Osage government and the federal government. Osage Nation has been a self-governance tribe since 2006.”

Standing Bear added the Nation is the only recognized self-governance tribe in the U.S. without a formal compact agreement, according to the self-governance office. “We are adding real estate services to our BIA negotiations with or without a compact. With a compact, Osage Nation will be able to take full advantage of the other program money available in other parts of the Department of Interior, such as water rights, fish and wildlife funding.”

A self-governance compact between tribes and the U.S. is available thanks to passage of Public Law 93-638, which is the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.

The DOI website states: “In the early 1970s, Congress passed (Public Law 93-638) that allowed Indian tribes and tribal organizations to acquire increased control over the management of federal programs that impact their members, resources and governments. These agreements are referred to as ‘638 compacts and contracts.’”

Contracts and compacts are very similar. Self-Determination contracts are authorized under the 1975 Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act. Self-Governance compacts are made possible by 1994 amendments to the (original 1975 Act).

During a July 18 Congressional Governmental Operations Committee discussion, Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn described the proposed compact as an “umbrella,” one where any Osage Agency BIA operations could be compacted at anytime after the compact is executed.

Osage Minerals Councilwoman Cynthia Boone said at the meeting she wanted to express concerns on behalf of her constituents after viewing a copy of the proposed compact. She said “there is no clause in this particular legislation that says basically ‘leave the Minerals Council program, services, activities alone’ and I think if that was added to this legislation, it might bring some type of comfort to the constituents that I serve.”

Whitehorn also referenced a 2014 bill (ONCA 13-62) she sponsored and was passed by the Third ON Congress. According to that bill, “any compacts pertaining to the Osage Minerals Estate shall be affirmed by resolution of the Osage Minerals Council.” Whitehorn said the intent of ONCA 13-62 was to stop compacts affecting the Minerals Estate before they were executed and said she will oppose ONCR 16-34 “until we have a resolution that the Minerals Council says we are OK” with the compact.”

The meeting ended with no action taken on ONCR 16-34, but the resolution was discharged from the committee and sent to the floor for a vote after eight Congress members signed a discharge request form for the resolution.   

The second special session ended on Day Two after the Congress members discussed advancing all legislative items through the process for final votes that day, but Congressman Ron Shaw expressed concern ONCR 16-34 was not ready for a vote.

Congresswoman Shannon Edwards also said she did not believe the resolution is ready due to drafting errors, references to documents the Congress did not have and also noted any changes to the compact document are done on the federal side, not by the Nation. She also pointed out the Congress was told there is no time rush on passing the compact resolution during the special session.

Congresswoman Alice Buffalohead said she wants to get more input from the Minerals Council regarding a potential compact. “I’m not against everything in it at all, I think the appropriate time for us to listen to (more resolution discussion) is in the fall when we have more time and we can have more people – that it is going to affect – come to the table to provide their input.”