Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear has formed an Osage-Missouri Relations Committee to pursue economic and tourism opportunities in the state that was once Osage homelands.
“During our cultural exchange programs, business interests have reached out to us. These include the request for a presence in tourism and for Osage involvement for federal procurement opportunities,” Standing Bear wrote in a Dec. 13 Executive Memorandum. “The large United States Military Base at Fort Leonard Wood has numerous opportunities for the Osage and discussions have begun. The United States Army Corps of Engineers has a massive presence in Missouri and has federal minority set-aside requirements where the Osage may contract.”
Standing Bear named nine individuals to be on the committee, including himself. They are: Standing Bear, Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn, Speaker of the Congress Angela Pratt, Gaming Commission Chair Marsha Harlan, Tallgrass Economic Development LLC Chair Tim Tall Chief, ON Historic Preservation Office Director Dr. Andrea Hunter, Osage Elders Committee Chair Norman Akers, Senior Advisor to the Chief Johnny Williams and Gaming Enterprise Board Chair Mark Simms.
Pratt said she is in favor of planning and working with the committee to look at opportunities in Missouri. She said it’s not unheard of for tribes to look at gaming and economic development in their homelands.
“I would say with careful consideration it is time we look into Missouri … I think it’s overall promising and I like how we’re doing this, as a committee approach,” she said. “Bringing multiple thoughts and ideas to the table is a good thing because we’re all in this together for the betterment of the Nation.”
Standing Bear, Red Corn, Hunter and Williams have been on numerous trips to Missouri over the year, with Missouri newspapers often reporting on their cultural exchange visits. So far, Hunter has established a presence with ONHPO’s work on Sugarloaf Mound; cultural site visits to St. Louis and Fort Leonard Wood, as well as various NAGPRA related efforts.
“There will soon be projects paid for by Missouri local governments to highlight the history and culture of the Osage,” Standing Bear wrote. “In late January, the first portion of a half-million-dollar project consisting of large bronze statues of traditional Osages standing 35 feet tall will be erected along Interstate 40 near Cuba, Missouri.”
In the memorandum, Standing Bear mentions potential casino projects in Missouri but makes it clear that those can only happen if the governor of Missouri consents. He said that when he was Assistant Chief in the early 1990s, the tribe was unsuccessful in establishing a gaming operation in Missouri, but with efforts by Williams, Red Corn and others, it could be a possibility.
There are exceptions within the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 that allow for a tribe to buy land in their historical reservation boundaries and put it into trust for gaming purposes. The entire state of Missouri has been identified as the historical reservation of the Osage. Along with newly elected State of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who will be inaugurated on Jan. 9, local officials in the area must also agree to a gaming project. The Secretary of the Interior must approve, as well as the tribe’s governing body and leadership. Hunter paved the way to outlining the Osage’s historical reservation boundaries with her continued work at the ONHPO and with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
Standing Bear said other tribes are currently pursuing lands to open gaming establishments on their historical reservations and noted the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is pursuing a site in Arkansas, just south of Branson, Mo.
According to the memorandum, the Osage first established their presence in Missouri in 500 A.D.
“The Treaty of 1808 with the United States of America legalized the surrender of 52,480,000 acres of Osage to the federal government. This transaction included two-thirds of what is now known as the State of Missouri,” Standing Bear wrote. “Other treaties followed in 1818 and 1825. In 1821 the former Osage territory was admitted as a State of the United States of America.”
For more information about the Historic Preservation Office, https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/historic-preservation