Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear has recently been honored by Oklahoma Magazine and named one of its distinguished “Oklahomans of the Year.”
The Greater Tulsa Indian Art Festival is honoring him on Feb. 10 with their award, “Preserving All That is Sacred” at the festival’s Premiere Night Scholarship Fundraiser Gala for their 30th Anniversary celebration.
The Osage News sat down with Standing Bear to ask him about the honors and what he sees as the future for the Nation under his tenure.
News: What are your thoughts on all the recognition you're receiving for your efforts with the Osage Language Immersion School and the purchase of the Bluestem Ranch?
Standing Bear: “It is a tribute to the organization that I lead. In the case of Immersion, we have put together a great team and we have wonderful parents and wonderful students. The parents have to participate in this to make it work, I learned that at Cochiti Pueblo, which has been our model. When it comes to the Ranch, it is the same thing. This is a tribute to the organization I lead and I have brought in new teams of people and they have been working with people that have been there to have these great results. My recognition is also a recognition of everyone that’s been involved in everything that has been done.
News: Your term ends next year, are you running for re-election?
Standing Bear: I consulted with my wife, who is many ways a final decision maker on a lot of what I do, we’ve been married about 40 years. We’ve decided that to move some of these initiatives forward that I’m talking about, Immersion, an entire 0-12th grade school opportunity we want to put together, and expand our initiatives into Missouri and complete negotiations with the governor for a gaming compact and put lands in federal reservation status, in not only Missouri but Oklahoma as well. We also want to assert our water rights as the battle is going to be launched early next year. Because of those matters that need to be done I’m going to go run for one more term in 2018.
News: Let’s say you are re-elected for a second term, what initiatives would you like to see happen?
Standing Bear: I’ve put together, in conjunction with the Osage Nation Attorney General, a stellar team for the Osage. We have been regularly conferring and working hard to prepare the groundwork for our Water Rights. We believe the Chickasaw and Choctaw had settled their water rights case for whatever reason, that is their reason, there is absolutely no similarity with that case and our situation, none at all. Our claims are much, much larger. Because we bought our reservation from the Cherokees, we own all this water and what’s underground; we use it for oil and gas production and the surface streams, including everything going into the Arkansas River. The others are going to claim the other part of the Arkansas, we get that, like the Pawnees and private landowners. However, we are not going to settle, not unless the Pawnees and other tribes recognize our claims to the Arkansas River. And, we’re going to have to launch our case early next year and that’s going to be a very delicate and complicated situation. Even though we don’t have term limits, I can assure you that will be my last term. This is a very difficult job if you work at it the way you should work at it. I often begin my days at 6:30 a.m. and often end sometimes past midnight, in one day, and weekends and holidays.
News: Where do you see the Osage Immersion School next year?
Standing Bear: We’ve got a great headmaster and great curriculum director. Our teachers need more teaching from people who are more fluent, so what we’ve got to do is very related to our Language department. We have to also support our teachers, all of them in our language department, and bring in Osages who are not working with us yet, because they have other jobs and other places they live. We must find a way to get those people more connected in our organization, and then we can get more teachers. Our goal in Immersion, is to beef up our teaching staff, and then I think we’re good.