Community , Columns

The Constitution and the Mineral Estate

Over ten years after the passage of the 2006 Constitution, the Osage Minerals Council has voted to pass a resolution for their attorneys to research the evolving relationship between the OMC and the Osage Nation. It has been stated in council chambers that the Nation has, and continues to, overstep its authority. The OMC seeks to protect the Minerals Estate from what they perceive as an intrusion. In OMC Resolution 3-237; “It is in the best interest of the Headright owners for the Osage Mineral’s Council to challenge the conveyance of the Osage Mineral Estate under the Osage Nation Constitution and restore the Osage Mineral Estate to the exclusive authority of the Osage Minerals Council;.” In order to bring this about, the OMC has authorized legal counsel “to challenge and set aside the conveyance of the Osage Mineral Estate to the Osage Nation and any related actions thereto;.”

During an interview with Councilwoman Kathryn Red Corn about Res. 3-237, the Councilwoman stated the 1994 Constitution of the Osage Nation should be consulted and studied. She pointed out that the Bureau of Indian Affairs employees, which were detailed to work with the Tribe in 1994, “were trained and experienced in the dynamics of tribal constitutions: They were knowledgeable and experienced in working with the Congressional Act of 1906;” and they knew the history and needs of the Osage Tribe and the Osage People.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines constitution as “the set of political principles by which a place or organization is governed, or the written document that records it:”  Example:  “The Constitution of the United States is a document that establishes the basic rules and laws of the American government." 

In my opinion, Constitutions are not intended to provide policy or regulations for idiosyncrasies or specific variations. Codes are for addressing these, The Code of Federal Regulations, for example. Documents which do try to address all possible contingencies are frequently confusing and contradictory. In this regard, the 1994 Constitution is superior to the 2006 in my opinion. The writing of the 1994 Constitution leaves no doubt as to the framers’ intent and meaning. Following Councilwoman Red Corn’s advice, I located and reread the1994 Constitution.

I remembered how proud I had been of the document, when it was first published, and the care and respect shown for our people who went before us and the decisions they made. I was also pleased to see how the whole tribe was brought together with everyone having an equal part in our Government, yet protecting individual rights of ownership. The 1994 Constitution provides for the Protection of The Mineral Estate in Article II:

            SECTION 1. “Ownership of the mineral estate of the Osage Indian Reservation is to be determined by the Act of June 28. 1906 ...  The right to receive income from the mineral estate is vested in those allottees and their successors in interest whose names and shares appear on the Osage Headright Quarterly Annuity Roll, maintained by the Secretary of the Interior, as amended from time to time, as provided by Federal law. No authority is granted to the Osage National Council or any department created by this Constitution over the Osage Tribal Council on matters of mineral estate or to affect the right of individuals to receive income from its mineral estate so long as they are protected by Federal law.” 

            SECTION 2.  “The mineral estate shall be administered by the Osage Tribal Council who shall be elected and shall serve in accordance with the provisions of the Act of June 28, 1906 ...; Provided, that no elected official of the Osage Tribal Council shall  be eligible to hold any other elected office in the Osage Nation; and Provided further, that all resolutions, laws and ordinances of the Osage National Council that adversely impacts the mineral estate shall reviewed by the Osage Tribal Council and the Secretary of the Interior, and shall require Secretary approval for legal validity. Any resolution, law or ordinance of the Osage National Council which adversely impacts the mineral estate, as determined by the Secretary of the Interior through his disapproval, shall be invalid by law.”

Additional provisions for protection of the mineral estate are to be found in Articles VII and X. Sec.6. Also, XVII Section 4 provides that “the mineral estate that is held in trusts shall be administered by the Osage Tribal Council pursuant to Federal law including the Act of June 28, 1906 ...”  I asked Ms. Red Corn if the 1994 Constitution were in effect now, did she think the present pending lawsuit would be necessary. She said, “No, I do not.”


[CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, the OMC resolution did not ask the council to file a lawsuit, it approved their attorneys to research the feasibility of one. This column was corrected on Nov. 20, 2017]