Columns , Minerals Council

The Constitution and the Mineral Estate, Part III

The 1994 Constitution was dissolved June 10, 1997, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10TH Circuit in Denver, according to “The Osage Timeline,” a publication by Lou Brock. The decision was based on, “The principle that only Congress has the power to amend an otherwise proper federal statute is well settled. Congress prescribed the form of government in the 1906 Act as amended, thereby restricting the Tribe's power to create a form of government inconsistent with the statutory form,” according to Fletcher v. United States, No. 95-5208, VI Remedy, B. Appropriateness of Relief.

In 1997, as now, many people wanted universal suffrage while many wanted suffrage for headright holders only. Council members struggling to bring about membership were unable to garner momentum adequate to the task. 

It was not until a new Principal Chief, Jim Gray, was elected in 2002 that the Osage Tribal Council was successful in lobbying Congress. The U.S. Senate passed (HR 2912), the Osage sovereignty legislation, on Nov. 19, 2005, reaffirming the tribe’s right to create its own form of government. An Osage Commission was named. A new Constitution was devised, and on March 11, 2006, descendants of the 1906 Roll voted to ratify the constitution by 66 percent. 

The 1994 Constitution is far superior to the 2006 Constitution. I suppose it could not be otherwise given the way in which each was conceived and written. The 2006 Constitution was written by committee. The 1994 Osage Constitution was written by government specialists. Rennard Strickland was the Chair/Arbitrator of the1992-1994 Osage Constitutional Commission and is credited with the authorship.  

I believe, if we worked together and reference the 1994, we could create a more perfect document with which to govern ourselves. As U.S. Citizens, we are accustomed to self-government. We can do this by agreeing to abide by the U.S. Constitution in which we believe and trust. The U.S. did not get it right the first time out, and had to make some changes. We, the U.S., even made some changes and changed them back. It is not just a matter of Shareholders vs. Non-Shareholders. It’s more complicated than that. This diversity is exemplified in December’s Osage News showing two letters from two Shareholders with two points of view. One letter was thanking the Osage Minerals Council for voting to sue the Nation. The other letter was withdrawing support from Council Members who voted to sue the Nation.

Right now, we have intelligent leaders who can work toward bringing our Nation together. We must all try to speak up honestly but in a respectful way. We must try hard to understand all points of view. We cannot agree with all points of view, but we should be able to discuss them without anger or rancor. We should be able to make compromise and accommodation for and with one another.

Some of the items and practices which I feel were more equitable and unifying under the 1994 Constitution than they are under the 2006 are summarized herein. These items relate to the Mineral Estate and OTC only. The same items are also shown for the Act of 1906.

AUTHORIZING DOCUMENT 

ITEM                           1906                             1994                             2006

Name                    Osage Tribal Council      Osage Tribal Council       Osage Minerals Council

Name                    Principal Chief               Principal Chief                Council Members

Name                    Assist. Principal Chief     Assist. Principal Chief      Council Members      

Admin.Minerals      Osage Tribal Council       Osage Tribal Council       Delegated by Constitution

Admin.Minerals      Osage Tribal Council       Osage Tribal Council       Approved by Osage Nation

Negotiate Lease     Osage Tribal Council       Osage Tribal Council       Veto Power by Nation

Pay Rent                Not Applicable               Not Required                  Required           

Chief Breaks Tie      Not Applicable               Not Required                  Required

Above are listed items written into the 2006 Constitution which establish significant departures not only from the 1994 Constitution but also from Osage Allotment Act of 1906. It is clear from a perusal of both constitutions that the 1994 accomplished that which was intended by the Commission, which was to devise a form of government where all Osages, regardless of headright ownership, could participate. The 1994 reminds me of a family, or tribe, who together decide that they want to become more inclusive and less exclusive. 

On the other hand, although the 2006 Constitution does succeed in forming a new government; the document goes far, in my opinion, beyond what is necessary. The name change was disruptive and unnecessary (first three items above). I feel like the wording, relative to managing the mineral estate, is not straight forward and seems to skirt the issue of protecting the rights of headright holders (last five items above).