Columns , Minerals Council

Compacting the BIA, the Kentucky Derby and Black Gold

During a special meeting, Jan. 29, the Osage Minerals Council discussed options to streamline the leasing process. One option discussed was to contract/compact (PL 93-638) the B.I.A. Minerals Branch. A resolution was passed authorizing legal counsel to research the pros and cons and legal processes involved in such an effort. Using, in part, the results of the attorney’s assessment, the Minerals Council will decide whether or not to proceed in contracting administrative control of the BIA Minerals Branch.

To me, this measure would be a straight forward approach, since snags, hurdles and obstacles impeding leasing are directly related to the Office of the Superintendent.  Federal Laws, from which these impediments spring, would apply regardless of whether the Tribe or the Bureau administers the program. The difference would be in the enforcement and implementation of the law.  

Superintendent Robin Phillips’ implementation of the EPA, FOIA, and Endangered Species Act is obstructive and restrictive to production. Her methods are destructive to the Osage Shareholders. Her administrative style is of long standing and not likely to change. 

One outcome of the Superintendent’s modus operandi dates back to 2014 when Phillips notified producers that a new 72-page environmental assessment was to be required. By Feb. 25, 2015 producers had more than 600 pending applications to drill in Osage County. Attorney James Sicking, Osage Producers Association, said “this agency is taking the side of wealthy, powerful landowners and shutting down an entire industry.” (Tulsa World Osage Oil) A producer noted that, “A thoughtless, reckless and unnecessary action by … (the) agency has shut down the entire county. For the first time in a hundred years, there’s no drilling in Osage County. (Tulsa World Osage Oil) For previous discussion of the Bureau’s methods of operation see Osage News June-July, 2017.  

Public Law 93-638, Contracting and Compacting, also known as the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, authorizes the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare to enter into contracts with, and make grants to, federally recognized Indian tribes. This Act allows the tribes to control the funds and programs directly affecting their members. It is my understanding that most tribes who have contracted to provide for services offered by the Federal Government have done a good job of “home-rule” and have been satisfied with the results. 

One of my nephews said that he did not understand why so many of our people are not for running our programs and services ourselves. “You’d think they would trust their own tribal members more than others.” I tend to agree with this assessment. I do trust our own people, ourselves. I suppose if something is new and has not been tried before, there is some natural fear of the unknown. But, for me, it is a given that individuals are hired based on qualifications. Maybe that is part of the fear associated with PL93-638. In the past, we have seen folks hired for “who they know” rather than “what they know”.  All things being equal, I’ll bet on the Osage. Speaking of which ...

During Wak’on Owatsi, the Women’s Dance Feb. 3, 2018, I was fortunate enough to meet and visit with Marcella MacDowell. She is the granddaughter of Rosa Magnet Hoots. For the first time I was able to hear, directly from a Hoots family member, something of the legend of Black Gold. Rosa Hoots owned Black Gold, the 1924 Kentucky Derby winner. He was also known as “the Indian Horse.” In his book, “The Legend of Black Gold,” Winston Groom helps us recall what 1924 must have been like. 

“As it happened, 1924 was the Kentucky Derby’s fiftieth anniversary, or Golden Jubilee, as race officials preferred to call it, and accordingly, momentous changes were announced amid great fanfare. Not only was the race designated the Run for the Roses, but, for the first time, in the opening ceremonies ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ was replaced by Stephen Foster’s ‘My Old Kentucky Home,’ a song that still causes many native Kentuckians to cry into their mint juleps even before the racing begins. Also, a spectacular new trophy was fashioned that remains the standard design to this day: a nearly two-foot-tall, three-and-a-half-pound solid gold loving cup, with a horse and jockey on the lid.”

“With the Kentucky Derby’s future thus fortified and ‘the most exciting two minutes in sports’ upcoming, racing fans watched Rosa Hoots take her seat in one of the owner’s boxes at Churchill Downs — the first Native American and only the second woman to do so ...”

I’ll bet on the Osage Indians.