Columns , Minerals Council

Constitutions

Maybe it was the places I went or the people I saw, but it seems to me that during the month of June, I received more comments than usual about this column. Perhaps because of Election Day, two Minerals’ Council meetings, and In-Lon-Shka I simply saw more people. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who told me they read the column. 

Some shareholders said, until reading last month’s column, they had not realized that the 2006 Constitution allowed non-shareholders to have a say over the Minerals Council. They knew that the number of Council members could be reduced through a constitutional amendment. They were aware that non-shareholders, as well as shareholders, are eligible to vote on constitutional amendments. What these shareholders said they had not considered was that if non-shareholders can vote to amend the Constitution – and if an amendment can change the Minerals’ Council – then non-shareholders can change the Minerals Council.

Everyone I have talked with, although I have not talked with everyone, seemed to agree that we were best served by the 1994 Constitution’s provisions for the minerals estate referenced 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, 34 Stat. 539, as amended.”  “No authority is granted to the Osage National Council or any department created by this constitution over the Osage Tribal Council on matters of the mineral estate or to affect the right of individuals to receive income from this mineral estate ...”   

It seems to me that the 2006 Constitution’s focus is to assume and assure control over the mineral estate as well as to provide a national government for and by the Osage people. The 1994 Constitution focused on modeling the control of the mineral estate after the Congressional Act of 1906 and, providing a Nation Government for and by all Osage people.

Other references made to the mineral estate in the 1994 Constitution were made limiting the powers of the Nation over the mineral estate. For example, in enumerating these powers Article VII states, that the Nation can (A) make laws necessary for the good of the Nation, “except this power does not extend to … the mineral estate,” (C)  levy and collect taxes, except this power does not extend to the mineral estate, (E) regulate the sale, disposition or lease of tribal lands or other assets excluding the mineral estate, (J) take any actions necessary to the exercise of the duties of the Osage Nation PROVIDED that no such power and duties shall be deemed to extend to the Osage mineral estate.

Subsequently, the 2006 Constitution was amended in June 2014, June 2016 and again in March 2017. In my opinion, it has improved with each revision. I think we need to consider additional changes in our evolving government.  I do not think it is a good idea for the Chief, who may not always be a shareholder and who is voted into office by non-shareholders as well as shareholders, to hold approval power over leases made and executed by the Minerals Council. I do not think it is a good idea for non-shareholders as well as shareholders to vote on constitutional amendments which can change the structure of the Minerals Council.

It appears that the Osage Minerals Council has functioned under the 2006 Constitution despite some ambiguous and contradictory wording. It is my opinion that the Executive and Congressional branches of the Nation have shown respect and understanding of the roles and functions that each branch should perform relative to the mineral estate - even though the constitution would allow them to do otherwise. 

But constitutions should not be based on individuals or groups of individuals in office at any one time. After looking up the definition of Constitution on the Google Dictionary, it meant: “A body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed.” 

Many of us today were raised by original allottees, by children or grandchildren of original allottees. We know or feel that the mineral estate is not just about money, and thank God, it is no longer about membership in our tribe. There will come a day when no one alive will have ever met an original allottee. When that day comes I hope the right way of taking care of the mineral estate is codified in our constitution.