It has been two years since Reta Marie Lintner received word the Osage Nation planned to disenroll her and every member within her family from the Nation’s membership. She said it has been a long and drawn out process ever since, but she is willing to submit to DNA testing if it proves her family has Osage heritage.
“I feel that once the DNA results are back, my family will finally have definitive proof of our Osage ancestry,” she said.
Lintner, 69, is one of 12 plaintiffs in the suit Osage Nation v. Reta Marie Lintner, a case that began after an ex-employee of the Osage Nation membership department enrolled individuals who were not Osage. The petition for Lintner’s removal was first filed in April 2016 after membership staff reviewed her file, or a file of a family member, and noticed a notation that said the person was not eligible for a CDIB.
Lintner claims that her grandmother, Lola Brown, was the illegitimate daughter of Paschal F. Canville, an original Osage allottee.
“My grandmother used to tell us stories about when her dad came to see her, and you know, it’s just been impossible up until now, without the ancestry and the DNA to really prove it,” Lintner said. As part of her defense, her attorneys have submitted affidavits that are more than 100 years old. The affidavits are from Canville himself, the doctor who delivered Brown, a neighbor, and a stagecoach driver. Brown was born in 1888.
The judge in the case, Associate Judge Lee Stout, has turned to DNA testing to prove whether Lintner is, in fact, a Canville descendant. According to the Nation’s membership law, a person must prove they are of lineal descent from an original allottee from the 1906 Osage Allotment Act to enroll. Stout instructed the AG’s office to contract with a DNA testing facility and locate Canville’s living descendants, so their DNA can be compared with that of Lintner.
Assistant Attorney General Clint Patterson said that out of the 19 to 20 Canville descendants they have identified, only four or five have completed the non-invasive DNA testing (mouth swab) and they are all female. He said the testing facility, Bio-Gene DNA Testing, said they could not complete the testing without a male participant. Patterson said a possible participant would submit to testing but just hasn’t done so yet; another said the facility is too far and they could not complete the drive, and one elder he spoke with “flat out refused.”
Stout asked Patterson if it would be possible for the testing facility to send employees to the descendants, to make the testing process more accessible. Patterson said he would inquire.
“We want to make this as accommodating as we can,” Stout said. “Surely there has got to be some resources available unless they’re living out in the middle of Alaska … it seems like we need to be reaching out to them since they can’t reach the testing facility.”
According to the American Indian & Alaska Native Genetics Resource Center, tribes are turning more and more to DNA testing as they define their own membership laws. The site provides information on what tribes should look for in DNA testing facilities and what genetic testing proves. Ph.D. Jessica Bardill (Cherokee), writes that there is no genetic test to determine which tribe an individual is or if they are even Native American, but there are tests that look at paternity or grandparentage, which “can be useful because they can evaluate possible biological relationships between an individual and current tribal members. Other kinds of genetic tests, such as genetic ancestry testing, are less useful because they provide much less specific information about relatedness between individuals.”
An attorney for Lintner, Aubra Drybread of Skiatook-based Hilton Law Group, said she was recently contacted by one of Lintner’s family members who had received their results from an ancestry website she believed to be Ancestry.com. She said their results linked them with Canville family members and members of the Tayrien family, another Osage family in the Pawhuska area.
“I know that both parties are anxious to find out what the results of this are, as am I,” Stout said. “I know the Osage Nation, you guys are kind of on the slow side of this whole thing but we need to help try and foster this along so that we can get some kind of resolution. That’s encouraging that somebody was able to ... there is some relationship with the Canvilles, but we just don’t know what yet, so, that’s interesting.”
Stout scheduled the next hearing for Sept. 5 at 1:30 p.m.