Columns

Amend the Constitution if you can

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and greeting two young published authors from France.  They were doing background research for their next novel. It is to be a murder mystery set here in the Osage, the State of Oklahoma, U.S.A. The name of the book is Skiatook Lake. 

After dinner, at one of the homes hosting these travelers, the conversation turned to politics and governments. The writers answered questions about Bastille Day, liberals and conservatives in France, and what they thought of Donald Trump. First, July 7 was not the revolution of the peasants but the bourgeois. Secondly, they have about the same mix of conservatives and liberals as we do; and, regarding Donald Trump, they feel sorry for us. 

Another evening, the visitors asked about the Osage. Our review started with the preeminence of pre-contact territory, and went on to discuss the French coming down the Missouri and fur trade, the exchange of cultures, love and marriage, the 1870 land purchase in Oklahoma territory, the fattening of Texas Long Horns on Blue Stem, the 1897 Foster blanket lease, the 1906 U.S. dissolution of Osage Constitution AND enactment of the Osage Allotment Act (34 Stat, 539), the ratification of the 1994 Constitution of the Osage Nation, the 1997 U.S. dissolution of the Osage Constitution, the passage of the Sovereignty legislation in 2004, and ending with the ratification of the Constitution in 2006.

Questions about headrights and membership were asked and fielded as best we could.  Questions about voting and managing the mineral estate were asked. Reference was made back to the Allotment Act of 1906, the 1994 Constitution, and the 2006 Constitution.  

One of the writers asked if it is the owners of the minerals who choose who manages the minerals. This led into the wording of the 1994 and the 2006 Constitutions. According to the Congressional Act of 1906, and both Constitutions, the mineral estate is to be managed by Osage shareholders. However, the 2006 Constitution provides for the Principal Chief to approve and disapprove mineral leases. And, according to the 2006 Constitution non-shareholders can participate in electing the Principal Chief. And, the Principal Chief can be a non-shareholder. Therefore, this Constitutional provision (ARTICLE XI Sec.4), allows non-shareholders to vote on ‘who manages the minerals.’   And, if a non-shareholder is elected Chief, this Constitutional provision (ARTICLE XI Sec.4), allows non-shareholders to manage the minerals.

Someone in our group said they thought that article was no longer in the 2006 Constitution. There was a copy of the revised (purple) 2006 Osage Constitution sitting on his coffee table. On page 23 of the 2006 Article XV (Sec. 4) stated the following: 

“Mineral leases approved and executed by the Council shall be deemed approved by the Osage Nation unless, within five (5) working days, written objection received from the office of the Office of the Principal Chief …”

“Well,” the gentleman said, “it doesn’t matter because they do not send him leases for review anyway.” I answered it is because the present Principal Chief is Geoffrey Standing Bear, and he himself is an annuitant, and so is his wife. He chooses not to force this issue.

We may not always have a Geoffrey Standing Bear. Not all contenders for Chief will understand the relationship with the Osage Mineral Estate. Our Constitution is our shield of protection, not only now but far into the future. If we made a mistake, let’s fix it if we can.