Legal

Parties in membership removal case attempt mediation, jury trial last resort

Photo caption: The Osage Nation Trial Court on the Osage Campus in Pawhuska. Osage News File Photo

Both parties in the membership removal case Osage Nation vs. Reta Marie Lintner are requesting a chance to mediate their dispute before taking it to a jury trial.

At issue is whether Lintner and her relatives are actually descended from an Osage original allottee, which is required for membership into the Osage Nation. She and her relatives were removed from the membership roll in 2016 after a membership employee claimed they were not descendants.

“We previously had this matter set for a jury trial to start next week but then I was informed by the Attorney General’s office that there was ... an attempt by the parties to mediate this matter,” said Judge Lee Stout. “Is that correct?”

Representing Lintner at the status conference on Nov. 6, 2019, was Audra Drybread, an attorney with Skiatook-based Hilton Law Office. Representing the Nation was Attorney General Clint Patterson. Both attorneys told Stout they would like to enter into mediation.

Stout set a date for the mediation for Feb. 5. The mediation is not open to the public.

“I hope that the mediation works out,” he said. “We’ll see.”

The two parties have been in litigation for almost three years now, during which time Lintner and her relatives’ Osage benefits have been suspended pending the outcome of her case.

According to Drybread, Lintner “has always stood ready for mediation and has been encouraging the Nation to mediate for years now. The former AG, however, was not interested in our requests to do so.”

The former AG is Holli Wells, who resigned her post in September following an arrest for Driving Under the Influence. To date, no charges have been filed against Wells by the Osage County District Attorney’s office.

Drybread said a prior settlement would have resulted in a far less expensive lawsuit for the Nation.

“We are very confident with this case and going forward to a trial if the matter is not settled at a mediation,” she said via email. “Our position is, and always has been, that this case should have never been filed.”

Patterson said it’s going to be hard to find a middle ground because ultimately it comes down to whether the Nation allows Lintner and her relatives to be on the membership roll and the Nation won’t settle for anything less than Lintner being removed.

“We just feel like this case, while it’s not unique - it’s the Nation defending its rolls that dates back to the very beginnings - but it is unique in that it involves a 100-year-old paternity case with documents that are ancient. We’ve been involved with this so long that it’s worth a try to mediate,” he said.

“Even if we’re not able to get a resolution at mediation it might give both parties a chance to resolve some pretrial issues and get evidence into the record.”

If both parties cannot agree to a settlement, the membership of Lintner and her relatives will be decided by a jury, a first for the Osage Nation.

Membership woes

In 2016 a membership office employee discovered discrepancies in Lintner’s file that led them to believe Lintner was not Osage. The AG’s office filed petitions for removal against Lintner and 60 other individuals, which included her relatives.

Lintner claims she is a lineal descendant and the great-granddaughter of Paschal F. Canville, a 1906 original allottee. She claims that Canville, born in 1851, was married to Elizabeth Means and together they had two children, a son named Josiah and a daughter named Lola Clementine Canville Clawson in 1888. Lola married Roy Brown and became Lola Brown, Lintner’s grandmother. Lintner’s legal team has provided affidavits that are more than 100 years old and one is from Canville himself claiming he is Lola’s father.

Prior to 2006, Lintner’s family members were unsuccessful at obtaining Osage membership from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the federal agency that issued Certificate Degrees of Indian Blood, or CDIB cards at the time. The first application for membership was filed by Means in 1907, according to court documents. Additional applications for membership were filed throughout the decades, but it wasn’t until after the new form of Osage government passed in 2006 were they successful.

Lintner’s legal team tried to use DNA to prove their case but the male descendants of Canville refused to submit their DNA for testing, despite the fact it was a non-invasive cheek swab test.