Photo caption: Top row, from left: Michael Kidder and Congressman John Maker. Middle: Mary Jo Pratt. Bottom row, from left: Amanda Proctor and Jodie Revard. Osage News
The second group of candidates to participate in the 2020 Osage News Candidate Debates were Michael Kidder, John Maker, Mary Jo Pratt, Amanda Proctor and Jodie Revard.
Moderator for the debate was Sterling Cosper, programs director for the Native American Journalists Association and the host was Tara McLain Manthey, vice chair for the Osage News Editorial Board.
Candidates were asked five questions, submitted by Osage tribal members. They were allowed two minutes for introductions, two minutes to answer questions, one minute for rebuttal and two minutes for closing remarks.
“Transparency is a word we hear a lot around election time. How would you help make the business of the LLCs and the Osage Nation Ranch accessible to constituents?”
- Jackie Wilcox, Pawhuska, OK
Maker said the topic of transparency comes up a lot around election time and it’s important because the Nation deals with a lot of money.
“We all know the history of our LLCs. We’ve had a lot of disappointment there,” he said. “But we’ve created some new groups lately that’s going to help take care of some of that. We have a new Revenue Advisory Commission, who’s going to go over a lot of our businesses and be in charge of audits and just oversee a lot of our new businesses so we don’t get into a quagmire like we did before when we lost a lot of money to those LLCs in years before.”
Pratt said she believed the Nation should follow similar models to what some city and state governments have formulated.
“I would like to see some kind of information posted in some type of centralized, public location so that it’s accessible to everybody so they can know, and stay in the know of what is going on and see the strategies being used and so forth,” she said.
Proctor said the LLCs have been routinely given large appropriations from Congress, in-kind contributions, capital assets such as buildings and they spend all their money on salaries, consultants and accountants.
“I drafted legislation, which I actually posted to my Facebook page, that creates an office of an Economic Development Commissioner which would be one person who would be like our gaming commissioner,” she said. “That person would collect information and report out that information, and that commissioner purportedly would have the power to dissolve any of these entities and put them into a receivership in the Osage tribal court where their assets could be sold off, marshaled, and their contracts wound down, that needs to happen.”
Revard said she would like to host a Sovereignty Week and designate a day for Osages to meet members of the boards and commissions. There are currently 16 boards and many people aren’t certain as to who is serving on what board, she said.
“Right now if you visit some of their web pages, some of them have financials and some of them do not,” she said. “It’s time. Again, it’s a white elephant in the room. I would like to propose that we at least meet with the boards regularly and if elected I will definitely fight for that.”
Kidder said if the LLCs meet their yearly goals it should be reported and made public, and if they don’t, that should be reported to.
“In regard to these LLCs, as a constituent I’ve never understood what was going on with any of them. I’ve always asked and could never really find out what their bottom lines were or what their goals were,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to talk with a few people on these boards and figure out what’s going on. We have some 8(a)’s in place and the last I was told the Ranch was breaking even, but other than that I don’t know anything about them as far as their financial goals or what they have.”
“Name some policy changes that you see worthy of consideration as a result of the COVID19 pandemic?”
- Paul Bemore, Tulsa, OK
Pratt said she doesn’t think there is just one aspect of the pandemic that should be looked at in terms of the employees, it should all be looked at collectively.
“I know there are many resources out there, some of which are free, and some are not. I believe in using strategies when appropriating any type of money or supporting an appropriation in law for changes,” she said. “I think we should look at this again collectively, our strength is going to be we move as one, because we are together, we’re going to come up stronger together.”
Proctor said she is currently working on addressing these types of questions for other tribes she serves as legal counsel for.
“The Family Medical Leave Act is expanded by the U.S. Congress in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees have more protections, they have more leave they may now take to take care of children who are now homeschooled, take care of sick relatives or quarantine or take time for themselves,” she said. “The casinos will have to have new policies dealing with social distancing and interaction with the public. I realize those aren’t all in purview of the Congress but those will be some changes that will be in the works within the Nation.”
Revard said it is not the responsibility of the legislative branch to create policy.
“Being that what we have learned through all of this is that we’ve really had to depend on our permanent fund and if elected I definitely would like to appropriate money into that fund on a yearly basis or on a fiscal basis,” she said. “Another thing that we’ve learned is that our gaming operations may want to also have some type of reserve in place we have to go through this type of emergency situation again.”
Kidder said the Executive Branch handles policy but if there was something they needed financially; he would support it with legislation.
“I don’t pretend to be a health expert, I would defer to our health experts and CDC guidelines, if there was a policy needed,” he said.
Maker said policy would fall under the Osage Nation Health Authority Board and the Congress works hand in hand with them.
“We will work with whatever the Executive Branch and Health Authority board come up with and they would coach us and ask us to help them with any kind of legislation that would benefit the Osage people,” he said. “The Congress has never denied helping anything in our health industry, especially now with the pandemic, that is our main focus. We have to get our businesses up and running, just like the United States.”
“Not counting annual appropriation bills, what bill are you most interested in introducing to become Osage Law?”
- Jim Gray, Skiatook, OK
Proctor said she would like to pursue a gaming revenue allocation plan to disburse a per capita payment to Osage elders.
“The justification is the elderly members of the tribe have not had the opportunity to benefit from many of the entitlement programs that we have. They haven’t had a chance to tap into the scholarship fund, most likely they haven’t had the benefit to participate in the home ownership program like a young family might and so they need to share in our wealth,” she said. “So, I would propose a revenue allocation for elderly or near elderly members of the tribe, say those people who are 65 and older, to receive perhaps a yearly payment of gaming revenue for their needs.”
Revard said her first legislation would be directed at challenges facing the Nation’s boards and commissions.
“Another piece of legislation that comes to mind is protecting our lands. As a restricted landowner, I know that there are times when other landowners have told me, and I’ve been subjected to it, in regards to trespassing,” she said. “I don’t think we have strong enough laws in place that protect our lands. I know that we’ve had a lot of big companies come on our lands and trespass without having to pay any damages. I would like to write and introduce laws that are specifically designed to protect our landowners and the Osage Nation as a landowner.”
Kidder said his first thoughts are about the individuals coming out of the Nation’s recovery program and how they need a halfway house or some other avenue to help them transition.
“I work for financial assistance, I work as the Work Development Training Coordinator, but I try to get to the PRT people if we can and get them started but sometimes there is a disconnect because they don’t have nowhere to go,” he said. “They’re looking for a place to stay and get out of their environment they came from, so they don’t fall back to those same ways they had before the PRT. They come out clean because we do take them into the program, we do the drug testing and monitor them, and they maintain the sweats, which is good. But there are things we can do to help these Osage people coming out of these programs.”
Maker said what he thinks the Congress needs to work on the most is the protection of the Osage people on the reservation and the District Villages.
“We need to strengthen our sovereignty with better help with working together with federal and state and the local law enforcement agencies,” he said. “We have a problem here on the reservation when there’s a crime committed to an Osage member by a non-Osage, that’s a big problem. As you see we’ve had a lot of crimes committed here in the last five years and we run into the problem of jurisdiction.”
Pratt said she believed there is a lot of internal housekeeping to do before introducing something brand new. She said the main goal is to also work with the other branches.
“I’m hearing consensus between the other candidates that we’re needing to strengthen our sovereignty, in regards to whether it be it land, or our police department, so I believe we have a lot of internal cleaning to do,” she said. “That’s really what I would be looking at, each of those problems and challenges, and adjusting them ... with appropriation to the challenge our people are having.”
“The Osage Nation Supreme Court has had several important rulings in recent years, which one is the most important and how will it shape your time on Congress?”
- Ericca Dennis, Tulsa, OK
Revard said she’s most familiar with Standing Bear v. Whitehorn and she wishes they had not had to go to court either time, but she said it was important because they needed clarity.
“As far as the Budget Control Act or things of that nature, like line item shifting. At what point can Congress get into Executive Branch and try to operate, which we found out they cannot do,” she said. “And I think that it did provide some clarity. I feel like working in the Executive Branch and close with the Legislature that I’ve learned the difference, so it’s kind of like a lawyer, you always say ‘Who’s got jurisdiction?’ Whose jurisdiction is it, the executive branch or the legislature? And once you have jurisdiction you can lay out a clear road to make good decisions.”
Kidder said the ON Supreme Court plays a very vital role in legislation.
“They balance everything out in what each branch tries to do and if we overstep our bounds they’re there,” he said. “As far as myself, I’m not sure how to respond to this, but I do believe in the three branches and the Supreme Court does have that final say.”
Maker said for him it was when the Congress had disagreements with the Executive over budget issues and jurisdiction over the spending and revenues.
“As we know, the Congress is the purse strings of the Osage Nation people, and is also a big responsibility of executive. We need to work hand-in-hand with that and nobody wants to go to court,” he said. “Every court case it costs a lot of money to go to court and I just think in the future the most important thing for me as a congressman is to work with executive and come up with the solution that is going to be good and responsible for everybody and also the Osage people.”
Pratt said a 2015 case that dealt with the Osage Minerals Council and addressed the 1906 allotment act addressed the powers of each branch of government and how each branch should operate.
“It had to do with ethics and went to the heart of Osage sovereignty and where that power should lie and who should exercise it and who should benefit from it. I was very interested in that case,” she said.
Proctor said the Supreme Court has only had 11 recorded cases in their existence and didn’t think that was very many to have in their 14-year existence. She said if she had to name the case that had the most significance it was Mason vs. Gray, which gave the Nation its Free Press.
“The Free Press that we enjoy and that gave us the Osage News and isn’t this a wonderful platform that we enjoy and have access to. I think the Osage News is a wonderful resource for our Nation and our community,” she said. “If I had to tell you what lessons I’ve learned, I would have to say changes have to be made. The Osage Nation Supreme Court has only had 11 reported cases in their existence, yet it takes two years for them to render a decision. That’s not acceptable. I think their budget needs to be revisited, I think that changes must be made.”
“Do you think a per cap in general or even a birthday, Christmas, or elder per cap is a good thing for the Osage people?”
- Daniel Thornton, Pawhuska, OK
Kidder said he wasn’t quite sure whether a per cap was a good idea at this time with the pandemic and the Nation’s gaming revenue at a standstill.
“I don’t think per cap is quite the answer for it. Does it sound good? Sure, it sounds great and I think everybody would love a per cap, but we have to think about finances. We have programs that try to support as many people as we can through our crisis programs, financial assistance area,” he said. “If we had unlimited funds a per cap would be a great idea, but we don’t have that. So, we’ve got to come up with creative ideas on how to reach out to everybody.”
Maker said with the pandemic going on and affecting the casino revenue it isn’t a good time for a per cap.
“You hear about other tribes and there are some tribes out in California that have a per cap and they’re getting like $20,000 to $30,000 a year, but that’s only because they have only about 300 tribal members,” Maker said. “But right now, per cap is completely and totally out of the question for our Nation.”
Pratt said the Nation has sustained great injury from the financial crisis it is currently in and it will affect this year and next year’s budgets.
“The per cap payments, the tribes that do have it, they have diversified revenues. We do not have that at this point. Our main source of revenue is our gaming and those doors are shut right now,” she said. “At this time no, I don’t think we should even be talking about a per cap, we should be talking about what we can do for our Nation and how we can pitch in and collectively move forward from this.”
Proctor said the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act authorizes tribes to expend their gaming revenue such as per capita payments to all members of a tribe.
“I do support a limited per capita payment, when the time is right, when we have recovered from this crisis and that would be only for our elderly people. We would have to take a look at some of these schematics and see where those elderly people are and how many are in each bracket,” she said. “Maybe age 70 and up, maybe 62 and up or maybe age 55, but I think our elderly people deserve to share in the benefits of our Nation.”
Revard said with the current financial situation the Nation is in due to the pandemic, now is not a good time to consider per capita payments.
“It just would not be fiscally reasonable to do so. As we’ve mentioned we have about 21,000 members, our revenue has become stagnant and has definitely been interrupted by the COVID,” she said. “We run about $40 million, just a projection, per year. Unless our revenue changes significantly, I don’t see how even without the COVID, I just don’t see how we could do that. I hate to put out there that’s even a possibility, but I just don’t see how that could be the case. A per cap, or a birthday, or a Christmas per cap, there’s just no way, unfortunately.”
To view the full video of the 2020 Osage News Candidate Debates, the video can be found on the Osage News YouTube page. The video is four hours and 50 minutes long.