Government

New Seventh ON Congress members express gratitude on election, preparing for session work

The newly-elected and re-elected Osages now serving on the Seventh Osage Nation Congress expressed gratitude for their election wins and say they will be busy learning and taking up unfinished business and challenges that await the Legislative Branch.

Congress members Jodie Revard, Pam Shaw and Billy Keene are now serving their first terms and RJ Walker, Joe Tillman and John Maker were re-elected in the June 1 General Election.

Revard said the campaign season was challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which suddenly dampened travel and gathering plans worldwide as the virus spread. “Campaigning was quite abnormal due to the pandemic, I planned on having a dinner to announce my candidacy but after speaking to my family we agreed to cancel for safety precautions. For those that actually know me, I love to visit so this new social distancing campaign style was quite different. I was limited to social media, mail outs, and advertising. The biggest barrier was trying to ensure that my written message was clear. It was a very humbling experience,” she said. 

A former 31st Osage Tribal Councilwoman under the former government, Revard is not new to elected Osage office, but this is her first time serving as an elected official under the reformed government that started in 2006.

“To some extent, I’ve been working daily since July 10.  I’m used to working and it actually consumes most of my day, whether or not I’m reading, listening, or writing,” Revard said. “I’m trying to familiarize myself with the rules and laws while preparing for the Tzi-Zho Session. Thus far, we’ve had one special session, one Congressional Affairs meeting, and we are now preparing for another special session scheduled for August 5. My plans in the first 90 days include addressing the projected revenue for FY21, studying the current board structures, reading board minutes, and studying all of the laws related to the boards. I’m very excited to see the results of the updated Strategic Plan and the Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Center survey.  I only make decisions based on solid data and I tend to ask a lot of questions. I look forward to working with everyone and I’m excited for the future.”

Shaw, who previously worked in tribal gaming, recalled hearing the election results a “very surreal experience” and added: “To be elected to the 7th Osage Nation Congress, when there were many worthy candidates, is an honor and I will not take this position or the trust of the Osage People lightly. I understand the great responsibility involved and will work hard to fulfill this position.”

Going forward, Shaw added “with the 2nd Special Session and the Tzi-Zho Session commencing during my first 90 days, I will be busy learning everything I possibly can to be prepared for the sessions. I will be attending as many Board meetings as possible, studying legislation and rules, and am excited to have been placed on several Congressional Committees. I am anticipating that the budget process could involve some difficult decisions so I want to be as prepared as possible and have as much historical information as I can so that I can vote in the most informed and thoughtful way. During the campaign process, I was fortunate to have had great conversations with many members and want to continue to be available and accountable to all. The past and future conversations with Osage members will definitely help focus my research efforts for future legislation.”

Keene, who has worked in previous Executive Branch capacities, also recalled hearing the results as surreal on Election Day. “When they called my name, my son Carson and nephew Jaren came up behind me and they said, ‘You did it!’ It gave me goosebumps. I’m also incredibly humbled and grateful for this opportunity to serve the Osage Nation people.”

“Looking ahead, there’s going to be some hard decisions that will have to be made,” Keene said. “It’s a dire situation with budget cuts and the pandemic that is showing no signs of slowing down. I’m putting a priority on services that serve our most vulnerable segments of our population and trying to protect those. I also understand the anxiety that the Osage Nation employees have, we’ve already seen some mass layoffs. But I’m of the firm belief that out of hard times, we can become stronger. I look forward to the Fall Session and working within Congress to help steer the Osage Nation through this turbulent time.”  

Walker won re-election for a third term and previously won the 2012 and 2016 elections. He is a former ON Roads Department director and is a former Congressional Speaker and has served as chair or vice chair of several Congressional committees. “Can’t even express how humbling it is to be voted back in to serve the Osage people!!,” Walker said on social media in thanking voters on June 2.

“At my core, I believe Osages in the Executive and Legislative branches should put aside personal and political differences and work together for the common good of all Osages. For the past eight years I have practiced that belief,” Walker said in his announcement statement. “I strive for balance between competing interests. I have openly supported our core benefits and will always fight for the rights of our employees. The coronavirus pandemic presents us with difficult decisions, now, and in the future. Hard decisions are on the horizon, where knowledge, experience and courage is needed. My record reflects my ability to make those decisions, no matter how hard they may be.”

Tillman is serving his second Congressional term and is also a former Congressional Speaker during his fourth year and served as Second Speaker the year before. “We were very excited about the results, over 1,200 Osage voters trusted in me. It was a peculiar time because of the COVID pandemic, we didn’t get to go to (out-of-area Osage gatherings), no live debates and the biggest thing to me is I enjoy going door-to-door and shaking people’s hands,” he recalled.

“I’m looking forward to what we can do to help the Osage people, as for me I am very anxious for the budgets to come over from the Executive Branch and to look over any (proposed) reductions for FY 2021. I’m also looking forward to what we can do to protect Osage language and culture and also elders and education,” Tillman said. “Education to me is key development into the future, we’ve got Osage students who are studying to become doctors, attorneys, CPAs, we need to make sure they’re getting their bang for their buck. I’m also looking forward to working with new Congress members, it will be interesting to see how we move forward with new people. Let’s keep going together, we need great leadership.”

Maker is also serving a third Congress term who expressed excitement in winning re-election because he questioned whether his health would be OK after having major emergency neck surgery in 2019. He visited with his doctor who gave the OK, and he also filed to run after hearing encouragement from fellow Osages, including elders. “I had overcome so many forces and dynamics, I thought my resume was as good as anyone else’s in my experience – I was a Congressman, a language teacher, Army veteran and active in the Native American Church,” he said.

“What I would like to see in the new Congress is we have a chance to start fresh in working for the Nation,” Maker said. “If there are any hard feelings, we can put those behind us, that’s what I would like to see first of all. And it’s going to be pretty tough (with FY 2021 budgets). With this new Congress, I would like to see us work together in a positive way and I’m thankful to my supporters and the people who put me in this office. I will always do my best for the Osage people.”         

For more information on the ON Congress, filed legislation and upcoming meetings and session schedules, visit the Legislative Branch website at: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch