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HomeGovernmentChief Standing Bear shares updates in 2024 State of the Nation

Chief Standing Bear shares updates in 2024 State of the Nation

Standing Bear's updates included information about the Nation's departments, businesses and ongoing projects

For the 2024 State of the Nation, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear delivered remarks with information from Executive Branch cabinet secretaries regarding accomplishments and progress.

Standing Bear shared his updates at the start of the 2024 Hun-Kah Session as he’s done in recent years.

“Each one (of the secretaries) would like to talk to you more about what they’re doing,” Standing Bear told Congress. “And so I encourage each one of you to reach out directly to these cabinet secretaries, spend time with them, figure out what it is, where they’re coming from and they’ll report back to me so we can be on the same page.”

“None of this would be possible without the Osage Congress who, by our Constitution, makes difficult decisions based on recommendations to fund all the programs. So I asked each one of the secretaries to provide something brief” for the address, Standing Bear said.

Starting with the Secretary of Social Services (Teresa Bledsoe), Standing Bear said: “They’ve served (so far) 1,426 children up to age 12 through various community events, camps, collaborations with other departments. Of these children, 610 are Osage. The book mobile served a monthly average of 137 Osage children, 42 from other tribes and 107 non-Native children.”

“The Financial Assistance department has issued more than $1.3 million in crisis assistance to Osage members across the country. Child placement has been successful, family unifications, as well as healthy adoptions, which provide health, safety and care to our children and as of today, there are currently no children in the legal custody of the Osage Nation. In the future, I hope we will seek additional funding to increase our outreach into the juvenile family court systems in the United States. What I’m referring to is use of Indian Child Welfare Act to intervene into cases where our children are being put up for adoption or foster care. We have a lot of room to grow and intervene in those areas.”

Standing Bear said the Secretary of Development (Christian “Casey” Johnson) reports the newly renovated Visitors Center in Pawhuska has a construction cost of $1,054,000, which reopened to the public on April 17. Other items mentioned include:

  • The new Judicial Branch building under construction on the ON government campus has an estimated construction cost of $7.5 million and no estimated completion date was known.
  • The (newly proposed) Wahzhazhe National Cemetery south of Pawhuska was out for bid.
  • The Roads building project is estimated to be just under $1 million for a new 5,000 square foot office and shop facility.
  • For the Bartlesville Osage Casino & Hotel, the Nation’s Roads Department contributed just over $5 million for a parking lot with 600 spaces and half-mile of new highway with turn lanes for casino access.
  • For the Pawhuska Osage Casino & Hotel, the Roads Department contributed $3,747,000 for new parking areas with 400 spaces and one-quarter mile of new roadway with turn lanes.

For the Secretary of Administration reports, the Nation’s web portal has successfully used over 1,000 new user accounts demonstrating robust community adoption and engagement, said Standing Bear, who added James Weigant recently left the Nation and the secretarial post he held is vacant. Standing Bear told Congress to check in with Chief of Staff Jason Zaun, for internet assessment-related inquiries following the network outage the Nation experienced in the winter.

Standing Bear said portals for certain online services are in development, which include career training, crisis assistance, and Tax Commission tag renewals and ON membership.

Referring to the Nation’s first ever census conducted last year, Standing Bear said census data between July 1 and July 31, 2023 – with nearly 4,000 responses from Osage members – will be used “to improve services and strengthen sovereignty.”

Referring to the Nation-owned airpark property in Tulsa, Standing Bear said Skyway 36 renovations start in April, which are being funded by an EDA grant award of $2 million and self governance ARPA funds of $4.2 million totaling $6,300,000. Standing Bear noted the renovations are separate from any new funding-related requests from Osage LLC regarding Skyway 36.

Secretary of Natural Resources (Jann Hayman) reports the well plugging grant appropriated in December 2023 is being implemented and staff has been instructed to continue including the Osage Minerals Council in the project to the greatest extent possible, Standing Bear said. “The well plugging grant has opened up an important partnership opportunity, including the drone team from the Department of Energy providing resources and staff to assist in orphan well identification. The Department of Energy team has utilized a drone to cover approximately six square miles and an airplane has been utilized to cover approximately 6,000 acres. This technology and more has identified previously unidentified wells,” he said.

For the Nation’s Harvest Land operations, Standing Bear said increasing the capacity for the facility has occurred by the installation of grow lights, which will increase the number of constituents the facility can support. In coordination with Oklahoma State University and a grant program, 200 food boxes were distributed each week to constituents to support healthy eating habits, he said.

As of the Hun-Kah Session, the Nation’s Butcher House Meats is at 83% of what was projected for the current 2024 fiscal year, Standing Bear said. “Part of the success is continually building relationships with individual customers, the community and other Native nations. Furthermore, in cooperation with (ON) Title VI (Elder Nutrition), Butcher House supplied meat for another 200 boxes for distribution in the Native community using USDA local food purchase assistance funds. The first distribution, being in February, will continue for two years.”

“The (Department of Natural Resources) reports on spill prevention that the first ever tribal spill prevention control and countermeasure program in the United States has begun. One EPA project specialist has received federal credentials for inspection authority under the Clean Water Act, which has never been done by a tribal government. The first inspection was completed with this new credentialed inspector (which) occurred March 18,” Standing Bear said.  

“The Secretary of Public Safety (Nick Williams) has reported Wildland Fire (Management) have responded, so far, to 110 fires from October ‘23 to March 18,” Standing Bear said. “They started a fuel management crew and hired five additional team members, amended and updated the burn permit system for easier tracking accountability. This has made (it) easier for the landowner and for lessees to obtain a permit to utilize prescribed fires and effective land management tools. So far, they’ve issued 17 permits … They’re working with the Hominy Indian Village and a whole list of entities on the Wildland fire and fuel reduction issues.”

For the ON Police Department, the new Pawhuska casino location hosted law enforcement from 20 different agencies on a class about how to prevent human trafficking and (ONPD) sponsored this class. The ONPD police explorer program is off and running, the ONPD’s hired several Osages to fill vacant positions … One Osage graduated from the state police academy on Feb. 23 and the other is set to start coming in June. ONPD has entered into a new (memorandum of understanding) with the City of Bartlesville and these agreements will hopefully strengthen the process of working together with law enforcement, which has to happen always 24-7,” he said.

For Emergency Management, Standing Bear said their communications systems for emergency services and radio purchases are going forward as scheduled. “They conduct training, fire extinguisher training, home safety training for elders throughout the reservation area, also fire extinguisher training for staff at elementary schools, middle schools. They’re working with different departments, strategic planning and other projects.”

The Secretary of Language, Culture and Education (Vann Bighorse) says that the Osage students received over 30 awards from last year’s Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair “Our Education Department has been focusing on promoting and supporting the industries of aerospace and aviation career fields,” he added.

“The school clothing assistance program assisted 2,165 students as of the end of February. Osage Nation’s approved 1,515 applicants for the Higher Education Scholarships this academic year. The (ON) Education Department provided 74 applicants for the career training scholarship this academic year. The program increased its funding and started offering a monthly living stipend to 17 out of 30 applicants since January and full tuition assistance. This assistance will help students successfully complete their certifications or licensures,” Standing Bear said.

For Daposka Ahnkodapi, a science fair was held in January “with several of the students bringing home ribbons (for their project experiments),” Standing Bear said, adding “construction continues on a new Pawhuska Wahzhazhe Early Learning Academy, the facility will total 18,752 square feet with eight classrooms. The new building is expected to be finished this June.”

The Nation’s Historic Preservation Office reports “they have been successful in petitioning a U.S. board on geographic names and now has a summit in the Ozark National Forest (Arkansas) named Wahzhazhe Summit, we are working on getting more such changes as well,” he said.

The Nation’s newly renovated Visitors Center in Pawhuska (now open) will operate a coffee shop and have an outdoor seating area. The ON Museum recently received a gift of research materials from the late Dr. Garrick Bailey, who was an anthropologist at the University of Tulsa. “He was a real asset for us and we still use his work in our language and culture programs,” Standing Bear said.

Standing Bear shared information provided by the Nation’s Health Services, stating services are expanding, as well as healthcare employees. “They’re grown from 69 employees in 2022 to 170 in 2024 and 57 are Osage – the most employed ever by Si-Si A-Pe-Txa.”

“Successfully (Si-Si A-Pe-Txa) has secured – with your votes – a $50 million loan for a 50,000 square foot new clinic with expanded services and new services including physical therapy, specialty clinics, neurology, nephrology, surgical, podiatry, pediatrics, family medicine, emergency medicine, cardiology, orthopedics, sports medicine, internal medicine, psychiatry, dermatology and others … Third party collections saw a 100% increase in the first full fiscal year of the enterprise operation under current executive leadership,” Standing Bear said. “Collections increased from approximately $6 million to $12 million. They were awarded the Indian Health Service Small Ambulatory Grant for a total of $3.5 million to build a satellite expansion clinic in Skiatook.”

The health system is also transitioning into a new electronic health records system in partnership with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation this coming summer … which will allow faster safer high-quality servicing, Standing Bear said. “Since January 2024, Si-Si A-Pe-Txa has submitted for grants $21,469,000 in applications. This includes substance abuse prevention treatment, after-care continuation, and much more.”

For more information on accessing Osage Nation services and programs, visit the government website at www.osagenation-nsn.gov

Author

  • Benny Polacca

    Title: Senior Reporter

    Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

    Instagram: @bpolacca

    Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

    Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

    Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

    Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

    Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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Benny Polacca
Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org

Title: Senior Reporter

Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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