Area residents – Osage and non-Osage – joined Principal Chief John Red Eagle and other political leaders from the Osage Nation, and across Oklahoma, to celebrate a day of “Unity” on Dec. 10 in an effort to create “a better future for all who share in this great land.”
A written proclamation signed by Red Eagle and Assistant Principal Chief Scott BigHorse declared the day as the “Osage Nation Day of Reconciliation and Unity” in which he called on “all Osage citizens and our neighbors who share this great land to join in the commemoration.”
“You made the effort because that’s what’s going to network us together and when you network together with a common goal, then that goal is going to be envisioned,” Red Eagle said.
Elected Osage government officials including: BigHorse; ON Congress Speaker Jerri Jean Branstetter; Congressmen Archie Mason, William “Kugee” Supernaw and Eddy Red Eagle; Osage Minerals Councilmen Galen Crum, Myron Red Eagle, Joseph “Sonny” Abbott and Chairman Dudley Whitehorn; and Osage Nation Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Lohah were in attendance at the Osage County Fairgrounds south of Pawhuska.
Elected officials from state, federal, local and other tribal governments also attended including: Eddie Fields (R-Wynona), who was elected District 10 State Senator in November; Osage County Commissioners Bob Jackson, Scott Hilton and Jim Clark; Ponca City Mayor Homer Nicholson; Tonkawa tribal President Don Patterson; Kaw Nation Chairman Guy Munroe; and city officials from Hominy, Pawhuska and Barnsdall.
“I think we’ve got everybody but Santa Claus,” Mason said smiling after introducing the elected officials in the audience, which took nearly 20 minutes. He was the master of ceremonies for the day. This event comes four months after Red Eagle took oath as Principal Chief and said he would “call for a day of reconciliation” in his inaugural address.
“Initially, what will come out of the Unity Day event is a mutual effort by all reservation communities to share in ideas, effort, and planning to take advantage of opportunities that will improve the quality of life on the reservation for all its citizens,” said Chris White who is the Executive Director of Governmental Affairs for the Nation.
In an e-mailed statement, White said: “The Chief’s office has already discussed exploring an idea to sponsor summit-type meetings that will examine our mutual needs and desires for more jobs, better health care delivery systems, and enhanced educational opportunities. Already, there is a scheduled meeting between Chief Red Eagle and the three Osage County Commissioners and it has been agreed that future meetings will be on a quarterly basis. Again, this is just the first step.”
Jennifer Tiger, director of the Nation’s Strategic Planning and Grants Management office, was project manager for the seven teams that organized and planned the event. She said preparation took six weeks and more than 25 people to make the event happen with a budget of about $12,000. The funding for the event came from the Office of the Chiefs, she said.
“I’m extremely proud of all the work the planning teams did,” Tiger said in an e-mail after the event. “They executed the project pretty well considering it was our first event and we were under a time crunch.”
Red Eagle opened his remarks by citing Holy Scripture, which calls for people to live in unity with their “brethren.” He reminisced about Pawhuska during his youth when the streets and stores would be filled with people on Saturdays and everybody knew everybody. He also noticed the unity theme during his recent visits to Washington D.C.
“I’ve seen the leaders of this Nation, I’ve seen the leaders of the Indian Nations and we’re all striving for one thing: we’re striving for unity. We’re striving for that effort where we can make a decision where it’s going to help our people,” Red Eagle said.
“I was up there when (President Barack) Obama made that decision. He said: ‘well, I’m going to compromise so we can help this person.’ And I looked at that decision and the compromise that he made and he was criticized for that. But he did it for a purpose because [a] family would have security,” said Red Eagle of Obama’s bipartisan tax-cut compromise.
Red Eagle’s older brother Congressman Red Eagle also took the stage during the “Day of Unity” and shared Osage history with the attendees, mentioning the tribe’s names used by ancestors including “Wah-Zha-Zhi” and “Ni-o-ka-ska,” meaning “children of the middle waters.”
“We’ve been very fortunate in our tribe, as my brother said,” said Chief Red Eagle, “Since we crossed that Kansas border from that time… from the natural resources all the way to the rolling hills, our people were blessed with this type of land and they benefitted from it, we see that benefit today.”
Red Eagle invited long-time family friend and non-Osage rancher Frederick Drummond to address the crowd in which he described the region as “a mystic place, a beautiful country.”
“I think this is something that is really important,” Drummond said of “unity” as a concept. “You’re blessed with so many wonderful things here… natural resources, the minerals… there are 45,000 people that live in Osage County, work in Osage County and to include them in the vision that the tribe has for the betterment of all is the thing that makes it a wonderful recommendation for the vision and the leadership of your tribe.”
The “Day of Unity” event also featured songs from Osage singers and drummers. The American Legion Post 198 of Pawhuska posted the flag colors and the day included lunch and network time for all the visitors.