ON Congress appropriates $1.5 million for Osage County land purchases

Discussion of land purchases dotted congressional conversations several times during the Congressional Huh-Kah Session before the Third Osage Nation Congress approved two appropriation bills to buy back land.

Both bills totaled $1,550,000 with the funding directed toward the Nation’s Executive Branch, Tribal Development and Land Acquisition Department and Osage Nation Energy Services LLC to conduct the land purchases when those opportunities are available.

First, an $800,000 appropriation bill aimed at supporting Osage County restricted land repurchases received majority support from the Third Osage Nation Congress during Day Nine of the Hun-Kah Session.

On April 9, the Congress voted to amend the restricted land repurchase appropriation bill’s initial request amount of $600,000 to $800,000. This bill (ONCA 14-28 sponsored by Congressman Geoffrey Standing Bear) appropriates a capital contribution of $800,000 into the Nation’s restricted real property repurchase fund, therefore funding restricted land repurchases of the former Osage reservation.

During discussion on possible amendments, several Congress members said they believe land repurchasing is a priority for the Nation. A proposed amendment to ONCA 14-28 to raise the appropriation amount to $1 million failed, but $800,000 received majority support for a bill amendment.

Standing Bear said the land repurchase efforts will be the responsibility of the ON Tribal Development and Land Acquisition Department under the Executive Branch. He proposed to amend the bill appropriation amount to $750,000. Congresswoman Shannon Edwards also proposed an amendment to increase the appropriation from $600,000 to $1 million, spurring discussion on the proposed amounts.

Congresswoman Alice Buffalohead said “I’m all for this” but noted she felt nervous about increasing the appropriation to $1 million considering the Nation’s fiscal year 2013 audit is not yet complete.

Congressman Daniel Boone said he applauds Standing Bear’s bill, but also hesitated on appropriating $1 million in case of unforeseen emergencies. “Who knows what the future might hold, we might get devastated by a tornado … It’s always nice to have a little money in the bank,” Boone said.

Edwards said two of her priorities are pushing services to as many Osages as possible and purchasing land back. “17,000 members benefit from us owning our reservation, so to me, this is a priority over almost anything else we’re doing.”

The proposed $1 million increase to ONCA 14-28 failed with seven “no” votes out of all 12 Congress members present. Voting “no” were: Congress members John Free, Buffalohead, John Jech, Archie Mason, RJ Walker, Boone and Congressional Speaker Raymond Red Corn.

Congressman John Maker said he would support ONCA 14-28 and shared a brief story about a conversation he had three years ago with an unnamed former Tribal Council member. Maker said he asked the former elected official what he would do if the person had to make a decision on how to spend the extra tribal gaming revenue. The person replied that land repurchasing would also be a priority.

After further discussion and a successful vote to suspend the Congressional rules to propose another appropriation increase, the Congress considered a second proposed appropriation increase to $800,000. The $800,000 amendment passed with a 10-2 vote with “no” votes from Jech and Red Corn.

Afterward, the final main motion to amend ONCA 14-28 with the $800,000 appropriation amount passed with 11 “yes” votes and one “no” from Jech.  

A second appropriation bill (ONCA 13-100, Edwards) passed by Congress calls for a total of $750,000 to be appropriated with $400,000 directed to the Executive Branch and the remaining $350,000 directed to the Osage Nation Energy Services LLC.

According to ONCA 13-100, the $400,000 appropriated to the Executive Branch is intended for specific real property purchases in the remaining 2014 fiscal year pursuant to the Nation’s gaming plan of operation. The $350,000 appropriated to the ONES LLC is intended for real property purchases that are in accordance with that entity’s annual plan of operation as well.

Principal Chief Scott BigHorse signed ONCA 14-28 into law on April 15 and ONCA 13-100 on April 28.