A tsunami of wind turbines is zeroing in on the Osage Reservation and will irrevocably destroy our heritage. Over 500 turbines are slated to be built pending resolution of a lawsuit before the Oklahoma Supreme Court and an appeal of a lower federal court ruling that paved the way for more turbines.
Wind energy industrial plants with hundreds of 400 feet tall turbines consume massive tracts of land. They require the excavation of millions of cubic feet of rock and dirt. Over 126 square miles of the Reservation will be needed for 500 turbines and over 1 square mile of Osage minerals will be excavated from ditches at least 10 feet deep. Another 250 square miles may be targeted for wind energy industrial plants that will surround Pawhuska and Hominy.
Those familiar with the Reservation know that it is home to the largest and best-preserved Flint Hill Prairie Tallgrass ecosystem remaining in the U.S. In 2004 it was designated by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation as the “best of what’s left” of the grasslands that were here before European contact. Massive land gobbling industrial wind energy plants will ruin this special place forever.
We possessed our current Reservation for many hundreds of years, long before we made our last move here in 1870. We buried our dead here, we established semi-permanent hunting camps along dozens of well-traveled trails, we conducted ceremonies here, and the prairie landscape inspired our ancestor’s understanding of creation. Where father sky Tzi-Zho meets mother earth Hun-Kah on the prairie horizon the people of the sky descended and united with the people of the earth to become one people, the Wah-Zha-Zhi. Industrial wind plants will destroy our heritage and disconnect us from the unspoiled landscape that infused spiritual meaning into the lives of our ancestors.
Recently our minerals were used without permission to build a wind farm within view of Gray Horse. Excavating hundreds of acres of Osage minerals is not inconsequential as a federal judge recently ruled. He was also wrong when he ruled that using our minerals was not for commercial purposes. When a multi-million dollar company uses a natural resource it needs to build a money-generating machine and doesn’t pay for it, that’s called pure commercial profit.
I have spoken to our Principal Chief, Assistant Principal Chief, Speaker of the Osage Congress, Chairman of the Minerals Council, members Congress, Minerals Council and former Osage Nation Attorney General. All say they oppose wind farms for the reasons mentioned above. Yet as this tragedy is unfolding our leaders seem helpless. As a well-respected tribal member said, “The mindset that we are too pitiful to do anything must stop.”
If we fail to act out of fear, apathy or the hope that someone else will fix it, then we will become just an Indian association that meets in June to dance in arenas surrounded by gigantic wind turbines. We can give up on the idea that we are the sovereign Osage Nation.