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HomeLegalFormer Osage employee falsifies Osage memberships for adopted relatives

Former Osage employee falsifies Osage memberships for adopted relatives

Osage Nation tribal member and well known member of the community, Asa Cunningham, was charged with three counts of tampering with public records when she falsified the tribal memberships for three of her sister’s adopted children.

A warrant is out for Cunningham’s arrest, according to Jeff Jones, former ON AG who is on contract with the office until November. Jones brought the charges against Cunningham on Oct. 6.

The penalties for tampering with public records is a fine not to exceed $1,000, jail time not to exceed one year, or banishment, according to the criminal complaint filed at the ON Trial Court.

Jones said the investigation was conducted by ON Police Department Investigator Mike Anderson after he received a tip of suspicious activity involving the CDIB/Tribal Membership Office on June 15, 2015. 

According to the police affidavit, Anderson said “I talked with Sarah Oberly on June 16, 2015 and she advised Osage Nation CDIB/Membership employee Lauren Malone, brought to Oberly’s attention some membership application documents which were found while Malone was uploading documents from one program to another. The documents were specific to each of the three previously listed children above.”

Jones, who was familiar with the adoptive case of the three minor children, obtained the final decree of the adoption from the Osage County District Court. According to the case the children were not of Indian descent.

Anderson questioned Cunningham and she admitted to the falsified CDIBs for her sister’s three adopted children.

According to the affidavit, Cunningham said, “No, I was in the wrong and that’s all I have to say. Jackie probably didn’t have nothing to do with it, it was probably all me because she told me they were not Osage.”

According to the affidavit, “Cunningham also advised she went ahead and processed these applications because she wanted the children to be Osage, as they were part of the family.”

Her sister, Jackie McCann, was also interviewed and she denied ever applying for the tribal memberships but she did receive the CDIB cards in the mail. She said she only used them for school supplies for the three children and did not use them for health care. When asked if she applied for tribal membership cards for the three children she said no, and when shown the applications she said that was not her signature or her writing.

According to the affidavit, Cunningham was brought back in for questioning and admitted to filling out the tribal membership applications and signing her sister’s signature.

According to a press release from the Office of the Chiefs, the AG’s office will be keeping in line with Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear’s vision for accountability of offenders for mismanagement and fraud within the Nation and its departments.


Shannon Shaw Duty

Original Publish Date: 2015-10-06 00:00:00

Shannon Shaw Duty

Title: Editor


Twitter: @dutyshaw

Topic Expertise: Columnist, Culture, Community

Languages spoken: English, Osage (intermediate), Spanish (beginner)

Shannon Shaw Duty is the editor of the Osage News. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a master's degree in Legal Studies, Indigenous Peoples Law from the OU College of Law. She served on the Board of Directors for the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) from 2013-2016 and served as a board member and Chairwoman for the Pawhuska Johnson O’Malley Parent Committee from 2017-2020. She is a Chips Quinn Scholar, a former instructor for the Freedom Forum’s Native American Journalism Career Conference and the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute. She is a former reporter for The Santa Fe New Mexican. She is a 2012 recipient of the Native American 40 Under 40 from the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED). In 2014 she helped lead the Osage News to receive the Elias Boudinot Free Press Award, NAJA’s highest honor. An Osage tribal member, she and her family are from the Grayhorse District. She currently resides in Pawhuska, Okla., with her husband and six children.

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