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Group one of OMC candidates debate increased production, green energy and first 90 days

The Osage News Editorial Board held candidate debates on April 30. The live stream of the event is archived on the Osage Nation's YouTube account.

The Osage News Editorial Board hosted a daylong Candidate Debate for the fifteen candidates running for eight seats on the 5th Osage Minerals Council.

The debate was held at the Osage County Fairgrounds Ag Building on April 30.

The candidates were divided into three groups of five; however, candidates Jeff Patten and Stephanie Erwin were unable to attend due to health issues.

The debate was moderated by Sterling Cosper (Muscogee Creek Nation), who is acting director for the Native American Journalists Association and former News correspondent Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton (Cherokee Nation) who is now a Tulsa World education reporter.

Each group received three questions submitted from the Osage public. However, only one person submitted a question for the Minerals Council candidates. The Editorial Board made up the difference, as well as pulling questions from other submissions for Congressional candidates.

Each candidate received two minutes for opening statements and question responses, one-minute rebuttals and two-minute closing statements.

The first group of OMC candidates included Kenneth Bighorse Jr., Cynthia Boone, Joseph Blackbird Cheshewalla, Melissa Currey and James Osage Dailey.

Minerals candidate Joseph Cheshewalla delivers his opening statement at the Osage News Candidate Debates. From left: Melissa Currey, Cheshewalla and Cynthia Boone. STEPHANIE IVISON/Osage News

First question

As a Minerals Council member, how would you help increase the production of oil, gas and minerals production? – Osage News Editorial Board

Bighorse said the relationship between the Osage and the BIA must first be repaired.

“We’re having real problems with permits, whatever that may be, I can’t speak to that,” he said. “We’re having trouble getting data and permits to the producers themselves. Until we can get that resolved in the bureau and the OMC, we’re not going to be able to get anything done.”

Boone said the problem is the BIA Superintendent. 

“What I’d like to see is a shorter permitting period, and we need to have the records to the oilman so they can see where to drill.

“We’re hoping the superintendent we have now hopefully retires in November.” She added she would like to get some of the rules changed.

Cheshewalla said he echoed Boone’s statements.

“It seems that ever since we made the settlement, it seems like the bureau has been out to even the books,” he said. “I didn’t think that was their mission, but it hasn’t been that way in the past eight to 10 years. I’m hoping to work with the next administration the next four years.”

Currey said the reason production’s down is because they don’t have any leases, and the people that do have leases are struggling to get production going.

“We need to meet with the BIA and get them to release the oil and production data. The lessees can’t come in and research,” she said. “The current OMC has made some process in getting some of the well data. I was happy to see the presentation from the oil and gas summit this month. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Dailey said the answer to the question is more leases, “brand new leases. We need new leases. How we get there is this OMC is going to have to get on parlay with someone.”

He said the OMC needs their own “permit man,” their own “environmental man” on staff. A team needs to be put together that will work with the superintendent and “if it takes sweet charm, then that’s what we’re going to do.”

Minerals Council candidate James Osage Dailey discusses the need to increase marketing of Osage oil and obtain more leases within the minerals estate. STEPHANIE IVISON/Osage News

Second question

What will be your strategy for your first 90 days in office that will benefit the mineral estate? – Lisa Yates, Joplin, Mo.

Boone said in her first 90 days she will need to find out what the 4th minerals council has done and said 90 days isn’t very long. She said she will work on having a good relationship with the superintendent, look at the permitting process and more.

Cheshewalla said 90 days wouldn’t be enough time “to get a lot of stuff going. We’d probably get some committees going. The orphan well project and go from there with it.”

Currey said in her first 90 days she would like to see the council come together as a team, branch out into different committees, go through all litigation the council is currently in, “see where everybody’s strengths are and move forward as a team.

“We need to communicate and work together to bring our mineral estate forward. We need to look at what the 4th OMC has done, well plugging, GIS, it will take 90 days to come together, form committees.”

Dailey said the OMC needs to look at “our trust estate as a trust. We need to market it. We need to have a market sale of our oil.”

He said the OMC needs financials of oil and gas data. “We need new oil leases and the only way we’re going to do it is go to the superintendent … reorganize, huddle up and move on.”

Bighorse said 90 days isn’t a long time “to bring up anything substantial, to impact our checks.”

He said he would like to see something that brings modern technology to the OMC.

Minerals Council candidate Melissa Currey responds to a question about green energy at the Osage News Candidate Debates on April 30. STEPHANIE IVISON/Osage News

Third question

What is your position on the Osage Minerals Council exploring and adopting green energy projects? – Osage News Editorial Board

Cheshewalla said he will wait for Osages 20 years younger than him before he brings that up.

Currey said the mineral estate is an underground reservation and it consists of oil and gas. “At this point I don’t think I would be ready to explore any green energy production as far as the mineral estate is concerned.”

Dailey said, “We’re oil and gas people, and until we can’t take out all the oil and gas from the ground” they’ll stay oil and gas people.

Bighorse said, “We’re a mining company, we’re a mining people. Soil, rock, this green energy is above the ground. Wind, solar, that has no part in our mineral estate. It may be something the Osage Nation or Osage LLC, but as far as the mineral estate itself it doesn’t apply.”

Boone said, “I am a firm believer in the 1906 act.” She said the 1906 act doesn’t mention green energy.

To watch the Osage News Candidate Debates, Osage Minerals Council candidates, visit the Osage Nation’s YouTube page at https://youtu.be/U2sxbVtFJ6A

Minerals Council candidate Cynthia Boone speaks on the need to shorten the permitting process. From left: Joseph Cheshewalla, Boone, Kenneth Bighorse Jr. STEPHANIE IVISON/Osage News
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Shannon Shaw Dutyhttps://osagenews.org
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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