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Management of the Mineral Estate

According to the Osage Nation Supreme Court Opinion of Sept. 9, 2016, “the rights of headright shareholders for income from mineral royalties are protected by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Federal statutory and case law, and the Constitution and Laws of the Osage Nation.” (Emphasis mine)This seems fairly straight forward and clear cut.

But, what about the management of the Mineral Estate? At present, everything seems to be going okay, i.e. the way I have always thought the running of the Osage Minerals Estate was meant to be. Headright holders elect members of the Osage Minerals Council. The OMC manages the mineral estate which is held in trust by the U.S. government. And, the U.S. government exercises this trust responsibility, in part, by general oversight and approving oil and gas leases. 

When I’ve heard the Chief and/or members of Congress speak in public, they have always affirmed this process. I have heard nothing stated to contradict the fact that the Minerals Estate is rightfully managed by the OMC. The Osage Nation Constitution Article XV, Section 4, defines the OMC as follows.

“The Osage Minerals Council is recognized by the Osage Nation government as an independent agency within the Osage Nation established for the sole purpose of continuing its previous duties to administer and develop the Osage Minerals Estate in accordance with the Osage Allotment Act of June 28, 1906, as amended, with no legislative authority for the Osage Nation government. As an independent agency within the Osage Nation, the Osage Minerals Council may promulgate its own rules and regulations as long as such rules and regulations are not inconsistent with the laws neither of the Osage Nation nor with the rules and regulation established by the United States Congress in the 1906 Allotment Act.”

So, I do not know why, upon occasion, I experience a vague uneasy feeling that the autonomy of the OMC, to independently manage the mineral estate, may be at risk. I know that no Constitution is meant to address any and all contingency that may arise throughout time. I know that future challenges to the authority of the OMC will be met as they arise. I just wish I could feel more confident. I know other headright holders feel the same, although I do not know how many. There might be enough folks interested to warrant an open discussion.

I’d like to know the meaning of the words, “…with no legislative authority for the Osage Nation government.” (Constitution Article XV, Section 4, paragraph 3)

Does this mean (1) the Nation has no legislative authority over OMC or (2) the OMC has no legislative authority over the Nation?  

Also, what does it mean that the OMC shall have the power to “approve leases and to propose other forms of development of the Osage Minerals Estate.” (Constitution Article XV, Section 4, paragraph 4) To whom will the OMC ‘propose other forms of development.’?

I wonder about the words used to describe the distribution of governing powers as shown below.

“ARTICLE VI Sec 1. Legislative Power: the legislative power … is hereby vested in one legislative body…”

“ARTICLE VII Sec 1. Supreme Executive Power: The supreme executive    power … is hereby vested in a Principal Chief …”

“ARTICLE VIII Sec 1. Judicial Power: The Judicial powers of the Osage Nation are hereby vested in one Supreme Court …”

“ARTICLE XV Sec 4. Management of the Osage Mineral Estate: To discharge those (management?) obligations, the Osage Nation hereby creates a minerals management agency …”

The word “vested” means “Settled, fixed, or absolute, being without contingency, a vested right.” (American Heritage Dictionary) Vested, used in the first three definitions above, is a powerful word, absolute. Meant to stay and not be easily or capriciously changed. Whereas an entity which has been created solely for the purpose of meeting  one’s obligation could, conceivably, be changed if one chooses to meet his/her obligation in a different way. One could simply create a different entity. Repeal and replace so to speak.  


Rosemary Wood

Original Publish Date: 2017-04-11 00:00:00


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