Thursday, June 13, 2024
91.5 F
HomeCommunityNorthern California Osage hosts forum for 2024 ON Congressional candidates

Northern California Osage hosts forum for 2024 ON Congressional candidates

All voted absentee ballots must be received in Pawhuska by Election Day to be counted with in-person ballots. Three days of in-person voting will take place at the Pawhuska Osage Casino & Hotel on May 31, June 1 and Election Day is June 3.

WOODLAND, Calif. – Ten candidates for Osage Nation Congressional Office met with California constituents here and participated in a forum hosted by the Northern California Osage organization.

The NCO hosted a May 4 Spring Gathering featuring a candidate forum for those running for legislative office in the 2024 General Election. The 10 of 16 certified candidates participating were Jacque Jones, Maria Whitehorn, Alexis Martin, Angela Pratt, Pam Shaw, John Maker, Traci Phillips, Christa Fulkerson, Patrick Cullen-Carroll and William Kemble.

For the event, the NCO sought candidate question submissions from the Osage public online. NCO steering committee members Charles “Chuck” Maker and Duane BigEagle asked the selected questions and moderated the time for responses.

Approximately 60 individuals attended the day-long NCO event held in a Woodland hotel conference room where candidates also provided copies of their printed campaign literature to voters.

Before the forum, Chuck Maker told attendees: “We get to choose six of these candidates, so this is going to be a hard choice. We do have material from candidates who weren’t able to come including Tina Allen and Billy Keene, so help yourself to those.”

Each candidate received time for opening remarks then received a minute to respond to each of the eight questions, as well as closing remarks.

Carol Arata speaks at the Northern California Osage spring gathering on May 4, 2024, at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Woodland. ECHO REED/Osage News

If elected, would protection and perpetuation of the Regional Gathering Fund be a priority for you?

Jones, a former Constituent Services director under the ON Executive Branch, said that respective office houses the regional gathering funding request application (available for Osage organizations to request funding to offset their respective event costs) and she helped develop the initial policies and procedures for the application. “I absolutely would support that being on Congress and I believe you guys need actually a little bit more money for outreach purposes.”

While previously on Congress, Whitehorn said she supported the appropriations for the fund and has used the benefit for Osage Shareholders Association events in Oklahoma as its current chairperson. She also said she would support amendments to the law for more transparency for the public to know how the applicant organizations spend the requested funding.

Martin said she supports the intent of the regional gathering fund, because “that connection to our community is so important next to our culture being important.”

Pratt, also a prior Congress member, referred to an earlier debate that occurred when she was in office regarding the regional gathering fund in her response time. “Yes, let me be clear, in the past there has been a vote. I did vote to do away with the regional gathering fund – as a fund … The reason I did that is because it can also be put in policy. I don’t think for a second our Chief (Geoffrey) Standing Bear, during his term, would do away with the regional gathering fund. There was a fund for disabled Osages that started as a fund, but that’s in law. So I didn’t feel the regional gathering fund had to be in law because it kept coming back to the table over and over to amend the law when it could be policy.” 

Shaw said she supports the fund, “I think it’s great, the feeling that I get in this room is the same feeling that I get when we gather folks at home, so it’s important.”

Maker said he supports the fund 100% and remembers being on Congress when it was created. “There’s a group in Missouri that contacted me and they want me to help them to start a group up there, so I’ve been in contact with them … that’s our original homeland, they have to have a group and I’m going to help them any way I can to get that going.”

Phillips said she supports the fund, adding “I’m always for Osages gathering together and whatever it is we need to do to make that happen, to make funds available and I support that.”

Fulkerson said “I think that this fund is very important and obviously I would support it. I believe that this fund, this group of people, and Dallas and other places we’ve been (campaigning) … It really indirectly supports sovereignty. I think it supports cultural sovereignty … The governance of the Nation must reflect all voices and needs of all Osage members inside and outside of the reservation.”

Cullen-Carroll said the fund is important and he would like to see the fund expanded more and include programs, referring to a cultural one he participated in with his grandson during a prior visit to the Osage Reservation last year. “I’d like to enhance it so every time you have a meeting at one of these gatherings, you have someone come out here that can show you some of that,” he said.

Kemble said “I not only support it, I do believe it’s a necessity, and in our Constitution there’ a section about the Bill of Rights talking about the speech of all Osages … In addition to that, I believe it’s for organizations like this. I’m glad to see a lot of people turned out for it, that it’s to engage in Osage talk, whatever the buzz is … How about we have Congressional sessions here, how about we get outside of Pawhuska and come to you, perhaps in this very room, you’re used to it. That way we can see your faces just as you’re looking at me and we can continue to move on that way.”

The Northern California Osage hosted its Spring Gathering on May 4, 2024, at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Woodland. The meeting featured a Congressional candidate forum with an opportunity for Q&A from the attending candidates: Angela Pratt, Traci Phillips, Alexis Martin, Jacque Jones, Pam Shaw, John Maker, Maria Whitehorn, Christa Fulkerson, Patrick Cullen-Carroll, & William Kemble. ECHO REED/Osage News

If elected, discuss how you would support cultural and language programming for all Osages including those living outside of Osage County?

During her prior tenure, Whitehorn said she always supported language and cultures by appropriations. “The Executive Branch is responsible for the programming needs, I can’t make those up. That’s the Office of the Chiefs and his departments and programs. Those programs come to us and (tell) Congress ‘this is what we’re going to do’ especially if it’s a new initiative. I think that if you people out here in California feel like you’re missing out on something that other people are offered in the Osage Reservation area, that you should contact a Congress person … That gives us the opportunity to check and see what it is we can do for you.”

Martin said, “it’s absolutely a necessary need for us” and referred to an idea that came from a conversation she had with a constituent at the event. “We have our online language classes now, which are great. COVID came in and allowed people to start participating through the internet. But with those classes, they’re only at certain times … Maybe there is a database that we can create where we can record and store them and maybe you can go in and access them with your (ON) enrollment number or something like that.”

Pratt said she believes language and culture go hand and hand. “I think there needs to be a heavy support for language and a heavy support for culture because the United States government is what tried to wipe both away from us as a people. And so, I think there’s been great effort, I think that the Standing Bear administration has done a great job in the outreach. I agree with the fact we need to hear more from our people wherever they may be … I also sponsored the resolution and did a commendation for (the first ON Language Department Director) Herman ‘Mogri’ Lookout when I first came onto Congress. Mogri told me it was vital, it absolutely had to happen that the Unicode folks looked at it when I filed that resolution, that that was the official language of the Osage Nation and that’s what got the Unicode (progress) over the line to get that done.”

Shaw said her late father-in-law Jerry Shaw and fellow Congress candidate Jodie Revard served on the 31st Osage Tribal Council when the Language Department was established and started revitalization efforts. “Look at how far we’ve come since now very much to the credit of Chief Standing Bear and his administration for sure … Last week, the Daposka (Ahnkodapi) put on a language fair with all of our Osage children at our immersion school … it was skits and songs, and they speak it so well, so language and culture – always will support (them).”

Maker said he was one of the first Osage language teachers when the department was established. “It took 10 years to get all that on the computer. It didn’t happen overnight, there was an expert up in Canada, I think, who worked on the fonts to get it into Unicode. It was a very ongoing process, but we had to first create the (orthography) symbols themselves. I was part of that, I’m thankful for that.”

Phillips said “I will always support language and culture; I didn’t grow up around the arbors so I found my way back and finding and learning has been a true gift in my life and one that I’m forever grateful for. I started language classes four years ago during COVID … Our language is amazing and there’s a lot that we can do and I look forward to being a part of that progression.”

Fulkerson said she was born and raised in Osage County, and she went away to get her college education, work experience before her former grants management post with the Nation and has yet to take language classes offered due to a busy schedule, but added “I would support online learning platforms, funding for regional cultural centers, partnerships with education institutions when it comes to language. I would support traveling cultural exhibits and workshops, I would also support cultural exchange programs.”

Cullen-Carroll said culture and language are part of education “and education is part of sovereignty and honestly … there’s been a systematic attempt in this country to get rid of it. If you go back and look at the Allotment Act and what happened after the Allotment Act was a systematic attempt to try to destroy the culture, to destroy the Osage, so we have to not only support it, we have to increase what we’re doing because when I look out here at young people, you are the future of our tribe, you are the future of whether we exist 20 years from now,” he said.

Kemble said he was raised around the Osage culture and added there’s a provision about cultural preservation. “If you’re Osage, you have a right to cultural teachings, you have the right to a cultural background. Myself, I don’t consider it to be a question of supporting it, I believe it’s a responsibility. If you get involved in it, you will feel that sense of responsibility to pass it on throughout the generations. With that, in our (family) home, we have the Osage language app, we attended Osage language classes and then we practice it every day.”

Jones said “language and culture and cultural preservation is very important to me. I was fortunate to be raised around it my whole entire life, I’m part of our family Native American Church, the Inlonshka, I also sing on one of our committees.” She added her late mother also worked at the Language Department and “I was able to watch the formation of the orthography, so it’s very important to me. I would support through appropriation to enhance that and for outreach for people like yourself.”

Osage Nation Congressional Candidate William Kemble speaks at the Northern California Osage Spring Gathering Congressional candidate forum on May 4, 2024, at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Woodland. ECHO REED/Osage News

If elected/ reelected, what is the first piece of legislation you would introduce in the next session and why?

Martin said she would like to work on the Nation having its own Good Samaritan law, which typically protects people who help others during emergencies from legal consequences in case of unintentional errors that might occur while providing aid. She shared the story of her mother passing due to an opioid overdose and two individuals present at the time did not call for medical assistance because they were scared of potential legal consequences. She said she would like to see similar legislation so “when our members do get into that situation, that they feel comfortable enough in our justice system to call for help.”

Pratt shared the story of her teenage niece who passed recently due to a fentanyl overdose, which has been tough on her family and said “I would speak to Chief right away and try to address a former bill that I had that creates a drug and alcohol task force because it’s been discussed it was unconstitutional for the Congress to create a task force, but I would go to Chief and talk about the need.”

Shaw said the next regular Congressional session will be the Tzi-Sho Session in the fall “so we will be focusing heavily on the budgets, it’s a lot of work, I purposefully put myself in the busiest committees, as many committees as I could be a part of. Appropriations, Gov Ops is where most of the legislation lands, so that’s what our next session’s all about. I want to work on the whistleblower portion of the law and do some work that’s important. Education, we have all these wonderful things, WELA, Daposka, scholarships, trades and tech. I also want to look at how we can assist those with educational challenges.”

Maker said he’s working on a bill that will be the Nation’s “water protection act. We have a lot of pollutants back on the reservation, we all know how important water is, we need to survive with it. We have issues back home with pollutions, we have a lot of clean-up we have to do on the reservation and ranch, so water protection is something we need to address.”

Phillips said she wants to work on an environmental law “that really covers all encompassing, so I’d like to start there and definitely water’s a part of that conversation. The second (one) is to create a small business development center, as well as look at our purchasing within our Nation supporting Osage first, Native second and how can we support keeping our dollars locally and using our current dollar spends to generate more economic benefit locally within the Nation.”

Fulkerson said she is a proponent “of economic development within our Nation and for our people. I will list some things I will support in economic development legislation: Tax incentives, business development funding, tourism, economic development department. I know we had tried to have one before and the Office of the Chiefs were very on board with that, I’d like to push that forward and workforce training programs. Workforce development is very big in Oklahoma because aeronautics and space is going to be our frontier and we have to get on board with that and reap the benefits of that industry that’s coming toward us now. I would also say real estate development that meets the needs of a growing economy and population. We’re going to have all this infrastructure for broadband and we need to be ready.”

Cullen-Carroll said “everything that we’re talking about here is about education. Everybody does not need to go to college, that was a fallacy pushed on the American public years ago. So, we need to create more vocational things, what I’d like to see is kids coming out of high school that could be an apprentice plumber, apprentice carpenter, so we need to put those programs in schools. We also need to put those programs on the reservation.”

Kemble, who has an auditing background, said “the first idea is to expound upon (the Nation’s annual) auditing report with more details such as those Standing Bear shares in his annual State of the Nation reports. “The information the Chief put out there – how many people we helped, what did we spend on it, what programs was it and what was our capital projects?” Kemble said in giving examples of more information that can be shared in the audits.

Jones said “what I would work on, when I first get in, is legislation for stronger procurement and policies that benefit Osage businesses and Osage entrepreneurs. What I find is we’ve had a whole lot of infrastructure, we have a whole lot of things going on at the Osage Nation and I don’t see, until lately in the last two years, a lot of Osage businesses getting involved in that… (For up-and-coming Osages) we have to create jobs for them and stronger policies and stronger laws that benefit our Osage businesses and Osage entrepreneurs is one way to do that.” 

Whitehorn said she would work on several bills including an amendment to the Nation’s open records act “to say that our leased land, Osage land that we own is not a private and protected document. We should be able to know as Osage people who’s on our land, who’s working on our land, and the law should further state that the proprietary excuse only belongs to the third-party business … Also, ONCR 19-22, I filed it back in 2019 that we need to get a constitutional convention installed into our Constitution.” 

NCO steering committee member Duane BigEagle and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear speak at the NCO’s Spring Gathering on May 4, 2024, in Woodland, Calif. ECHO REED/Osage News

Besides the incumbents, how many Congressional candidates here today have attended a full day of a Congressional session? How many have attended at least five days? More than five days?

Pratt responded: “I wish everybody would. I hope that you go through the website, learn how to navigate because there is the ability to watch it live. What I don’t like is that you can’t watch the committee meetings live, I would like for you to be able to see that … I’m very honest and direct in what I have to say, but I’m just advocating on my best, on your behalf, and I commit to having a communications department of sorts in the Congress so we can put that information like the Office of the Chiefs puts out.” 

Shaw, the current Congressional Second Speaker, said: “The one thing I want you to know as constituents, all the work happens in committee, so it’s great to watch session and see the faces, but the real work happens in committee. Unfortunately, it’s just on Mixlr (audio only) at this point.”

Maker said “I think we need to work on getting more people to be involved even back home to listen in on the sessions … We can have a session all year long, but if you’re not listening in, we can’t come out here and make you listen in, you have to do it yourself, you have to be involved.”

Phillips said she listens to the sessions and meetings “and I try to educate myself on the various programs that’s happening … I’m 100% for transparency, so online, let’s keep it transparent and available and educate our people.”

Fulkerson, who previously worked in grants management for the Nation, said she attended Congressional sessions as part of the executive team for appropriation legislation. “I’m on there every day now, I do it through my Mixlr app on my phone on the way home on my drive… I will say also I have a lot of relationships on Congress, and they’ve reached out to me with regulations and about specifics on our project and that’s what I’ll be doing as a Congress person.”

Cullen-Carroll said he also watches the Congressional sessions online and added “there’s a lot we could do through our tech department to put this in our lives so we can see (from) around the country and know everything that’s going on.”

Kemble said he attended one Congressional session when he was Treasurer (2010-2012) and noted the sessions can be viewed on the Nation’s YouTube page. “I do think in the committees (if video recorded), it would make a difference, you can see who’s saying what and what they’re saying.”

Jones said she’s sat through sessions and committee meetings in her prior Nation employment and watches online too while she was director of operations for ON Environmental Solutions for capital requests and as Constituent Services director for operations and service funding, as well. “That took some negotiation and knowledge of how the Congress works and how to get legislation passed through there, I’m very knowledgeable and participate,” she said.

Whitehorn said she attended a Congressional session before she ran for office the first time in 2012, adding “I’m the type of person who needs to know if I can do something before (she started running for office), so I went and watched them for almost a full session. I’m still active in your government. I attend every Minerals Council meeting, I know what the Minerals Council is doing, I wasn’t able to be there Friday, but I will hear from other people. I lobbied Congress last special session to change minds about a piece of legislation, I had to show up, sit in a committee meeting and ask them to do that.”

Martin said she has not had an opportunity to attend in-person sessions of Congress, but noted she watches the recorded sessions on YouTube that she’s “thankful for that, grateful for that… In our Constitution, there is a way for individuals to bring legislation and write that up and get enough signatures from your constituents and bring it up in front of them. I don’t want us to forget about that.”

The members of the Northern California Osage take a picture with Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear at the NCO’s spring gathering on May 4, 2024, at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Woodland. ECHO REED/Osage News

There are candidates running for Congress who do not live in Osage County. Given that many special sessions and committee meetings require significant discussion and occasionally a vote, do you think it is possible for a non-resident to effectively participate in the government?

Shaw said “I’ve also participated in some of these candidate events where we’ve had participation by some in-person, some (virtually), I think it’s a little difficult… when it comes time to being able to debate or discuss the legislation, it’s easier and also better when you can see someone face-to-face. Is it possible? Of course, the technology is there.”

Maker said in previous years, other Osages who live outside Oklahoma have run for Congress too “and I think it’s very courageous for them to do that because I think every government has basic rules that you have to at least be there in-person to be a part of the government. I can’t come out here and be part of the California legislature from Oklahoma… Since the pandemic, we’ve had meetings by Zoom, we had to even change our Congressional rules that we can use Zoom meetings so many times for the session, so it’s not impossible.”

Phillips said “I think it’s possible, we’ve had Congress people who’ve lived out of state prior, so it’s definitely possible, it’s a commitment though financially and timewise if somebody can fulfill that role. There is Zoom, but there’s a lot of face-to-face work that I think is really valuable and at the end of the day, it is hard to replace that face-to-face interaction.”

Fulkerson said she lives in Tulsa and made the approximately one-hour drive commutes to/ from Pawhuska when she worked for the Nation. “It’s doable, if you want to do something, you’re going to do it no matter if you’re on Zoom or whatever. Ideally you want to go on Zoom, I get it, but also I’m a proponent of also having camaraderie with your colleagues, so I think there’s a happy medium there.”

Cullen-Carroll, a Southern California resident, said: “People have asked me that, how would you do that? Most importantly, you’re going to pay me a salary, not that that’s the most important part, but I don’t need a place to stay in Oklahoma, I have a house on the reservation right there in Fairfax. The other part is, yes, there’s Zoom technology today… I would like to have a Zoom meeting once a month just to tell people what I do and help and ask questions.”

Kemble said “Yes, the pandemic has already shown us that, is it effective? Yes, I do think it can be effective. I also forgot to mention other than I’m on the gaming board at my dad’s tribe – the Ponca Tribe – that I set up Zoom meetings all the time. And all that really comes back to how well the chairman really plans for the meeting.”

Jones said “It all depends on the motivation of who’s running for Congress because as we all know technology works when it works, right? So, do I believe it’s the best way? No, personally I do not. I believe there are some situations that require attention and conversation and that hands-on that you won’t get through a Zoom (meeting)… It depends on your Congressperson and their willingness to show up, whether it be through Zoom or in-person.” After this question’s response, Jones left the event to catch her scheduled flight back to Oklahoma.

Whitehorn said “It’s absolutely doable, I don’t think it’s ideal. Me sitting here and talking to you guys and working the room is about building relationships, it’s about being a people, it’s about being a tribe and I feel like better work is performed if you can come to consensus and agreement and work hands-on with people – that’s how I like to work, so I do believe it could happen. I do believe digital platforms are appropriate at times, but for sitting in the chair for governance purposes, for getting to know what’s going on inside your reservation boundaries, I think you have to be there.”

Martin said “Is it possible? Yes. Is it effective? I haven’t seen it be effective. I’m not familiar with a candidate we’ve had in the past that’s done it effectively, I would love to see that… I think if we do end up getting someone (elected), say from California, maybe they’re able to help facilitate (Kemble’s earlier mentioned idea of holding a Congressional session outside Oklahoma) that. But the camaraderie’s very important and the internet doesn’t always work.”

Pratt said she recalled a prior Congress member with an out-of-state residence who had several absences during their tenure. “When I came on Congress, I believe we had, counting sessions and special sessions, we met 18 out of 22 months because (Standing Bear, first elected Principal Chief in 2014) came in as a new administration and was coming in for a different thing because he had a lot of clean-up and things to do. So, we met a lot. Do I think there’s a substitute for the face-to-face time? No, and it’s important to know what’s going on at home.”

The family of Keir Johnson takes a photo with Congressman John Maker at the Northern California Osage spring gathering on May 4, 2024, at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Woodland. ECHO REED/Osage News

A number of elected officials use regular email/ newsletters to update a cross-section of Osage constituents. Others may use the Osage News because it reaches all Osages. How will you communicate to us your positions or issues, as well as explain your votes on those issues? If elected, can we expect you to visit us again before the next election?

Maker said “my phone number has been available for a long time, I’ve had the same phone number forever, it’s been on my mailouts, it’s on the Congressional website, you’re welcome to call me day and night. I’ve had several calls from out-of-state constituents with an emergency and needed help and I try to help the best to my ability… Yes, I love to come out here, I’ll come out here anytime you want me to come (to NCO events).”

Phillips said “I like to summarize things and make them efficient as possible. I was thinking, when I create legislation or have a particular vote, of having an online summary of ‘here it is,’ it doesn’t have to be extensive, we can have a further conversation. But why or why not did I support a particular position or why did I propose a particular bill, why is that I felt like this was needed and my particular viewpoints. I am very transparent, so I’m open to having those conversations … There’s all sorts of ways to communicate that.”

Fulkerson said “I always thought (if elected) I would have a podcast and I would give an overview of what I voted on and maybe do it quarterly, do it biannually or annually. I would also have a (Facebook also) website too and go over what I’ve been working on and why I made the decisions that I made and of course my telephone (number) is out there, my email if anyone has any questions about it, then there would be open dialogue.”

Cullen-Carroll said about 1.5 years ago, he came to the Nation and participated in a fitness/ movement development clinic. “Ever since then, about once or twice a month, we have a meeting online. This guy sets it up, we then talk for as much as two hours, we take any type of questions. If you’re working with kids and want to be on that, give me your email and I’ll send you out an invitation. I think that’s important and that’s something I’d like to do on Congress is to set up something like that and open Zoom meetings and get as many people on email.”

Kemble referred to former Osage Congressman William “Kugee” Supernaw who had his own Congress-focused email list called “Notes to the Nation” and former Congressman Raymond Red Corn had his own “Updates” email list where they periodically shared their viewpoints and thoughts on legislative matters. “I thought that was pretty neat and nice to read it, I have started up a Facebook page ‘William Kemble for 9th Osage Nation Congress’ and I do plan to keep on using that,” he said.

Whitehorn said Supernaw’s “’Notes to the Nation’ were fantastic, he was a great writer, kinda dry, but fun. I use all modes of communication to communicate with people. I come out here in-person, I’m not so much a Facebook person, I find it to be a real toxic place, I had to rebuild my Facebook page for this campaign… Maybe I’m a little bit behind on the times, I really prefer to do it by email and I love to talk, so call me, I don’t really like to text that much. I’m available, my phone number’s been published.”

Martin said she likes the idea of Congress having its own communications department for Congress to say “this is what’s been going on and this is how we want to get it out to everybody and this is what we want it to look like so it’s not just one person responsible… Also, I really like the idea… A podcast, a lot of tribes are going to be looking to us to see what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and why we’re doing it. I think it would be phenomenal to have that open space and create that space to come in and talk once a month about what’s going on in committees and what’s going on with the bills and communities.”

Pratt said “At this time of campaigning, we need to hear from the people more, I implore you to educate yourselves on how to access all of our information, so that we can hear from you more. Would I come back and visit? Absolutely, I love coming (to these events), I’ve been to Denver, Dallas, now here. I enjoy visiting with all Osages. I have an email that sends Microsoft team links for Zoom, so personally on a one-to-one basis, great. But I still think we need a formal communication (contact) from the Congress because the Executive Branch has a communications program, but we put our information through that or we need to sit down and have a talk with Chief about having our own section.”

As Second Speaker, Shaw is currently chair of the Congressional Affairs Committee, which recently discussed having a Legislative Branch Facebook page and approved a policy for social media. “Yes, we are going to try a Facebook page for Congress. Some members are a little bit opposed to it because of how toxic Facebook can be, but it will be informational only… We’ll start that after the election (June 3), we’re going to give it a whirl… We had talked about podcast before, we have the ability and the equipment at the Nation to be able to do that… (Personally) I very much love messages, texting, talking on the phone, not so much, email, but I’ll try to do better,” she said. 

Carol Bennett takes a picture of Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear and ON Congressional candidate Christa Fulkerson at the Northern California Osage spring gathering on May 4, 2024, at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Woodland. ECHO REED/Osage News

Accountability and transparency should be paramount values of any candidate. How do you embody accountability and transparency in your political life? How about your personal life? What would you do to improve these important elements within the Osage Nation Congress?

Phillips said “I lead by example and I operate personally, professionally by being transparent … I’ve been a spearhead in that industry for the last decade-plus in transparency, we’re third-party audited to final destination all of how we do business and I have auditors in all of the time. We are audit-ready all of the time. So, same thing with our employees, everything is online, available to them and I intentionally set up our company that way so everyone has the same information, can get it anywhere and we give that information to our customers. I will operate the same way if I am elected.”

Fulkerson said “What I do is compliance, finance, budgeting when I was hired on at Oklahoma State University. It’s a very prestigious university, so I go through credit checks and went through 17 people just to get hired. The nature of how I’m built, how I work, what I do, I hold myself accountable and other people accountable for what they do. In terms of transparency in my personal life, I have three children … As a mother, it’s very important to me to be accountable.”

Cullen-Carroll said “in my profession as a coach, I’m very accountable. You work Monday through Thursday, you go out on Friday night, everybody sees what you did and either you’re a genius or you’re an idiot and I’ve been called both over the period of time. I think even as a P.E. teacher, I don’t get to close the door, I’m outside, everybody sees what I’m doing. I’m used to being out there and so it does not bother me to be transparent. I’m not trying to hide anything in whatever I do. I’d be more than happy to talk about. I would hope that we get a lot more transparency within the government.”

Kemble said “Fourteen years ago, I believe I was the first Treasurer to put out the tribe’s audit report and even the following year’s audit report. I believe that’s an important report. I consider it the report that is probably the most focused thing about a government because they say how we’re doing, what is our financial position and what are our problems, how we process our government – how we do things, our transactions … As an auditor, transparency has always, always been a top priority for me.”

During her prior Congressional tenure, Whitehorn recalled times she was not getting all information that was going to the Speaker, which bothered her. “When I discovered that was happening, I started lobbying for everything to go to all of Congress’s email so we all have the same information, that’s important to me. So, when I became Speaker, that happened – Congress got all the information they need. When I became Speaker, we had a published calendar out there on the website where you can go look and see when the committee meetings are happening, you know what’s going on at all times.”

Martin said “personally I believe those are fruits of integrity. So, for me integrity is very important, that’s how I feel I will uphold both accountability and transparency on my end both personally and professionally. Within it, I believe we should have clear expectations and have that be our foundation because I don’t know how many times I personally have been in a situation trying to do what I think is best because no one’s taught me otherwise and then someone comes up behind me and says ‘oh no, that’s not how you do it, this is how you do it over here.’ So, laying out those expectations beforehand I think is super important in making sure everyone’s on the same page.”

Pratt said “I have in the past, and I will continue to support bills that speak to accountability and transparency in the Treasurer’s office. But I think you as Osage people are the owners, you’re the stakeholders, it’s all yours as well, so you should know what’s being spent and how … But we also have a sense of obligation and I think everybody understands that, we have a sense of obligation to our reservation boundaries. However, it is your funding as well, so that’s how we need to continue to work together and communicate in how we can increase to be able to assist outside (the reservation) while we have a sense of duty and obligation to our reservation.”

On personal accountability, Shaw said she’s been married 35 years “and that doesn’t happen unless you’re able to communicate and be transparent and being accountable to someone, right? Since I’ve been on Congress, my family is probably the most critical of my votes, I have to defend myself to them more than anyone sometimes … Professionally, I’m always available. I’ve served as Second Speaker for two years of my four years and as Second Speaker one of the things that you’re tasked with doing is oversight of the Office of Fiscal Performance and Review – clearly lends itself directly to accountability and responsibility for the Nation.”

Maker said “these are two things as Congress people we have to go by. We have rules of ethics, we have a legislative process we have to go by. That’s why we have the life of a bill that’s introduced, we have Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and every time we do any kind of a committee meeting, those minutes have to be known to the public, they also have to be made available to the public, posted to the public, so there’s a process to every bill and legislation.”

Share your position on who should control the Minerals Estate. What issues related to the Osage Mineral Estate may be addressed through the Osage Nation Congress?

Fulkerson said she worked with the Minerals Estate during her grants management tenure with the Nation on some projects and attended meetings to learn for herself what’s happening with the council. “I started sitting in on the (Osage Minerals Council) meetings … I support the Minerals Council and those people who are on the Minerals Council as Osages are some of our relatives, are our elders of our Nation and I have high respect for them,” she said.

Cullen-Carroll said “I think there’s four (components) of this government: executive, legislative, judicial and the Minerals Council and we all have to work together because that is extremely important… So the Minerals Council to me is extremely important, extremely important to our kids because that is something that is ours by the 1906 Act.”

Kemble said “the way I view the Minerals Council, the Minerals Estate is a legacy given to Osage people. The Minerals Council is the body that has governed that business for years now … When I get to thinking about the Minerals Estate, Minerals Council, that’s a long line of business that’s hard to fully understand. Shareholders would know how to receive that information … As a legislator, I think our position is to protect them and always to encourage them and to empower them.”

Whitehorn said “our Constitution clearly states in Article 15, Section 4 that the Nation, meaning you the Osage people, discharges the perpetual obligation to the Constitutionally created body named the Minerals Council, formerly known as the Osage Tribal Council, that’s in Section 3 and they’re continued to administrate and develop the estate according to the 1906 Act with no legislative authority. That gives the Minerals Council all power over our Minerals Estate. In my opinion, that’s what the Constitution says, it gives them specific authority over the Minerals Estate and no other governing body at the Osage Nation.”

Martin said “I believe the Minerals Council should be governing themselves. Personally, I am excited to see them start to develop the policies and procedures they need to start going and getting the (federal) legislation they need to start getting the headrights returned to the rightful owners. And I’m excited to see what that process is going to look like. I know there’s going to be tons of people for many years who had this headright that didn’t necessarily belong to them, but they had it … Just supporting the Minerals Council in any way, shape or form to make that happen and I’m in full support.”

Starting with “may she rest in peace,” Pratt referred to an event where the late Councilwoman Cynthia Boone said she was having a “secret meeting” with an individual among “her constituents – And I had to respectfully say whether you’re a shareholder or not, you are my constituent as an Osage Nation Congressperson. And we’re all on the Congress, whether you’re a shareholder or not, and per the Constitution we have a duty to protect the Minerals Estate. When she said ‘what are you all trying to do? Legislate us out of business?’ No, we would never do that because we have a duty to protect, but would we legislate you into business as a Congress? Yes, and that’s where that communication and relationship comes in … If we cuss and discuss in the same room, at least we’re in the same room looking at each other face to face and getting on to business to make good decisions for our entire Nation, including our Minerals Estate.”

Shaw said meetings among the branches with the Minerals Council are a good idea, “but as far as being a member of Congress and our obligation to the Minerals Estate, it would be to protect – what does that look like? That’s the question, what does it mean for us? What it means to me is that we’ll appropriate money when asked. I can’t think of a time that the OMC has come to us and asked for assistance, asked for an appropriation that anyone hesitated in any way shape or form. To me, that’s what support means at this time, whatever they need, but not be involved, they are over the Minerals Estate and not Congress.”

Maker said “now we’re at a point where we gotta work together as a Nation, as a government with the legislative body, our judges, our executive branch, we’re in a fight, people. Like we have been all throughout our existence. We’re in a big fight with the State of Oklahoma … this is serious business, there’s no joke about this and we’ve got to fight for our sovereignty every day, so we’ve got to work with the Minerals Council, they tell us we need help and we help them … Especially with legal fees and money.”

Phillips said her family members in earlier generations were original allottees “and the headright owners own the Minerals Estate and the Minerals Council administers and develops the Minerals Estate. Cooperation, in my view, is paramount and our next several decades, I personally think are going to be complicated and people are going to be coming after us … There’s 25,000 of us and we need to be really looking and doing everything that we can to develop, take care of our assets and communication and supporting the Minerals Council is paramount and that’s appropriation, that’s legislation, that’s communication and whatever it is that’s necessary.”

All voted absentee ballots must be received in Pawhuska by Election Day to be counted with in-person ballots. Three days of in-person voting will take place at the Pawhuska Osage Casino & Hotel as follows:

Early voting Day 1: Friday, May 31, noon to 7 p.m.

Early voting Day 2: Saturday, June 1, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Monday, June 3 Election Day: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.


  • Benny Polacca

    Title: Senior Reporter


    Instagram: @bpolacca

    Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

    Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

    Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

    Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

    Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

Get the Osage News by email!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Benny Polacca
Benny Polacca

Title: Senior Reporter


Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.


In Case You Missed it...

Upcoming Events