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Osage Nation lays off 45 workers due to low revenue stream

The Osage Nation has notified 45 employees they will no longer have a job after July 6.

Due to a grim financial forecast for the Nation’s 2021 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said that every department and program director was asked to cut two positions. The layoffs and eliminated positions combined equaled 62 positions cut and saved the Nation a little over $2 million.

“We are going to have to see what our income is going to be before we can finalize our budget for the 2021 fiscal year. But, for 2020 out to Sept. 30, we don’t see any of these jobs being added back for this fiscal year,” Standing Bear said. “But, next fiscal year, Oct. 1, it depends on the income and what we receive on our distribution from the casinos. And, none of that has been decided and that will be done in conjunction with the Osage Congress and the Gaming Enterprise Board.”

The majority of individuals laid off did not meet Osage preference guidelines, said Director of Operations Casey Johnson. According to the Osage Preference law, Osage preference is identified as Osage tribal members, their spouses, or parents of Osage children. Johnson said that among the layoffs were non-Osage Head Start teachers. However, 19 of those teachers met Osage preference guidelines. They were offered jobs at the Wahzhazhe Early Learning Academies within the Nation, but only eight accepted. The other 11 Osage employees chose to leave.

“There were some with bachelor’s degrees that we really wanted to move over to WELA,” Johnson said of the former Head Start employees. “We were taking all of them because they all had a minimum of certifications. They just weren’t interested.”

Out of the Nation’s 45 employees laid off, 40 were women and five were men. Realizing this number looked disproportionate, Johnson asked the Human Resources department for a total number of men and women that work at the Nation. Out of the Nation’s 494 employees, 327 are female and 167 are male.

When asked about a second round of layoffs, Standing Bear said that it will depend on the Osage Nation Congress. He said he will be sending proposals to temporarily scale back the Health Benefit Fund and the Higher Education Scholarship Fund to be considered in the fall Tzi-Zho Session. He said elders participating in the health benefit fund need not worry, his proposal would only affect Osages under the age of 65.

Standing Bear said if the Congress does not consider his proposals and continues to fund the Health Benefit and Scholarship fund at current levels, he will have to consider going to a 30-hour workweek for the Nation’s employees.

“Everyone is doing a great job. I am very proud of all the employees. It’s very unfortunate we’ve had to lose some,” Standing Bear said. “We essentially have the same amount of employees we had six years ago and our population has grown and we’re delivering twice the same services.

“And those Osages, or non-Osages, saying this government is too big, either they don’t know what they’re talking about or they are just mean spirited.”

Departments affected by layoffs:
Child Care
Elder Nutrition
Fitness Center
Gaming Commission
Head Start
Information Technology
Osage Language
Social Services
Tribal Works
Wahzhazhe Early Learning Academy

Due to vacancies or bumps, positions were also cut from:
Attorney General’s Office
Bird Creek Farms
Office of the Principal Chief
Human Resources
Osage Nation Police Department




Shannon Shaw Duty

Original Publish Date: 2020-06-29 00:00:00


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Shannon Shaw Duty
Shannon Shaw Duty

Title: Editor


Twitter: @dutyshaw

Topic Expertise: Columnist, Culture, Community

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

Shannon Shaw Duty, Osage from the Grayhorse District, is the editor of the award-winning Osage News, the official independent media of the Osage Nation. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a master’s degree in Legal Studies with an emphasis in Indigenous Peoples Law. She currently sits on the Freedom of Information Committee for the Society of Professional Journalists. She has served as a board member for LION Publishers, as Vice President for the Pawhuska Public Schools Board of Education, on the Board of Directors for the Native American Journalists Association (now Indigenous Journalists Association) and served as a board member and Chairwoman for the Pawhuska Johnson O’Malley Parent Committee. 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. In 2014 she helped lead the Osage News to receive NAJA's Elias Boudinot Free Press Award. The Osage News won Best Newspaper from the SPJ-Oklahoma Chapter in their division 2018-2022. Her award-winning work has been published in Indian Country Today, The Washington Post, the Center for Public Integrity, NPR, the Associated Press, Tulsa World and others. She currently resides in Pawhuska, Okla., with her husband and together they share six children, two dogs and two cats.

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