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Osage shareholders meet with new field solicitor and discuss grant

Osage shareholders discuss and voice concerns over a grant opportunity that will help the Nation develop business, legal, and regulatory infrastructures to regulate and manage energy and mineral resources.

At the monthly Osage Shareholders meeting, one of the biggest topics discussed: lack of energy production on the Osage Minerals Estate.

After an opening prayer given by Councilman Myron Red Eagle, the meeting came to order.

I’m going to tell you as a shareholder, I’m really concerned about this Mineral Estate,” Margo Gray said.

Gray cited the lack of new well permits and the fact that quarterly payments to shareholders were down. June’s payment was a little more than $4,000.

Gray spoke to shareholders about a more than $279,000 Tribal Energy Development Capacity (TEDC) grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Department of Energy Management that will go toward developing infrastructure to develop different types of energy on the mineral estate.

“Raise your hand if you like that your check’s going down. That’s what I thought,” Gray said. 

“This process may not be what everyone can agree to, but at some point, if not now, when? We have to begin to set the foundation for us to be able to do business on our own terms.”

The terms Gray is talking about is having the Nation be in business to produce their own oil and gas. She said the Osage Minerals Council has the power to propose other forms of development on the mineral estate, according to the laws and regulations that govern the council. She told shareholders the council should consider carbon capturing as a way to monetize the estate.

Current OSA board chair Julie Malone said she’s seen a lot of reaction on the shareholder’s private Facebook page, and they’re not interested in having the Nation take over oil production.

“I think we’re all listening at this point,” Malone told Osage News.

The shareholder’s association was founded in 1994 and current Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear originated it as a way for people to voice concerns over the mineral estate.

Malone said she feels a lot of the frustration coming from shareholders, about the lack of production and said they’re trying to get smarter about it and preserve what they have for the next generation.

Other shareholders present don’t like how the grant was written, with what they say was without the Minerals Council’s consent.

Former ON Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn said she’s not opposed to the Nation writing grants that benefit the mineral estate shareholders. In a statement to Osage News, Whitehorn said she believes the minerals council didn’t approve the language or content of the grant.

Whitehorn told shareholders she wants to improve the minerals estate but thinks the grant is blurring the lines between the minerals council and the executive branch of the government.

“Shareholder rights are established and protected by the Osage Nation Constitution and Federal law. By ratification of the constitution, the Osage people have designated the Minerals Council as the governing body to carry out all functions related to the Minerals Estate commensurate to the functions of the Osage Tribal Council established in the 1906 Act as amended,” Whitehorn told Osage News in a written statement.

She also believes it will take too long to develop a business with the grant money.

To get more production out of the oil field, Whitehorn says the BIA needs to be on the hook.

“I think what we need to do is sue the federal government for shutting our oil field down,” she said.

Some Shareholders agreed with Whitehorn saying that it’s not the responsibility of the Minerals Council to develop a business, but it’s ultimately up to the BIA, which has a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders.

Gray, who has a background in business said nothing good comes without taking chances and the production of the mineral estate is a kitchen tabletop at her household. She said some people depend on those checks to pay bills.

What concerns me is the language in this document and if you all don’t have a copy of the sovereignty code, you need to get it and read it,” said former OMC Councilwoman Cynthia Boone.

“Because it’s scary.”

Boone claims it says it will enable the Nation to gain control over the minerals and energy assets.

It’s not clear what the status of the grant is and if anything will be developed with funds from it.

U.S. Department of the Interior’s new field solicitor Brandy Mendell also attended the OSA meeting to discuss protecting their headright interest after they pass away.

She took over from Alan Woodcock, who retired last year. She graduated from law school at the University of Tulsa in 2008 and worked for the Cherokee Nation. She went into private practice before joining the DOI.

She talked to shareholders about putting their estate into an inter vivos trust, or living trust, and making sure they named the DOI as a trustee. An inter vivos trust lets shareholders control their assets while they’re still alive, ensuring beneficiaries receive them later.

Mendell talked about some probate issues she sees that drag the estate process out and how.

It’s not clear when a new Osage Agency Superintendent will start. According to Mendell, someone has been offered the position, but it’s unclear if they’ve accepted.

Shareholders also nominated people for the OSA chairperson, treasurer and board positions.

Whitehorn was nominated for Chair and Vice Chair positions.

Billie Ponca, Leaf Mushrush, Frances Williams and Susan Foreman were nominated for board of directors’ positions.

Elections will take place for the board, treasurer and chairman and vice-chairman positions in November. The Enel case will begin with a new judge Wednesday, Sept. 20. Details on the time and to confirm the location are forthcoming. Shareholders are planning on attending the meeting.

CORRECTION: Due to a typo, Margo Gray was incorrectly quoted as saying ‘mental state’ when she said ‘mineral estate.’ The Osage News regrets the error.

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Allison Herrera
Allison Herrerahttps://osagenews.org
Title: Freelance Reporter
Email: aherrera@osagenation-nsn.gov
Languages spoken: English

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs Desk.

Herrera recently worked on Bloomberg and iHeart Media's In Trust with Rachel Adams-Heard, an investigative podcast about Osage Headrights.

She currently works for KOSU as their Indigenous Affairs Reporter. Herrera’s Native ties are from her Xolon Salinan tribal heritage.

In her free time, she likes buying fancy earrings, running and spending time with her daughter.

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