Angela Pratt kicked off her campaign to become the next principal chief of the Osage Nation on Valentine’s Day at the Hominy Village community center.
Pratt, who faces current Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear and fellow Congress member Joe Tillman in the April 4 primary, is holding three campaign announcement dinners: The first, in her home district of Hominy, will be followed by 5:30 p.m. dinners in Grayhorse on Feb. 16 and at Wakon Iron Hall in Pawhuska on Feb. 17.
“My bloodline runs real deep in all three districts,” Pratt explained to the 45 people in attendance.
Pratt has served two terms on the Osage Nation Congress and noted that she has only missed two days in those eight years, once to attend a veterans’ meeting at the White House and once to take her children to an Osage language fair at which parental accompaniment was required. For four of those eight years, she has been elected speaker of the Congress, she added.
“I’m a hard worker,” she said. “I’ve been working hard for the seat that you all put me in.”
She said that during her first two years on Congress, she sat on every committee: “I wanted to learn. I wanted to know what was going on. I didn’t want to take anything for granted. You all need to hold your leaders accountable. Ask them what’s going on.”
Pratt said that as chief, she would utilize the skills of tribal employees.
“We’ve seen growth and we have wonderful employees,” she said. “But we could be doing more, and we could be doing better.
“I’m the sort of leader who wants to give [employees] the autonomy to lend us their expertise. We can’t micromanage.” She said she would create a “caring and cohesive workplace” in which employees would feel proud.
Currently, she said, the Nation “is very disorganized.”
“Our workplace needs leadership and organization. I bring that to the table. I bring true leadership and focus and organization.
“We’ve got to be honest about what’s happening. We’ve got to be honest about the disorganization.”
She promised compassion for all Osages, especially the elderly and those with substance abuse issues. She noted that Congress appropriates federal CARES Act funds, which “landed us in some hot water with the other side because we as a Congress chose to prioritize our elders and those needing substance abuse services.”
“I am going to lead us with care and compassion and a sense of community,” she added. “I’ve been a really independent person for a long time, but I’ve been homeless, I’ve been hungry … That’s real stuff that people go through.
“I’m just a real person but I’m a good person. I’ve got a good husband who’s kind.”
Pratt said her time with the U.S. Army changed her life and created within her an ethos: “I would never, as a leader, ask my people do something I wouldn’t do first.”
While she supports the Osage LLC as it is working – turning a profit – she emphasized the need for the Nation to diversify its economic base.
“We are behind for the silliest reasons,” she said. “We’ve got to expand.”
She also lamented that the Nation is “so behind” in elder care. “We shouldn’t be spending $17 million on a sports park when we don’t have elder services,” she said, referring to the plans to build a sports center on the railroad right of way in Pawhuska.
Pratt also referred obliquely to a statement Standing Bear had made about she and Tillman being unqualified to be chief. She suggested that he had said they were not qualified because they’re not lawyers, as he is.
Pratt took issue with that.
“I have led five pieces of litigation (as Speaker of the Congress),” she said. And although Standing Bear is an attorney, she said the Nation hires many outside lawyers.
“We’re paying all these white men to dance together,” she said. “That’s that right there. Next!
“I’m not being disrespectful. I’m speaking with leadership and conviction.”
After she spoke for about 45 minutes, Pratt paused to ask those gathered if they had any questions.
There were none, so she brought up a few more issues: The Minerals Council’s battle with Italian electrical giant Enel which owns the wind development in near Burbank; and the need for the Nation to have an office for veterans.
On the wind issue, she harkened back to when, eight years ago, wind companies were lined up, ready to plant turbines over much of the tallgrass prairie that remains in Osage County.
The fight with Enel, she said, must continue and be fought hard to keep more wind projects at bay.
“Let’s dig in, let’s dig in,” she said. “We had five other wind companies lined up to come in. If we lay down it will never stop.”
She offered no specifics about her plan for a veteran’s office, but said, “I need to be in the chief’s office to make that happen. And I know how to make that happen.”
In closing, Pratt recalled that when she was first elected to Congress, her colleague Faren Anderson offered some sage advice, telling her, “Congress is what you make of it.”
Said Pratt: “I feel like I’ve made the most of it. I feel like I’ve always tried to earn my pay and earn the trust of my people.
“You’ve invested in me for eight years, and I hope you will continue to invest in me.”