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Questionable headright payments still an issue

This article was written from an interview with Charles Pratt who lost his battle with cancer on March 8. The only remaining plaintiff for the Fletcher Case is William Fletcher. Information for Pratt’s funeral will be posted when it is made public.


Questions still remain on who cashes Osage headright checks being paid to defunct entities or P.O. boxes.

Charles Pratt, one of the remaining plaintiffs in the Fletcher v. United States case, wants Osages to know that their headright income is being depleted because the U.S. government won’t account for all Osage headright shares or their owners. In a list provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the Fletcher plaintiffs, more than 30 percent of headright income is going to entities or non-Indians.

“There are several of these accounts, and the one I want to pick on particularly is Hissom Memorial Center,” he said. “Question one, how many years have we been paying royalties? For years. There seems to be no end to paying Hissom. If we could stop it, then we would know who’s getting it.”

Hissom Memorial Center, abandoned since 1994, was a children’s mental health institution that opened in 1959 and at one time had more than a 1,000 patients. The facility was built on land donated to the state by a successful oilman named Wiley G. Hissom. But after abuse was reported in the mid-1980s and Homeward Bound sued the facility, it was shut down.

“They were sued for damages and had to dissolve,” said Amanda Proctor, Osage attorney on the Fletcher case. “However, their royalty did not and it is still being paid, but to who?”

Proctor said Hissom Memorial Center is a prime example of a reoccurring problem with Osage headrights. Currently, there is no means for entities or individuals to give back their headright interest to the tribe, just as there is no way for the Osage public to obtain financial records for these headright shares.

Recently a church wanted to give the tribe back their headright shares and the BIA wouldn’t let them, Proctor said.

“We took pictures, had to find out which families originally gave it to the church and everything,” Proctor said. “We got set to receive the money and nothing, fell by the wayside because nobody can track it.”

Class Action

Pratt currently resides at the Fairfax Nursing Home after his battle with cancer disabled him. His doctors have recommended chemotherapy and the treatments are taking their toll.

“I want to complete the case,” Pratt said. “In spring, we have to turn up the volume and go to court and keep plugging away, we can’t let our momentum get away … and the minerals council has to step up, and our government, to at least have an opinion.”

The Fletcher case first began in 2002 but has morphed and changed many times. It has seen seven dismissals, three amended complaints and a first and second successful appeal to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court ruling and the case was certified as a class-action lawsuit on Jan. 31. 

Proctor said there are non-Indians that receive headright payments by lawful means, such as spouses or adopted children, and they are excluded. The remedy they are seeking is the accounting of how much has been paid to non-Indians, including entities. But eventually, they will seek termination, extinguishment of those shares that are in non-Indian hands.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Fletcher Case include Indian & Environmental Law Group, PLLC; Sneed Lang, PC; and Shield Law Group PLC. Proctor is the owner of Shield Law Group.

Pratt said he and William Fletcher, the other remaining plaintiff in the case, received advice a long time ago.

“Folks said you take this estate, this oil, this trust, you make it better than it was, and pass it on. So that’s our goal, we got this chance to make it better,” Pratt said. “Let’s step up and do a little work and we can fix this up. So we can find some of this money that goes off to these places that has no business getting it. It goes to P.O. boxes, it goes to companies that have been out of business for years, it goes somewhere, but the bureau won’t tell us who cashes that check.”


Entities in possession of Osage headrights:

  1. Aladdin Petroleum Corporation                                
  2. FABCO Oil Company                                              
  3. First National Bank & Trust                                     
  4. Hissom Memorial Center     (No longer exists)                               
  5. Houston Oil & Minerals Corporation                       
  6. Oklahoma Historical Society                         
  7. Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation      
  8. Orange County Rehab Institute                                 
  9. Southland Royalty Company                        
  10. Tenneco Oil Company                                              
  11. The Hefner Company                                    
  12. University of Oklahoma Athletic School Fund         
  13. University of Oklahoma Trustee                               
  14. Wells Fargo Bank                                                       
  15. Archbishop of New York                                          
  16. Assemblies of God General Counsel             
  17. Assoc. of Mary Immaculate Oblate Fathers 
  18. Board of Regents, University of Texas                     
  19. Boatmens Trust Company                                        
  20. Father Flanagan’s Boys Town                                  
  21. First Assembly of God-Kalamazoo              
  22. First Christian Church                                               
  23. First Presbyterian Church (CA)                                
  24. First Presbyterian Church (OK)                                
  25. First Presbyterian Church (Tulsa)                             
  26. First United Methodist Church                                 
  27. Immaculate Conception Catholic Church                  
  28. Institute of American Indian Arts Foundation          
  29. Leland Standford Jr. University                                
  30. Los Angeles Orthopedic Foundation             
  31. Martin Luther Homes of Colorado Springs   
  32. Masonic Homes of California                        
  33. New Mexico Boys Ranch                                          
  34. Osage Indian Baptist Church                         
  35. Roman Catholic Diocese of Tulsa                             
  36. Seventh Church Christ Scientist                                
  37. Shriners Hospital for Children                                   
  38. Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia             
  39. St. Luke’s United Church of Christ               
  40. St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church              
  41. St. Joseph’s Orphanage                                             
  42. Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma                              
  43. Frank Phillips Foundation                                         
  44. Frost National Bank-San Antonio                             
  45. Tulsa Boys’ Home                                                    
  46. Vestrymen St. Paul’s Episcopal Church                   
  47. Adobe Royalty (Lawton, OK)                                  
  48. Adobe Royalty (OKC, OK)                                      
  49. CEJA Corporation                                                     
  50. Southland Royalty Company
  51. University of Oklahoma Trustee
  52. Father Flanagan’s Boys Town                   



Shannon Shaw Duty

Original Publish Date: 2015-03-09 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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