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Standing Bear to select seven cabinet secretaries in planned reorganization

After meeting with Osage voters, Standing Bear to do away with Director of Operations position

The Osage Nation is getting ready to say goodbye to its director of operations – the position, not the man.

To address concerns raised by several tribal members, Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear is reorganizing the way the government is set up, removing the director of operations as the overseer of 31 different departments, instead creating eight smaller groups of departments answerable to seven different cabinet secretaries and the treasurer.

“It’s a better way because of our growth,” Standing Bear said. “I used my past experience with other tribes, thinking of a cabinet system but wanting to make sure we’re not overbuilding our government. I’m not a fan of big government, and this is very seamless and doesn’t need a lot of new staff.”

The chief said that the newly organized system will require some shifting of funds that will have to be approved by the Osage Nation Congress during its upcoming session in April. The fiscal impact, he added, is being studied and should be determined in the next two weeks. He expects the new organization to be in place in May.

The newly-organized system is modeled generally on those of the Muscogee (Creek) and Navajo nations, said Standing Bear.

Under the proposed system:

  • The Secretary of Health would lead Elder Nutrition, the fitness centers, the WahZhaZhe Health Clinic, and the Women, Infants and Children program;
  • The Secretary of Development would oversee the Housing, Real Estate, Tribal Development and Tribal Works departments;
  • The Secretary of Culture, Language and Education would be over Education, the tribe’s schools, Historic Preservation, Language, the museum and the cultural department, including the visitor’s center;
  • The Secretary of Administration would be in charge of Human Resources, Information Technology, Membership, Strategic Planning and the Tax Commission;
  • The Treasury would stand as its own department answerable to the treasurer;
  • The Secretary of Public Safety would be over Family Violence, and the police and fire departments;
  • The Secretary of Social Service would oversee Childcare and Developmental Services, child support, financial assistance, food distribution, social services and veterans’ programs; and
  • The Secretary of Natural Resources would lead Butcher House Meats, environmental programs, Harvest Land and the Heritage Trail.

Under the current system, the Director of Operations, Casey Johnson, is over all of the departments with the exception of the police and membership departments. The tribal boards, commissions and enterprises also operate outside his influence.

For the most part, the cabinet secretaries will be chosen from the existing pool of employees, although Standing Bear said that he had no idea who would become the secretaries of health or the treasury.

Standing Bear said that Johnson will continue to work for his administration but in a new role. He did not say what the role would be.

“I have a place where Casey can continue his good service to the Nation,” Standing Bear said. “He’s U.S. Army and he has contributed to this. He’s a team player.”

The changes stemmed from a series of meetings with Osages over the past month. Standing Bear did not identify who they were but did say they were all members of Osage Impact, a politically active group largely made up of Osage women.

“I didn’t meet with them as an organization but as individual Osages who happened to be members of Osage Impact,” Standing Bear said. “The organization itself isn’t endorsing anyone.”

Editor’s Note: This article was clarified on March 15, 2022, to note Standing Bear will select seven secretaries.


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Louise Red Corn
Louise Red Corn has suffered from wanderlust for decades: She has lived and worked as a journalist and photographer in Rome, Italy, New York City, Detroit, Kentucky, Mississippi and Oklahoma, where she published The Bigheart Times for 12 years. She loves diving in-depth into just about any topic but is especially fond of covering legal issues, perhaps because her parents were both lawyers. She is married to Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn, who enticed her to move to the Osage Reservation in 2004. She and her husband live south of Pawhuska with one extremely large dog named Max, one extremely energetic dog named Pepper, and, if he bothers to make an appearance, a surly cat named Stinky.

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