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HomeEducationStudent wants OU's headright interest to further Osage educations

Student wants OU’s headright interest to further Osage educations

Gianna Sieke, a freshman at the University of Oklahoma and founder of the Osage Club, is seeking answers

Gianna Sieke is on a quest.

A freshman at the University of Oklahoma, as well as the current Osage Nation Princess, she listened to Bloomberg’s “In Trust” podcast with her mother Janese Lasley last summer.

The podcast is about how the non-Osage community on the reservation (specifically the Drummond family) scammed Osages out of their land and wealth, for decades. But there was one institution on the list of non-Osage entities with headright income she didn’t expect … OU.

Sieke is an aspiring journalist and after learning OU received money from the Osage Mineral Estate, she began researching whether OU awarded scholarships to Osage students. Surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly, she couldn’t find any information. She called OU’s Financial Aid office and asked if there were any Osage scholarships and was told to contact the Osage Nation Education Department.

According to information provided by the BIA for the “In Trust” podcast, OU owns 1.72916 in headright shares from the Osage Mineral Estate. Due to privacy laws, it is unclear how long OU has been in possession of the headright interest. It became illegal in 1978 for headright shares to be given to non-Osages or non-Osage entities. So at the very least, OU has been receiving headright income prior to 1978.

To give an idea of how much OU has collected in headright income over the years, in 2011 when the Osage Trust Case settlement paid roughly $155,000 per headright, OU received approximately $268,000.

Sieke called the ON Education Department and they told her there was a scholarship for Osages at OU – but it was for Single Osage Males.

“I wondered why the Financial Aid office had no clue what I was talking about. I called the Financial Aid office back and asked about the Osage scholarship specifically for Single Osage Males. I asked them how they pick who it goes to, and if it does not go to an Osage male, does it go to an Osage female? If not, where does it go, or who does it go to?” she said.

“Hesitant, the man scrambled and told me that they do not know who is Osage to even give the scholarship to, and that if they do not give the scholarship to an Osage male then they find a male student-athlete to give it to, and if it doesn’t go to an athlete, it goes back into the general fund,” she said.

This brought more questions. She wondered whether the university had been paying out the scholarship to Osage Single Males over the years? She began calling Osages.

“I asked about the scholarship to some of my elders, many of which had no idea that OU offered an Osage scholarship,” she said. “Joe Hall said that he knew a Kiowa man who bragged about getting a full ride to OU because of the Osage scholarship. And my PaPa, Raymond Lasley, said that he remembered hearing about the scholarship when he was a kid.”

Activism runs in Sieke’s blood. Her grandfather Raymond Lasley was also a member of the American Indian Movement and was at the Wounded Knee Occupation of 1973.

Roxy Scott Scholarship

Randolph Crawford, who attended OU from 1982-1983, was told there was a Roxy Scott Scholarship and it was for Osages studying engineering going into the U.S. Army.

He asked OU officials about the scholarship and was told the money went into the general scholarship fund so everyone could profit.

Years later he went to work for the Osage Nation under the Charles Tillman administration. He discussed the Roxy Scott Scholarship and his concerns about misspent headright income. He took the issue to the Osage Tribal Council and OU’s Financial Aid office was called, repeatedly.

“After I brought this up with the council, someone from the council called OU and asked about it enough that a guy [the head of OU’s Financial Aid at the time] called me up and cussed me out,” he said.

The Osage News could not find any information about the Roxy Scott Scholarship.

The Osage Club faculty advisor is none other than Dr. Michael Snyder, author of “Life of an Osage Writer,” as well as other works about the Osage. ECHO REED/Osage News

Osage Club

Sieke was determined to find out how many Osage students attended OU. She called the ON Education Department to get an official list but due to federal privacy laws like FERPA, they cannot give out that information.

That’s when she had the idea for an Osage Club. This way, the Osage students would reveal themselves and they could work together on obtaining scholarship funding from the university.

For freshmen attending OU full-time and living on campus, the cost per semester is roughly $26,000, according to figures from OU’s website.

OU requires a faculty advisor before students can start a club.

Her freshman English professor, Dr. Michael Snyder, just so happens to be the author of several books about the Osage and he wrote a biography on renowned Osage author John Joseph Mathews, who also attended OU prior to attending Oxford University in 1923.

Sieke asked Snyder to be the club’s Faculty Advisor and he accepted.

“I think the first day of class I had a Joe Don Brave koozie on my water bottle and she recognized [his artwork] and she made a connection,” Snyder said. “I’m excited for this club and it gave a good example too for my class because the students wrote a paper and the assignment was researching a group on campus, or a nonprofit group in Norman, so I could talk about the Osage club as a case study to write about and it was fun to have Gigi in class and bring her into the curriculum.

“She’s very enthusiastic, smart, very energetic and a good student. It was great to have her this semester.”

Currently, the Osage Club has 24 members, both Osage and non-Osage. They meet every other week in Copeland Hall.

“If you are an Osage OU alumnus, please reach out. The Osage Club is a way for students to find a place of belonging at the University of Oklahoma and make connections with other Osage students,” she said. “The Osage Club is a way to learn about Osage culture, stay culturally active on campus, meet like-minded people, get involved in the community, and participate and plan fun events.

“The goal of this club is to not only teach kids about our culture and staying culturally active but showing the university and the financial aid department that there are Osage students that are deserving of scholarship funding from our own mineral estate.” 

She said the best way to stay up to date on Osage Club happenings is to follow the club on Instagram @osageclub_ou. Alumni can also contact her via email at or DM the Osage Club on Instagram.

“We will take all the help we can get because this club is very new and we are still in the process of creating something that will last for years to come,” she said.

Giana Sieke, who is the current Osage Nation Princess, carried the Osage flag at the Native American Heritage Tribute at OU vs Baylor football game. Courtesy Photo

Boomer Sooner?

Sieke, who still has an abundance of school spirit, is nevertheless disappointed at the university’s response to her inquiries.

“I am surprised that the university is not giving any information about the scholarship to anyone and surprised when they say that they do not know who is Osage. I put down that I was Osage right after I check yes to being Native American and they asked me what tribe and if I could verify it,” she said. “I also receive the Osage Nation Scholarship so don’t you think that you can trace the students that receive a scholarship through the Nation and give a scholarship to them?”

Most recently, she spoke with the director of the Student Financial Center, Courtney Henderson. Sieke gave Henderson a current list of Osage students who participate in the Osage Club.

“She was very kind and understanding when I went to her office to talk about the scholarship and deliver the list,” Sieke said. “She wishes to encourage other Osage students that attend OU to reach out to her so that they can also be placed on the list.

“She said she would get back to me if there is any other information about Osage Scholarships, but I have not received anything new.”

In December, the Osage News called and emailed OU’s Board of Regents and asked about the university’s headright income, how it’s been spent over the years and whether a scholarship for Osage students could be formed. The News did not receive a response.

The University of Oklahoma Online’s Facebook cover photo.

If you would like to contact OU’s Board of Regents, the contact information is below:

Frank Keating

Natalie Shirley

Rick Braught

Eric Stevenson

Anita L. Holloway

Rick Nagel

Robert J. Ross

Shannon Shaw Duty

Title: Editor


Twitter: @dutyshaw

Topic Expertise: Columnist, Culture, Community

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

Shannon Shaw Duty is the editor of the Osage News. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a master's degree in Legal Studies, Indigenous Peoples Law from the OU College of Law. She served on the Board of Directors for the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) from 2013-2016 and served as a board member and Chairwoman for the Pawhuska Johnson O’Malley Parent Committee from 2017-2020. 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 (NCAIED). In 2014 she helped lead the Osage News to receive the Elias Boudinot Free Press Award, NAJA’s highest honor. An Osage tribal member, she and her family are from the Grayhorse District. She currently resides in Pawhuska, Okla., with her husband and six children.

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