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Tenth anniversary of Osage Constitution recognized in Chief’s address


Benny Polacca

March 2016 marked the 10-year anniversary of the Osage Nation Constitution and its three-branch government as it operates today. Two-thirds of Osages who voted that year approved the Constitution. 

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear acknowledged the anniversary as he delivered his executive address to the Fourth ON Congress on March 28, which is Day One of the Hun-Kah Session.

“We begin today recognizing it has been 10 years since this Constitution of the Osage Nation was ratified,” Standing Bear said. “Contained within its Certificate of Adoption is the Election Result to the question: “Shall this Constitution be Approved?” To that question two-thirds of the Osage Voters said ‘Yes.’”

Standing Bear also noted the Certificate of Adoption reads: “We, the undersigned, members of the Osage Government Reform Commission, the 31st Osage Tribal Council, the Assistant Principal Chief and the Principal Chief do hereby certify the adoption of this Constitution, duly ratified by a vote of the Osage People on March 11, 2006, and declare this Constitution to be the fundamental law of the Osage Nation.”

Standing Bear then referred to the recent ON Supreme Court decision in the declaratory judgment case he filed against the Congress, which opined that several sections of legislation passed last fall, which he challenged, are unconstitutional. The three-judge High Court delivered its decision on March 8.

“How appropriate it is then to be recently reminded by our Supreme Court on how we need to read and follow this fundamental law. The transition from 100 years of a system of government established by a law of the United States Government to a system of governing ourselves by our own laws has not been an easy task,” Standing Bear said. “Today, even with the reminders that our Osage sovereignty has survived 300 years of oppression, we still have not been able to free ourselves from some dependence on the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other arms of the United States Government. Shall we ever be united again in a common homeland, living our daily lives together sharing our common culture and language? The odds are against us but a few believe it is achievable, I am one of those.”

Standing Bear then reported updated statistics for the Nation including: The Nation’s membership stands at 20,822 Osages; 9,000 live in Oklahoma and 3,967 live in the Nation’s reservation boundaries.

The recent purchase of the 43,000-acre Bluestem Ranch also came up as Standing Bear said the Nation’s benefits for all enrolled Osages are on track to be “fully funded,” which refers to the higher education scholarship, burial assistance and health benefit card programs during this fiscal year.   

“Just to give you and the Osage public an idea of where we are before this purchase of the Bluestem Ranch and what an impact it will make, we are reminded that despite our recent efforts to buy land back, these efforts are incremental and dependent on the pace of the Department of Interior’s Cobell land buy-back program and our limited funding for land purchases from the Osage Congress,” Standing Bear said. “Those efforts have brought us to where before the Bluestem Ranch purchase – the Osage Nation owns only 648 acres of land which is not in federal trust, 780 acres of land which is being placed in federal trust, and 786 acres of land already in trust. The Bluestem Ranch purchase will add 43,000 acres to this total and we will be seeking federal trust status on this land without delay.”

Standing Bear said there will be other infrastructure needs that will require tribal funding subject to Congressional approval and shared a list of those projects.

“Beginning with the Wah-Zha-Zhi Early Learning Center, the architect and engineering estimate is just over $1 million dollars. The First National Bank building architect and engineering estimate for the fourth floor still needs the $37,500 to turn that building into the office space we need and to make good use of this historic building. The Hominy Roundhouse rebuild needs up to $400,000 dollars now, to preserve this historic treasure,” Standing Bear told the Congress.

Despite the debates and recent Supreme Court case, Standing Bear acknowledged: “We have accomplished a lot together in these past 21 months. There is an endless amount of work still to do. A good example of what we have done together, the Congress, the Assistant Chief, and our Executive Branch Staff is Bird Creek Farms and the EcoPark. Just this past Friday, Gail Boe, of our Communities of Excellence program, received notification that the proposal we made one year ago to the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center has been accepted for funding in the amount of over $115,000 dollars a year for five years. This award of over $550,000 dollars is just one of the indications of support for what we are doing at the EcoPark.”

Original Publish Date: 2016-04-05 00:00:00

Benny Polacca

Title: Senior Reporter


Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.


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