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Two outgoing Congressmen honored with citations of commendation


Benny Polacca

Photo Caption: The Fifth Osage Nation Congress voted to issue citations of commendation to outgoing Congressmen James Norris and Otto Hamilton during the final day of the 2018 Hun-Kah Session on April 19. BENNY POLACCA/Osage News

The Fifth Osage Nation Congress honored two of its outgoing members on April 19 before wrapping the 2018 Hun-Kah Session.

That evening after other pending Congressional business, Congress voted to issue citations of commendation to outgoing Congressmen James Norris and Otto Hamilton.

Norris is not seeking another term and Hamilton is running for Assistant Principal Chief in the June 4 general election. Both men received certificates and applause from their fellow legislators and Congressional office staff.

Congresswoman Alice Goodfox presented the certificates to Norris and Hamilton one-by-one and everyone applauded them for their four years of service to the Legislative Branch after both won election in 2014.

“We’re family, we’re a branch of government, we may not always see eye-to-eye and we may have some really bad days, but there are good days too and I really truly believe in my heart every single person that even puts their name in the hat to run for an elected position in government, and tribal government specifically, that they’re doing it because they want to serve their people and they’re already leaders,” Goodfox said.

Norris, a military veteran and retired Indian Health Service administrator and physicians assistant, expressed gratitude for the honoring and recalled his decision to seek office was a “big one to make” four years ago. He also served on the Osage government reform commission in the mid-2000s, which was instrumental in developing the 2006 Osage Constitution for the current ON government.

As a government reform commission member, Norris recalled: “We had many, many, many questions and we reached out to the Osage people and we wanted to put together a form of government, a Constitution that everybody could live under and we knew at the time that it was not a perfect document … We tried to put together the skeleton and we relied on Congress and Congresses that will come after you to improve on this document and it has been a real pleasure serving with each and every one of you and I got to know some of you very, very well and I’ll hold each one of you dear in my heart and I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me.”

Before serving on Congress, Hamilton worked for the Nation’s education and strategic planning/ grants offices. During his Congressional tenure, Hamilton served as Second Speaker (2015-2016) and chaired Congressional committees for culture and education.

Hamilton recalled being the youngest Congress member when he won election wondering “how is this going to go?” then quipped “now I can tell you I feel like I aged about 15 years – in a good way, in wisdom. I’d like to thank the staff, each and every one of you helped, hit the ground running … I think you guys are doing an awesome job … Like Congressman Norris, I appreciate each and every one of you and we are a unique body here and we look at things different and it’s these 10-hour days, you have to look at things different and it’s not for everyone. Thank you for helping me out and for being a part of you guys.”

In closing, Goodfox recalled a comment by former Osage Congressman Eddy Red Eagle Jr. who once said “you are forever Osage Nation Congressmen” then asked her colleagues for a vote on issuing the citations. The motion passed unanimously 10-0 that evening with one absence from Congressman Joe Tillman. The session then adjourned at approximately 7 p.m.

Original Publish Date: 2018-05-10 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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