The Osage Minerals Council might not be sending $50,000 to the plaintiffs in the Jech vs. United States case after all.
The case was recently recommended by a federal judge to be dismissed and at the March 10 OMC meeting it was revealed that the OMC never sent the money they promised to the plaintiffs in the case, which had some Osage shareholders upset.
“. . . you know it makes us look stupid [by not sending the check] – nobody’s ever going to want to do business with the Osage Nation for goodness sake,” said Osage shareholder Julie Wilson.
The case was recommended for dismissal because plaintiffs didn’t exhaust all their legal avenues before filing the case.
On Sept. 29 of last year the OMC passed a resolution to send $50,000 to the plaintiffs. Councilman Curtis Bear, who is a member of the 1906 Restoration Committee, sponsored the resolution. Voting for the resolution were Cynthia Boone, Bear, Melvin Core and Myron Red Eagle. Voting against the resolution were Councilmen Sonny Abbott, Galen Crum and Andrew Yates. Whitehorn abstained, since he’s a plaintiff in the Jech case.
Wilson went on to ask which council members were holding up the check and Councilwoman Cynthia Boone, who is also on the 1906 Restoration Committee and a vocal non-supporter of the Osage Constitution, said that councilmen Core and Red Eagle were to blame.
When pressed Red Eagle said that since the council made the resolution to help fund the private lawsuit, a lot of negative repercussions have happened for the council, including focus from the Second Osage Nation Congress and the Chief’s Office and that more discussion was needed. Chief John Red Eagle, who is Myron’s older brother, stated last year he did not support the Jech case and would not help fund it.
The resolution also called into question the constitutionality of the OMC's actions if they did help fund the lawsuit, since it seeks to abolish the present form of government.
The OMC’s new attorney, Oklahoma City-based David McCullough of Doerner, Saunders, Daniel & Anderson, L.L.P., said that it was unlikely the OMC would suffer legal recourse if they decided to rescind their Sept. 29 resolution and not pay the $50,000 to the Jech plaintiffs, since there was no contract in place. He said people could always sue the council about the resolution but were unlikely to win.
Jech vs. United States, seeks to dismantle the 2006 ratification of the Osage Constitution and 2006 elections and that the Osage Nation return to the Osage Tribe of Indians. The case wants the return of the old form of government, which was an eight-member Tribal Council with a chief and assistant chief and the only voting members of the tribe were shareholders. In their opinion, returning to the old form of government would be protecting their mineral shares more so than the Nation.
Supporters of the Jech case repeatedly write on the blog, osageshareholders.org, and proclaim in OMC meetings that the Jech case doesn’t seek to dismantle the Osage Nation, including Councilwoman Boone and OMC Chairman Whitehorn.
According to Cora Jean Jech, the lead plaintiff in the case, “This [Osage] constitution is a poorly written document, and in my opinion was meant to defraud the Osage headright owners [shareholders] out of their property interests . . . [This] new government is trying to swallow us whole and take our property rights away from us,” she said on her Web site, osagemineralstrustprotection.com.
“The whole purpose of this lawsuit is to totally separate the Osage Minerals Trust from the Constitution . . . lf we don't act for ourselves to right this wrong we will be done away with and our headrights [minerals shares] as we have known them for 100 years, we will cease to exist.”
To date, the Gray and Red Eagle administrations and the first and second Osage Nation Congress have not proposed or passed legislation to take minerals shares away from individual shareholders. In fact, the Nation just won Tranche 1, or the first phase, of the Osage trust case in which the federal judge ordered $330.7 million to return to the Nation after the Bureau of Indian Affairs mismanaged Osage minerals royalties. The awarded money is to only go to shareholders, in which 25 percent are non-Osage.
The plaintiff’s in the Jech case are Jech, former Principal Chief Charles Tillman, OMC Chairman Dudley Whitehorn, Joe Hall, Joanna Barbara, R.E. Yarbrough, Cody Tucker and John Johnson.
Both Whitehorn and Jech ran in the 2006 Osage Nation elections. Whitehorn ran for principal chief and Jech ran for congress.
Memorandum of Understanding
The OMC has been asking for a Memorandum of Understanding from the Chief’s Office since September of last year.
The OMC wanted the chief to restore the 1906 Act, return of all minerals money and land - including land that currently houses Osage casinos and a tract of land in Kansas. They also asked that a letter be sent to all BIA officials and officials within the U.S. Department of the Interior notifying them the Nation was changing its position in relation to the OMC and that the Osage Trust Team only be comprised of minerals council officials.
What the OMC received was exactly the opposite.
The Chief’s Office sent the council it’s draft 7-page MOU that states the Osage minerals estate is held in trust by the Osage Nation and that it is both the goals of the OMC and the chief to protect the minerals estate, and that the OMC will agree to support the chief in upholding the laws and the Constitution of the Nation and that the governance of the minerals estate is placed under the Nation.
Other points made in the MOU:
· The OMC will allow the chief’s archaeologist, which is the Historic Preservation Office director, Andrea Hunter, to ensure that minerals leases and other development activity on Osage land is compliant with applicable laws. Councilwoman Boone has voiced her opposition to Hunter in past OMC meetings.
· The OMC will pay for their office space used on the Osage campus.
· Signature authority for OMC financial accounts and authority over OMC expenditures will remain with the Osage Nation Treasurer and the chief.
· The tract of land in Kansas is under the Nation’s management.
· Only the chief will be the official representative of the Nation when communicating with the BIA and Department of the Interior.
· The trust team will stay exactly the way it is, comprised of the chief, Speaker of the Congress and three members of the OMC.
Needless to say, the OMC declined to sign it.
Much discussion on whether the chief understood what he sent to the OMC and who wrote the MOU was on the osageshareholders.org blog.
Osage Congressman Geoffrey Standing Bear, who is a regular contributor, wrote on March 5, “. . . I can't believe [Chief] John Red Eagle really read this MOU and authorized its [sic] being sent to the Minerals Council. If he did, I want to hear it because this is way off what I thought he believed. If he did, the Osage Congress should not take any action to support it. If he did not, then who the heck is writing and sending this out??!!”
During the March 10 OMC meeting, Councilman Galen Crum stated that he was not a part of the drafting of the MOU that was sent from the chief’s office. Much speculation on his involvement has been written on the osageshareholders.org blog, with posters calling it “Galen’s ‘Memorandum of Confiscation’” and a meeting attendee accusing Crum at the meeting.
“It was a total shock to us what we got back and we will not agree to it,” Crum said. “Nothing about that [MOU] was instigated here.”
Congressmen Standing Bear and Raymond Red Corn have offered to work with the OMC in drafting resolutions and legislation that could add more independence to the OMC, including offering a question on the 2012 election ballot that would amend the Osage Constitution. But so far, no agreements have been made between the two parties.