Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear is slowly chipping away at the Osage Minerals Council’s resistance to Osage Nation law.
“They’re an agency of the government, not a branch,” Standing Bear said.
The minerals council is an independent agency, allowed to form their own rules and regulations as long as they are consistent with Osage law.
Over the years, the Minerals Council has been at odds with whether or not they are a part of the new Osage government ratified in 2006, or whether they are the Osage Tribal Council – which no longer exists. One member of the OMC that has long been on the side of the Osage Tribal Council is Cynthia Boone, who is the longest-serving OMC member. She has been consistent the OMC follows the 1906 Act and formed a 1906 committee within the OMC.
However, an ON Trial Court Associate Judge and the ON Attorney General have recently sided with Standing Bear. Soon, the question of what authority the minerals council has may go before the ON Supreme Court.
The minerals council and their attorney David McCullough recently drafted administrative rules and regulations that included a clause for removal of council members. The draft was leaked to the Chief’s Office and Standing Bear turned it over to AG Holli Wells.
In her July 22 opinion she said the council’s removal clause was unconstitutional and they did not have the authority to make up their own removal process. The Osage Constitution lays out the removal process for the Nation’s elected officials in Article XII.
The OMC’s draft rules and regulations also formed a Treasurer’s office, which Wells said was unconstitutional. The Osage Constitution establishes a Department of the Treasury in Article VII Section 13 within the Executive Branch.
“There are several sections of the proposed Osage Minerals Council Administrative Policies and Procedures that violate Osage Nation law, such as the Open Meetings Act, the Board and Commissions Act, the Treasury law, the Ethics law, and the Election code,” Wells wrote.
ON Associate Judge Lee Stout recently ruled the Osage Minerals Council is subject to the ON ethics law. Former Attorney General Jeff Jones filed ethics complaints against five members of the eight-member Osage Minerals Council in trial court. The complaint asked for a declaratory judgment on whether or not the Osage Nation ethics laws apply to the OMC. At issue is a required yearly affidavit from elected ON officials to be turned into the ON Trial Court that lists any and all gifts received during the fiscal year, the giver of the gift and the dollar amount of each gift.
Council members Andrew Yates, Galen Crum and Talee Redcorn filed their affidavits. Chairman Everett Waller, Cynthia Boone, Stephanie Erwin, Joseph Cheshewalla and Kathryn Red Corn did not.
The five OMC members are appealing to the ON Supreme Court.
Waller said he did not want to comment until after the OMC’s federal court case against the U.S. Department of Interior over the final rules governing the Osage Minerals Estate is heard in Northern District Court on Aug. 10.
Crum and Yates were not in favor of the new policies and procedures and some thought the draft removal process targeted the councilmen. Boone said the draft policies and procedures was just that, a draft and the minerals council had not discussed them publicly yet or voted on them.
Standing Bear said since he took office he has not received one official communication from the minerals council. Waller was under contract as a cultural liaison for Standing Bear for a short period before his contract was terminated. Standing Bear also said his office does speak with Crum, Yates and Kathryn Red Corn.
Minerals council members said Standing Bear and Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn did meet with Waller and threatened Waller with legal action if he did not follow Standing Bear’s wishes. When asked if a meeting ever took place and whether Standing Bear and Red Corn threatened Waller, Standing Bear said, “it never happened.”
Either way, neither side is communicating and Standing Bear said he didn’t know the minerals council filed suit in federal court until the Osage News posted it online.
“Our last major effort was to have our attorney David Mullen arrange a meeting with Asst. Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn who would meet with us as chief and representatives of the minerals council, if we would jointly request a 90-day moratorium on the new regulations until we can all figure out what’s going on,” Standing Bear said. “Mr. Washburn did not promise he would do that but he was ready to listen. We didn’t even get a chance to talk to him because the minerals council would not respond to my request.”