Osage Nation Trial Court Judge Lee Stout said there is enough in dispute to warrant a jury trial in one of the Nation’s first membership removal cases.
Osage Nation vs Reta Marie Lintner, the case that will be going before a six-person jury at a date to be determined, involves one of approximately 60 individuals the ON Attorney General filed petitions against for removal from the Osage membership roll in April. Seven of those individuals voluntarily relinquished their memberships, including the memberships of their children, according to the AG’s office.
This will be the first jury trial for the Osage Nation.
The attorney for Lintner, Skiatook-based Brad Hilton of Hilton Law Office and First Assistant to the Attorney General Clint Patterson, met in chambers Dec. 21 with Judge Stout to discuss the nation’s motion for summary judgment.
Judge Stout denied the motion for summary judgment and further questioned Hilton and Patterson about the requirements for membership with the Nation. Patterson said the requirements are in the Osage Constitution and require the person to be a direct lineal descendant of an Osage Allottee from the 1906 membership roll. He said when Lintner was enrolled in 2013 former Principal Chief John Red Eagle was chief and the “directive” came “top down” to the membership director at the time.
Lola C. Brown
According to the petition mailed to Lintner in April, her ancestor Lola C. Brown was not the legitimate daughter of Paschal F. Canville, original Osage Allottee No. 1054. According to the petition, both the Oklahoma District Court for Osage County and the U.S. Department of Interior determined Brown is not the descendent of Canville. Further, Brown is not on the 1906 roll, despite being born in 1888. All Osages were supposed to have been enrolled in 1906 to make up the final roll. Patterson said membership disputes arose in 1907 and a trial before the U.S. Senate questioned the legitimacy of 100 members.
Hilton told Judge Stout that they have a paternity affidavit from Canville, stating he is the father of Brown, and affidavits from the doctor who delivered Brown, a neighbor, and a stagecoach driver.
“These aren’t paternity affidavits we would accept today,” Patterson said.
The Osage membership statute states a person must have a certified birth certificate and death certificate when proving lineal descent, Patterson said. Since Oklahoma was not a state until 1907, Judge Stout asked if birth certificates were issued then? He also asked Hilton whether they could prove Lintner was related to existing descendants of Canville via DNA testing. Hilton said he would look further into DNA testing.
Judge Stout asked Hilton if the Bureau of Indian Affairs had any records of Brown. Hilton said, “The BIA does not want to participate,” and that they’ve subpoenaed them “and they basically said no.” Stout said they only need the BIA to verify whether the documents were in their records and that they did not have to appear in court.
According to the petition, if a jury finds Lintner guilty of fraudulent membership she could face paying back all monetary benefits she received from the Nation. Those would include financial assistance for direct services, including the ON Health Benefit Card. She would also be responsible for attorney fees and costs. Since Lintner is the elder of her relatives charged, her case will decide the fate of 15 other individuals who also claim their ancestor was Lola C. Brown. According to the petition, all 15 individuals received their enrollments between the years of 2012-2013.
Until the judge rules on the case, all benefits and direct services will be denied to those under investigation for fraudulent membership.
Patterson said the membership office is supposed to conduct an audit of the membership list sometime in the future but has not yet received the funding to hire a company.
Both attorneys were ordered by Judge Stout to prepare their legal briefs and a hearing has been set for March 1 at 1:30 p.m.