Columns

The Constitution and the Mineral Estate Part IV

All Osages are inexorably linked to individual(s) whose name appears on the 1906 Tribal Roll. We are one people connected through tribal, genetic, historic and cultural events and memories. This history and these memories are now part of us and we are a part of them. What we’ve done and who we were add to the makeup of today’s tribal character.

Current day action becomes a part of tomorrow’s history contributing to who we will become. We are influenced by history and we, in return, influence history. We are living links in the chain of existence. The wonderful Osage Ballet, WAHZHAZHE, comes to mind as a living memorial to our history. 

Oil and gas production is a major part of our history. The 1870 move to today’s reservation was at the urging of Wah-Ti-An-Ka. Wah-Ti-An-Ka knew it unlikely that this poor land would be coveted by white farming interest and lobbyists. Wah-Ti-An-Ka was a prayerful and spiritual man and he also knew, somehow, that Wah’Kon’-Ta had prepared good and great things for His people in the new land.

The land-greedy interlopers were unaware that this agriculturally worthless land had been blessed with life sustaining resources below the surface of the land. Oil brought money (mo-‘ce cka), and money brought food, shelter and life when nothing else was available. In my opinion, the ace trick of the colonizers was the disruption of our social-economic system, hunting, gathering, and farming. 

Names are important to the Wah-zha-zhe. Before joining I’n-Lon-Schka, one must be named; and they are honored when that name is called under the arbor. For Osages, names give structure to the tribe’s clan system. Names identify birth order, gender, and something about the family’s expectations and duties to the individual, and the individual’s duties and expectations of the family.

Naming is ceremonial and follows prescribed rituals. They say that when a ritual is performed it is performed in concert with each previous performance of that ritual. Names are important to the individual, the family and the tribe. Names are important to friends, less so to acquaintances and even less to strangers. Names are also important to those who consider us competitors, and to those who see us as barriers to sought-after goals. Colonizers change names of indigenous people. They cannot understand or even pronounce indigenous names. It makes them feel “less than”; less in the know, less in control.

All this discussion about names is my attempt to explain, in part, my feelings about the importance of the names OSAGE TRIBAL COUNCIL, PRINCIPAL CHIEF AND ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL CHIEF. In addition to feelings, there are structural and functional reasons for my preference in the use of the terms herein stated, over those used in the 2006 Constitution.  

AUTHORIZING DOCUMENT

ITEM                                1906                             1994                                            2006

Name                       Osage Tribal Council      Osage Tribal Council         Osage Minerals Council

Name                       Principal Chief                Principal Chief                   Council Member

Name                       Assist. Principal Chief    Assist. Principal Chief       Council Member

Pay Rent                  Not Applicable                Not Required                      Required

I know those individual committee members who wrote the 2006 Constitution. They were Osage tribal members and were, in my opinion, good intelligent people. They did the best they could and did so in the best interest of the Nation. My goal is not to judge the framers of the 2006 Constitution, but to attempt to do the same thing they attempted, i.e., shape a more perfect Constitution.

The possibility that constitutions can change, evolve and improve is seen in the Constitution of the United States of America. That governmental practices can change, evolve and improve within the frame of an Osage Nation Constitution can be seen in practice, even as this article is being written. According to OMC Resolution No.3-272 “The OMC paid approximately $76,200 in indirect cost last year and paid approximately $16,000 in space cost for a total of $92,200, almost a tenth of our budget.” Resolution No.3-272 also states, “The Osage Nation Congress has offered to prepare legislation to relieve the OMC of these costs.” The OMC through the same resolution graciously accepted the Nation’s offer. 

The oil derrick in front of the Museum is in disrepair. Congress requested input from the OMC as to whether this symbol should be repaired or torn down. I believe this was an act of recognition and respect by the Nation toward the OMC. I agree with the only Councilmember speaking to keep this culturally historical link. Andrew Yates stated that this symbol should be restored, and restored in metal. “Bronze,” he said. My artist’s eye instantly saw and appreciated such an effort.