August 13, 2012
Authored by Osage Nation Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle
On August 13, Osage Nation members will vote on four constitutional amendments that would fundamentally alter the structure of Osage Nation government. I have heard from many Osages, both headright holders and non-headright holders, who have expressed their concerns about these amendments, and I share many of their concerns. I respectfully urge my fellow Osages to make their voices heard and vote “No” on all four amendments.
The authors of these amendments have not adequately consulted with Osages on the meaning and intent of these amendments. There has been no real effort to engage Osages on these amendments to get input and respond to the many questions Osages have about them. This leaves many of us with unanswered questions and unresolved concerns.
The first of the four amendments, ONCR 10-19, would prohibit the Osage Congress from taxing the Osage Mineral Estate, a power that's not clear the Osage Congress has in the first place. We would have to go to the U.S. Congress to change federal law relating to gross production taxes on minerals. Why would we even try to put another tax on top of the federal one? I would not support legislation to tax the Mineral Estate, and I have not heard a single Congressperson suggest that this would be a good idea. This amendment tries to solve a problem that simply does not exist. I urge voters to vote “No.”
The second amendment, ONCR 11-12, would move the Minerals Council entirely outside the framework of the three branches of Osage government. Would it create something like a fourth branch of government but with no checks and balances? Or would it be a separate "tribe" with its own separate government? The author of this amendment has not meaningfully consulted with Osages and explained how, as a practical matter, this would work. Also, we don't know how other Osage government responsibilities that touch minerals production, such as environmental protection and water use and regulation, would work. Rather than create more uncertainty, I urge voters to vote “No.”
The third amendment, ONCR-11-13, would constitutionally establish the right of the Minerals Council to conduct its own elections. If the Minerals Council remains a part of the Osage Nation government, the elections would continue to come under tribal law. Again, I urge the voters to vote “No.”
The fourth amendment, ONCR-11-14, would delete an entire Article of the Osage Constitution and replace it with a new Article relating to the powers and composition of the Minerals Council. Again, it is disappointing that the author of this amendment did not consult with Osages over such a sweeping change in Osage government. I'm confident that he would have heard from Osages about the concerns of separating the Osage people into two different "tribes", the “Osage Tribe" and "the Osage Nation." This distinction is divisive and unexplained. I urge you to vote “No” on this amendment.
The Osage people spoke loud and clear when adopting the principles of a constitutional form of government, with “governing powers” vested in three separate branches. They voted to unite and include ALL Osages under one government and allow them to fully participate in that government. Any attempt by certain elected tribal officials to limit the Osage people’s right to participate in their own government is, indeed, unfortunate and must be defeated.
Vote “No” August 13th on all four proposed amendments.