Chief Red Eagle and Pipeline Changing Lives
June 27, 2013

 By Roseanne Sutton

Osage Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle’s Pipeline Consultant, Rod Hartness, spearheaded training efforts and union participation to prepare workers for the Enbridge Pipeline project set to begin in Osage County on Aug. 7.

Hartness, a third-generation pipeliner, was able to bring together all four unions for the first time to collaborate on the landmark project to prepare Osage members, Native Americans and others to work on the 150 miles of pipe, which will cross the Osage reservation.

“I want to see Chief Red Eagle’s goal of bringing jobs to the Osage people be achieved. The pipeline is coming through with or without us. If we can put some people to work – let’s do it,” Mr. Hartness said.
Osage Nation Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle, center, with 36 of the 80 members of the first class, who are training in preparation for the Enbridge Pipeline project set to begin in Osage County on Aug. 7.  Left of Chief is Pipeline Consultant Rod Hartness.  To Chief’s right are: Osage Nation HR Executive Director Delary Walters, Former Osage Congressman Eddy Red Eagle, Jr., Osage Nation Education Director Ida Doyle and Tri County Technology Welding Instructor Scott Sutherland.

On the project an estimated 200 workers, making $21 or more per hour, are expected to generate $200,000.00 in payroll per week to Osage families alone, Chief Red Eagle explained.

“Each worker has a family, so you’re affecting 900 people or more,” Mr. Hartness said.

“From the minute they get on the bus, they’re on the payroll,” said Osage Nation Human Resources Director Delary Walters.

The classes currently underway at the Pawhuska Business Development Center are: laborers, operating engineers, teamsters and welders helpers. Additionally, some Osage students are at welder helper school in Tulsa with training provided by the 798 Union.

Instructors from all over the U.S. have come to provide the training at their own expense, Hartness said. “They’re giving us their time,” he added.

Several private companies have contributed to the training. According to Hartness, Thompson Brothers provided grinders, Enbridge donated the pipe to for the class to build the sample-pipeline, Wyatt Construction donated skids, Osage County Commissioner Bob Jackson donated a truck to be used in the classes to teach load securement.

Tri-County Tech instructor Scott Sutherland said, “We have not really had people tell us ‘no.’”

A second group of 50 students has orientation at the Wah Zha Zhi Cultural Center in Pawhuska, and a third class is planned, Mr. Hartness said.

“When we had the orientation, we gave students a history of all of the pipelines and the history of all of the Chiefs,” Mr. Hartness said. “This is the only Chief who has done a joint venture like this to be able to put Osages to work – not only a pipeline coming through Osage County but built by Osages. I’ve been in the pipeline business for 35 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this come across Osage County.”

Wah Zha Zhi Cultural Center Director Vann Bighorse shared Osage history with the students during orientation. As someone who had wanted to work in the oil business but was not ever given the chance, Mr. Bighorse spoke of the magnitude of this effort. “It’s a big opportunity. People don’t even realize how big,” he said.

HR Director Delary Walters recounted how four participants in the program had been to four states trying to get work on the pipeline. “They’re Seminole and we’ve put them into our program. That’s another precedent. We’ve been reaching out to other tribes,” Ms. Walters said.

Another aspect of this project is the opportunity to become a union member. “The 798 Union has been closed but they’ve opened up membership for Chief’s students,” Mr. Hartness said.

 “Once Enbridge sees how well we all worked together, it will open up more opportunities for other pipeline jobs,” Mr. Hartness said.

“It’s amazing. We’re making history and changing lives,” Walters said.