The Osage Nation Congress voted Tuesday to remove John D. Red Eagle as Principal Chief of the 13,000-member Pawhuska-based tribe.
Guilty verdicts were rendered on five of six allegations brought against the executive leader of the Osages. Each supported count was approved by at least 10 of the 12 members of the tribal Congress. The voting concluded a six-day trial for Red Eagle on charges of malfeasance in office and arrogation of power.
Assistant Principal Chief Scott Big Horse will serve out the months remaining from Red Eagle’s unexpired term, to which he was elected in 2010. The next Osage general elections will be held in June.
While testifying at the proceedings, Red Eagle defiantly admitted violating Osage law and to illegally intervening in official tribal investigations. On Monday, the embattled Principal Chief appeared before the nine-man, three-woman Congress during the trial’s closing arguments.
"I come to you this afternoon to talk about what harm has been done," Red Eagle said. "Whether you liked me or didn’t like me, don’t put this Nation at risk."
Red Eagle went on to tell the legislators that the removal actions were endangering the Osage Nation Mineral Estate, which he called "our most prized possession." The Chief went on to hint at possible repercussions from the trial and then offered explanations for some of the actions responsible for the charges against him.
"I was protecting children with the investigation," said Red Eagle, apparently referring to his interference with an investigation involving his granddaughter while she was a tribal employee. "I was protecting an old man by giving him a job when he did not have one."
On one of the allegations involving the investigation, Red Eagle was found guilty by a 12-0 vote. On a second he also was convicted, but by an 11-0 margin. He also was unanimously convicted on an allegation that he provided a job to a supporter of his political campaign using tribal funds.
Associate Justice Jeanine Logan of the Osage Nation Supreme Court presided over the removal trial, which was the first in the history of the tribe.
More than two dozen persons have testified during the initial five days of the trial, which was conducted in the chambers of the Osage Nation Congress.
Following are the six allegations against Red Eagle, along with the findings of the Osage Congress jurors:
1. On interfering with an investigation of the Office of Attorney General of the Osage Nation, which constitutes malfeasance in office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office and arrogation of powers…sustained by a 12-0 vote.
2. For attempting to have the investigation being conducted by the Office of Attorney General of the Osage Nation terminated to give preferential treatment to an employee, which constitutes malfeasance in office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office and arrogation of power…supported 11-1, with Congresswoman Alice Buffalohead voting "not guilty."
3. Over his refusal to uphold Osage Nation Law enacted by the Congress, which delegates "full and sole control over all Mineral Estate Account" to the Osage Minerals Council. In response to the (OMC’s) letter requesting the release of accounts, he replied by letter stating, "the management of these accounts shall remain in the Osage Nation Treasury" which constitutes malfeasance in office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, and arrogation of power…passed by a 10-2 margin, with votes for acquittal by Congresswoman Buffalohead and Congressman R.J. Walker.
4. For abusing the power of his elected position to improperly influence the administration of the Osage Nation Election Board by forbidding disciplinary action against an Election Board employee, which constitutes malfeasance in office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, and arrogation of power…not supported by a unanimous vote of 12-0.
5. For abusing the power of his elected position to improperly withhold one or more contracts between the Osage Nation and an a pipeline consultant after it was properly requested under the Osage Nation Open Records Act, which constitutes malfeasance in office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, and arrogation of power…sustained by a 12-0 vote.
6. In violation of Osage and federal laws, for misusing public money of the Osage Nation by authorizing a man to be paid $73,334 in Osage Nation public monies for personal services contracts, for which he admittedly did no work to earn his fees, which constitutes malfeasance in office, abuse of the government process and undermining the integrity of the office … upheld by a vote of 12-0.
The Congress also voted 11-0 in a separate question to disqualify Red Eagle from enjoying any office of honor, trust or profit in the Osage Nation. One abstaining vote came from Congressman Geoffrey Standing Bear.