Osage Nation general election to bring new tribal leadership

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

Osage Nation voters are to choose new executive leadership, half of the tribal legislature and a minerals council during June 2 elections, which come approximately five months after the last-elected Principal Chief was contentiously removed from office.

Two-candidate races between a woman and a man will be featured in the balloting for both Osage Nation executive positions. Seeking election to the top tribal office of Principal Chief are Margo Gray and Geoffrey Standing Bear. Hopefuls in the race for Assistant Principal Chief are Amanda Proctor and Raymond Red Corn.

A third candidate for Principal Chief and three additional Assistant Chief candidates were eliminated March 10 in the Osage Nation’s first-ever primary election.

Red Corn, who served as Speaker of the Osage Congress, and Standing Bear, as a tribal congressman, were involved throughout proceedings that led to the removal from office of Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle in January.

Following a select-committee investigation in 2013 and a removal trial early this year, members of the ON Congress voted Red Eagle guilty on multiple counts of official malfeasance and arrogation of power. Charges made against Red Eagle alleged he failed to recognize the authority of the tribe’s judicial and legislative branches, as well as that of the Osage Minerals Council.

Assistant Principal Chief Scott BigHorse subsequently was appointed as Principal Chief. BigHorse — who (like Red Eagle) had been elected in 2010 — did not re-file for office.

Four incumbents will be among 21 candidates vying for six at-large seats on the Osage Nation Congress. Alice Buffalohead, Daniel Boone, John Free and William “Kugee” Supernaw are making bids for re-election to the tribal Congress.

The other candidates in the congressional elections are: Homer Troy Big Eagle, John Starr Bighorse, Beverly Brownfield, Joe Conner, Doug Cowan, Richard Luttrell, Ron Shaw, Otto Hamilton, W. Jacque Jones, Michael Kidder, Justin Mays, James Norris, Angela Marie Pratt, Teresa Bates Rutherford, Cecelia Tallchief, Tony Whitehorn and Clair Wood.

ON voters also will consider six amendments to the Osage Constitution, with approval from at least a 65 percent majority needed for passage. Information about the proposed amendments is provided later in this article.

Votes are to be cast from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Wah Zha Zhi Cultural Center, 1449 W. Main. Elections are held on Monday in accordance with Osage tradition.

Absentee ballots for the 2014 Osage general election must be returned to the Osage Nation Election Board office before the polls open on June 2, tribal officials said. Friday was the deadline for applying to vote absentee.

A separate June 2 election will be held to fill all of the seats on the Osage Minerals Council. Formerly known as the Osage Tribal Council, the eight-member OMC is comprised of Osage mineral-royalty interest holders who are elected to manage the tribe’s minerals estate.

Although the OMC voting coincides with the Osage general election, the process used for choosing OMC members is not based a one-vote-per-person system. Eligible voters cast minerals council ballots worth the same value as that person’s headright interest on the tribe’s most recent quarterly annuity roll, according to Osage officials.

It is estimated that as many as 4,500 headright holders could be eligible to vote in the Osage Minerals Council election. The value of each of their votes is based on the varying ownership amounts for the original 2,229 Osage headrights, officials said.

Incumbents running for the minerals council include Curtis Bear, Cynthia Boone, Melvin Core, Galen Crum, Myron Red Eagle, Andrew Yates. Other OMC candidates are: Kenny Bighorse, Joseph “Blackbird” Cheshewalla, Stephanie Erwin, Linda Heskett, Ray McClain, Cheryl Potts, Kathryn Red Corn, Talee Redcorn, William St. John, Everett M. Waller and Robert E. “R.E.” Yarbrough.

The minerals council voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Osage Minerals Council Chambers on Grandview Avenue. More information about the minerals council election can be obtained by calling 918-287-5288.

In three tribal elections since 2010, there have been 12 constitutional amendments submitted to Osage voters and all of them have been rejected. Below are the synopsized amendment proposals to be considered this year.

Amendment 1 would change the language of the Osage Constitution to ensure that lineal descendants of the 1906 Roll could not lose their membership because of a change made by the Osage Nation Congress to the laws governing tribal membership. The language would be changed from “are eligible for” to “have the right to” membership, the proposal states.

Amendment 2 would “protect the integrity of laws that require an affirmative supermajority to access Osage Nation assets. It is intended as a safe guard to prevent a Congress member from amending a supermajority requirement in a law (more than 50 percent ‘yes’ votes) to a simple majority (only a 50 percent ‘yes’ vote) by only passing the reducing amendment by a simple majority of Congress. If enacted, Congress will have to generate more than a majority to access Osage Nation asset accounts,” the ballot states.

Amendment 3 would distinguish between Osage Nation members who are headright owners and Osage Nation members who are not. It proposes to clarify that the Osage Nation only has the right to protect headright owners of Osage descent as set forth in the Osage Allotment Act of June 28, 1906 (amended).

Amendment 4 would alter the requirement on filing petitions for constitutional amendments to be based on the number of qualified Osage voters who voted in prior elections for principal chief versus the number of eligible Osage voters. “For example, about 2,300 of the approximately 12,000 total Osage electorate voted in the last election for Principal Chief. Based on those numbers, 1,800 signatures are required to file a petition to amend the constitution. If the amendment passes, the requirement is lowered to 575 signatures.”

Amendment 5 would lower to 575 the number of signatures required for filing initiative or referendum petitions proposing votes on new laws.

Amendment 6 would lower to 575 the number of signatures required to file a petition for recall of an elected or appointed official of the Osage Nation.