Candidates for Osage Congress participate in Saturday debate

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

All 15 of the candidates in the 2016 Osage Nation Congressional election were participants in a Saturday debate conducted at Osage Casino-Skiatook.

Nine challengers (Myron Red Eagle, Joe Tillman, Brandy Lemon, W. Jacque Jones, Rebekah HorseChief, Hank Hainzinger, Fidelis Davis, Danette Daniels and Michael Bristow) joined six incumbent members of the ON Congress (Maria Whitehorn, R.J. Walker, Archie Mason, John Maker, John Jech and Shannon Edwards) for a civil exchange of ideas about various tribal matters.

After being randomly divided into three groups of five, the candidates were given an opportunity (one group at a time) for making two-minute opening statements regarding their qualifications, goals, etc. Five different questions were then posed to the group, with each candidate given three minutes in which to answer and later allowed one minute for rebuttal.

The debate questions had been submitted by tribal members and covered a broad range of topics which, at times, were fairly complex. Despite frequent re-readings of the queries, the event only ran 40 minutes over the four hours for which it was scheduled.

Questions involved tribal finances, Constitutional issues, Osage language preservation efforts, online gaming and term limits for tribal officials. Two of those asked were:

— “If you could author a Constitutional amendment that would become effective immediately, what would you add to our Constitution?,” and;

— “Would you support DNA technology to verify Osage blood as a requirement for Osage tribal membership? (Nearly all candidates who were asked gave some variation of a reply to the effect that: “Personally, I wouldn’t have anything to worry about, so …”).

A few of the questions came from tribal officials, including Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear and the Assistant Principal Chief, Raymond Red Corn.

Saturday’s debate was sponsored by the Osage News, the tribe-owned independent newspaper. Susan Shannon served as emcee for the event. Live streaming was provided via a link on the Osage Nation website.

The 2016 ON Congressional election is scheduled Monday, June 6, with four-year terms to be awarded to the top six vote recipients. Tribal members 18 years of age and older (with an Osage tribal membership card) will be eligible to vote in the election, officials said.