Principal chief takes issue with Congress speaker

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

The principal chief of the Osage Nation took issue last Thursday with the way Congress Speaker Joe Tillman was questioning the chairman of the Osage Nation Ranch’s board of directors during a congressional hearing.

Tillman engaged Galen Crum, the ranch board chairman, in a question-and-answer session about the status of an initiative to build a bison fence at the ranch. The exchange took place during a meeting Thursday morning of the Commerce, Gaming and Land Committee of the ON Congress.

Tillman noted that the ON Congress appropriated $175,000 more than five months ago for the bison fence, and that the appropriation was passed on an emergency basis. He asked questions about why there seemed to be little if any progress on the project. At the beginning of his process of questioning Crum, Tillman made reference to ON ethical standards.

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, who was on-hand for a separate presentation to the congressional committee, took issue with Tillman’s approach.

“I think you ought to apologize to the administration and Mr. Crum,” Standing Bear said to Tillman. Standing Bear told Crum that he apologized for Tillman, and added that he thought Crum was doing a great job.

Tillman told the Journal-Capital in a later telephone interview that no money for the fence had been drawn from the general fund, that nothing had been turned in to procurement, there was no fence and people were asking questions about the project.

“I answer to the public. I answer to the constituents of the Osage Nation,” Tillman said. He also clarified that he wasn’t trying to call anyone out, and that he believes it is necessary to support the members of the Osage Nation Ranch board and make sure they are allowed to do their jobs without interference.

“They fight like heck every day to do the best job with what they have,” Tillman said of the ranch board members. The Osage Nation purchased the ranch, which consists of more than 40,000 acres, from media mogul Ted Turner.