Standing Bear anticipates increased effort in Missouri

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The principal chief of the Osage Nation, in remarks Sept. 7 to the tribal Congress, indicated he anticipates an increased focus on efforts to re-establish a strong presence in Missouri.

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said in his executive message for the opening of the 2021 Tzi-Zho Session of the Osage Nation Congress that the tribe's gaming organization has purchased property in Missouri, and another purchase was under consideration.

Standing Bear said it might be necessary by October to have a number of the Osage Nation's program staff groups begin operations in Missouri "to do what we want to do anyway -- tell the people of the United States this is our homeland; this is our legal, recognized homeland."

"There are treaties in place that we did not fully agree with that drove us out of there and we want to claim those properties," Standing Bear said, adding that key staff members are fully aware of what is likely to transpire. He said the effort would require Osage staffers to "get up there and really say, 'This is more than about gaming.'"

"Why October? Sooner or  later, and it's going to be sooner, we're going to have to convey legal title of property that Gaming has already purchased in a location, and we're looking at another location to make a similar purchase, that's in the name of an entity that Gaming had created for this, and it will be conveyed to Osage Nation," Standing Bear continued.

He said that demolition and remediation would take place on a parcel of property, and there would likely be reactions to that activity.

"We are going to have to understand there are reactions that will be made and our work in Jefferson City, the state capital, must pay dividends to us and for the state of Missouri, in amounts and in ways which are yet to be determined," Standing Bear said.

"Nothing long-lasting is going to survive without approval of this Congress, and without approval of the government of the state of Missouri," he said. "This is out of our last recognized reservation area, according to some. I believe our lawyers need to have a broader vision, and to see if the principles that the Supreme Court of the United States has laid out in the McGirt case will apply to our jurisdictional holdings in Missouri."

Standing Bear said he thinks that the treatment the Osage people received when they were pushed out of Missouri was a terrible episode in their history.

"I believe that what happened to us in Missouri was terrible," he said. "I think we all do."

Standing Bear said the Osage tribe lost 90 percent of its people during its travels from Missouri through Kansas to Oklahoma.

"Those of us that survived have to stick together," he said. The chief went on to articulate his approach to unifying the Osage people. The nation currently has some 23,000 citizens.

"I still believe the way to get our people together is land acquisition, a strong recovered language, and maintaining our wonderful culture which you all participate in and which we have," Standing Bear said.

As the Seventh Osage Nation Congress began to take action last week, one of the measures that received attention was a bill to appropriate funds for the potential purchase of a cave system in Warrenton, Missouri that contains ancient Native American polychrome paintings.

The bill originally called for an appropriation of $323,000 to the Executive Branch of the Osage Nation. During committee review, that amount was increased to a proposed $623,000. It was not clear from the legislation documents available by last Friday morning if any funds appropriated through the bill would be the only funds that the Osage Nation might be able to spend on the purchase of the cave system.

Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers of St. Louis was preparing to sell the Picture Cave system at auction on Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 10 a.m.

The cave system is located in a 43-acre parcel that has been used primarily as hunting grounds by a landowner family since 1953. The Picture Cave system contains polychrome paintings reportedly dating back to 800-1100 of the Common Era. The caves are also home to a rare indigenous colony of bats (Myotis sodalis), which are listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an endangered species.

Selkirk listed the estimated value of the cave system at $1 million to $3 million.

In his remarks Sept. 7 to the Osage Nation Congress, Chief Standing Bear told legislators that they have the responsibility of making decisions about the disposition of some $150 million of revenue from all sources. He urged them to "keep our language, our culture and our land in the forefront."