Osage Nation honors the late Joe Freeman

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Osage Nation held a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 14 in Pawhuska for 10 new senior-citizen housing units and used the occasion to honor the late Joe Freeman, who worked for more than 20 years as the tribe's Housing director.

The new housing units are being financed through Indian Housing Block Grant funds, and American Rescue Plan Act funds. Forty other new senior housing units -- 20 in the Fairfax area and 20 in the Hominy area -- are also soon to be built.

The 10 additional units in Pawhuska are to be located along two cul-de-sacs in the vicinity of the Osage Nation's Title VI building. Casey Johnson, the ON's director of Operations, is to oversee the construction management team Builders Unlimited.

A street in the development is to be named Joe Freeman Drive.

James Weigant, who leads the Osage Nation's COVID-19 Task Force and worked with Mr. Freeman, provided comments for the groundbreaking.

"Those elders were his people," Weigant said of Freeman's concern and care for the Osage Nation's older citizens. "And I hope he's smiling down on us right now."

Raymond Joseph "Joe" Freeman died in July 2019 at the age of 63. He was a Hominy District drumkeeper. He was married for more than 40 years to Ann Maker Freeman.

Weigant recalled that Freeman had an encyclopedic knowledge of U.S. federal housing regulations. Weigant also recalled the late Housing director as a man who spoke candidly and had a dry sense of humor.

"He was an invaluable resource, who called a spade a spade," Weigant said. Members of Freeman's family were on-hand for the groundbreaking on the morning of Sept. 14. It was a warm, sunny late summer morning.

Osage Nation Senior Housing provides maintenance free and affordable rental housing to Native American elders. Rental rates are based on annual household income of residents.

The groundbreaking ceremony came in another busy week for the Osage Nation, as the tribe also closed on property where it intends to establish a primary residential treatment facility that will serve both adolescents and adults.

Additionally, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear chose last week as the time to announce he will seek a third four-year term in Osage Nation elections to be held in 2022.