Red Eagle: New Osage Nation government stands in contrast to the old one

John Red EaglePrincipal Chief of the Osage Nation
Red Eagle: New Osage Nation government stands in contrast to the old one

On Aug. 19, the Osage Nation Congressional Committee of Inquiry began interviewing those subpoenaed to appear. As I predicted, the Inquiry is entirely one-sided. The committee is not allowing me the opportunity for any rebuttal.

The committee is calling individuals to testify who have nothing to do with the written allegations. If a more balanced investigation had occurred, this could have been avoided. This leads me to question how or why the committee even believed these witnesses would be helpful. It is logical to conclude that they, like the AG’s office, are operating from a foundation of rumors and gossip – costing all Osages a sizeable amount of money and damage to our reputation.

The committee has decided that only certain legal counsel may be present at the inquiry, and has specifically excluded an attorney who works for the Office of the Chief without any reason. If this matter were being handled like a court case, I could not have my due process rights infringed upon without good reason.

As a continuation of last week’s communication, I would like to address the allegations before the committee one at a time. Additional communications will follow in the weeks to come.

Another ethics complaint the attorney general claims is that I commanded the Gaming Enterprise Board, against its will, to pay for one extra day of conference travel by one board member. The AG alleges that I improperly influenced the Gaming Enterprise Board in an e-mail sent on May 29. This is not the case. A gaming board member asked the Board Chairperson to approve one day of conference travel on May 24. A little later, he asked the Chairperson to approve a second day at the conference because he had learned of a gaming-related topic to be discussed on the second day. On May 28, the Chairperson authorized the Board member’s two-day travel request. This approval came one full day before my alleged command to the Gaming Board on May 29.

How is it possible for me to command something after it already happened? The Board approved its own expenditure the day before it received an e-mail from me supporting the idea. Clearly, the AG’s Gaming Board claim is as frivolous as his claim that I interfered in his investigation.

In addition to being impossible time-wise, it was impossible for me to command the Gaming Board. The Gaming Enterprise Board is an independent board which has its own budget and contracting authority. It has much the same independence as the Office of the Attorney General. Once Board members are appointed I can’t tell them what to do. Like any other elected official, I can make recommendations to try to persuade them to pursue matters in a way I think is appropriate. However, I can’t command them to do anything. The Board independently determines what they want to do and how to do it – ideally by keeping the best interests of the Gaming Enterprise and the Nation in mind.

The Treasurer of the Osage Nation advised me there has been no budget shortfall for the Gaming Board. The Board budgets for, and routinely funds, the travel of its members to attend gaming-related meetings, which I support.

Like the “interference with an AG’s investigation claim”, this claim was not fully or fairly investigated by the AG. Furthermore, the Board would have had to declare that they had been harmed before it would have been appropriate for the AG to defend them. Without this, the AG had no basis for taking up this issue on the Board’s behalf. This complaint, like the others I am facing, has no basis in law or fact, but on rumor and gossip.

The Osage Nation Constitution, in Article X, Section Three states: “Officials and employees shall refrain from abusive conduct, personal charges, or verbal affronts upon the character, motives, or intents of other officials or Osage citizens.” In the absence of a proper investigation, can it be said that the AG adhered to this Constitutional mandate or fulfilled his proper role? I hardly think so. It appears that the AG, rather than acting independently as Congress intended under the AG’s Act, has launched a baseless character attack on me.

Our new government, formed in 2006, has Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches, which are separate and have different functions. Congress sets the framework for government by passing laws. The Executive Branch carries out those laws through the daily operations of government with the Principal Chief as head of the Executive Branch. The Judicial Branch decides disputes among citizens, disputes between citizens and the government, and sometimes, disputes between the Legislative and Executive Branch. The Judicial Branch interprets the meaning of the Constitution and its laws.

This new government stands in contrast to the old one.

The previous form of government, in place from 1906 to 2006, had a council, which was involved in every decision of the government. This was similar to the chairman and business committee model of tribal government (“Business Committee”) adopted by tribes when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed in 1934.

Since 2006, the Osage Nation’s government has been in the process of growth and development — getting comfortable with the new framework. Disputes between Congress and the Principal Chief have developed about the proper roles of each.

Unlike the Business Committee model, Congress is no longer involved in the day-to-day decisions of government operations. That duty falls to the Executive Branch as stipulated by the Osage Nation Constitution and through laws Congress has passed. Certain members of the Osage Nation Congress, such as Mr. Supernaw, struggle with leaving behind the old model, which leads him to abuse his legislative powers in ways that tread upon the constitutional role of the Executive Branch.

This one-sided, unfair inquiry is an example of how he has over-reached and failed to understand the proper role of a congressman in this new form of government.