Osage Nation

Our community struck oil; then the murders began

Year

Jim Roan Gray is a former chief of the Osage Nation, a Native American community. In the 1920s, the Osage were the richest people in the world per capita after discovering oil on their lands. But then began the ‘reign of terror’ and the Osage were targeted in a series of mysterious murders. One of those killed was Jim’s great grandfather, Henry Roan Gray. The case led to the creation of the FBI, and decades later, the story caught the attention of Hollywood with plans to turn it into a film, Killers of the Flower Moon. But Jim had concerns. His intervention would change the film’s trajectory.

Photo: Jim Gray and his great grandfather Henry Roan. Credit: Courtesy of Jim Gray / Getty Images)

People
Native Nations
Citation

Mobeen Azhar (Presenter), Gaia Caramazza and Maryam Maruf (Producers). Our community struck oil; then the murders began. "Outlook" on BBC News World Service. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct4r3f

Transcripts for all videos are available by request. Please email us: nni@arizona.edu.

Jim Gray: Making Change Happen

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Former Principal Chief James Gray of the Osage Nation makes a guest speaker appearance to the January In Tucson class “Making Change Happen”.  In Chief Gray’s own words, he shares his direct experiences with indigenous governance for the Osage people and gives a larger context to the historic challenges and endurance the Osage Nation has shown in their encounters with U.S. intervention.  The years he spent has Principal Chief offer an inside look into the ways a Tribal Leader works with the tools of self-governance while taking note of the ways conflict was navigated.  Jim Gray gives insight to both his time running an Executive branch, the endeavors of Constitutional reform, and current ways he continues to advocate for the people of Osage Nation.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Native Nations Institute. "Jim Gray: Making Change Happen" Native Nations Institute, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. January 26, 2021

Transcript available upon request. Please email: nni@email.arizona.edu

Osage Nation: Distribution of Authority Excerpt

Year

ARTICLE XV. NATURAL RESOURCES AND MINERALS MANAGEMENT
Section 1. General authority
The legislature of the Osage Nation shall provide for the utilization, development and conservation of all natural resources within the territory of the Nation for the maximum benefit of the Osage People.
Section 2. Osage Mineral Estate
The oil, gas, coal, and/or other minerals within the boundaries of the Osage Reservation are hereby reserved to the Osage Nation pursuant to the Act of June 28, 1906, (34 Stat. 539), as amended, and is hereby designated the Osage Mineral Estate.
Section 3. Osage mineral royalties
The right to income from mineral royalties shall be respected and protected by the Osage Nation through the Osage Minerals Council formerly known as the Osage Tribal Council and composed of eight (8) members elected by the mineral royalty interest holders.
Section 4. Management of the Osage Mineral Estate
The mineral estate of the Osage Reservation is reserved to the Osage Nation. The government of the Osage Nation shall have the perpetual obligation to ensure the preservation of the Osage Mineral Estate. The government shall further ensure that the rights of members of the Osage Nation to income
derived from that mineral estate are protected. To discharge those obligations, the Osage Nation hereby creates a minerals management agency, designated the Osage Minerals Council, consisting of members of the Osage Nation who are entitled to receive mineral royalty income from the Osage Mineral Estate, as provided by federal law. Only Osage mineral royalty interest holders shall be entitled to vote in electing the Osage Minerals Council.

The Osage Minerals Council is recognized by the Osage Nation government as an independent agency within the Osage Nation established for the sole purpose of continuing its previous duties to administer and develop the Osage Mineral Estate in accordance with the Osage Allotment Act of June 28, 1906, as amended, with no legislative authority for the Osage Nation government. As an independent agency within the Osage Nation, the Osage Minerals Council may promulgate its own rules and regulations as long as such rules and regulations are not inconsistent with the laws neither of the Osage Nation nor with the rules and regulations established by the United States Congress in the 1906 Allotment Act.

The Osage Minerals Council shall have the power to consider and approve leases and to propose other forms of development of the Osage Mineral Estate. Mineral leases approved and executed by the Council shall be deemed approved by the Osage Nation unless, within five (5) working days, written objection is received from the Office of the Principal Chief that the executed lease or other development activity violates Osage law or regulation. Any dispute that arises through this process may be heard before the Supreme Court of the Osage Nation Judiciary.

All leases or other forms of agreement for development of the Osage Mineral Estate shall comply with applicable federal law and all laws and regulations of the Osage Nation. The Osage Minerals Council shall exercise the administrative authority delegated under this Constitution, the laws of the Osage Nation, and as permitted by federal law.
Section 5. Preservation of hunting and fishing
Hunting and fishing and the taking of game and fish are a valued part of our heritage that shall be forever preserved for the Osage People and shall be managed by Osage law and regulation for the public good.
 

Osage Nation: Citizenship Excerpt

Year

ARTICLE III - Membership:
Section 1. Base membership roll: The base membership of the Osage Nation shall consist of those persons whose names appear on the final roll of the Osage Tribe of Indians pursuant to the Act of June 28, 1906 (34 Stat. 539).
Section 2. Qualifications for membership: All lineal descendants of those Osages listed on the 1906 Roll are eligible for membership in the Osage Nation, and those enrolled members shall constitute
the citizenry subject to the provisions of this Constitution and to the laws enacted and regulations approved pursuant to this Constitution.
Section 3. Dual enrollment: An enrolled member of the Osage Nation can choose to be dually enrolled as a member of another Indian tribe without forfeiting Osage membership.
Section 4. Membership laws: The Osage Nation Congress shall have the power and is required to regulate membership and maintain a correct roll of all Osages enrolled as members of
the Osage Nation. The Osage Nation Congress shall enact laws, not inconsistent with this Constitution, prescribing rules and regulations governing membership, including application and appeal procedures, loss of membership, and the adoption of members.

Osage Nation: Preamble Excerpt

Year

Preamble:

We the W/\ ZA ZOK (Wah-zha-zhe), known as the Osage People, having formed as Clans in the far distant past, have been a People and as a People have walked this earth and enjoyed the blessings of Wah-kon-tah for more centuries than we truly know.

Having resolved to live in harmony, we now come together so that we may once more unite as a Nation and as a People, calling upon the fundamental values that we hold sacred: Justice, Fairness, Compassion, Respect for and Protection of Child, Elder, All Fellow Beings, and Self.

Paying homage to generations of Osage leaders of the past and present, we give thanks for their wisdom and courage. Acknowledging our ancient tribal order as the foundation of our present government, first reformed in the 1881 Constitution of the Osage Nation, we continue our legacy by again reorganizing our government.

This Constitution, created by the Osage people, hereby grants to every Osage citizen a vote that is equal to all others and forms a government that is accountable to the citizens of the Osage Nation.

We, the Osage People, based on centuries of being a People, now strengthen our government in order to preserve and perpetuate a full and abundant Osage way of life that benefits all Osages, living and as yet unborn.

Osage Nation Governmental Reform Initiative

Year

At the turn of the 20th century, the US government abolished the 1881 Osage Nation Constitution and imposed rules for land ownership and citizenship. Many Osage citizens were disenfranchised and the Tribal Council was granted only limited powers, which lead to years of weak government, corruption, and turmoil. Over 100 years later, the Osage Government Reform Initiative began the task of designing a new government that would better represent and serve all Osages. As a result of the Initiative, the Osage Nation adopted a new constitution in June 2006. Written by the Osage people, it has brought back into the tribal community the thousands of citizens who had once been excluded.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Topics
Citation

"Osage Nation Governmental Reform Initiative." Honoring Nations: 2008 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2009. Report.

Permissions

This Honoring Nations report is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Jim Gray and Patricia Riggs: Citizen Engagement: The Key to Establishing and Sustaining Good Governance (Q&A)

Producer
National Congress of American Indians
Year

Presenters Jim Gray and Patricia Riggs field questions from audience members about the approaches their nations took and are taking to engage their citizens and seed community-based, lasting change. In addition, session moderator Ian Record offers a quick overview of some effective citizen strategies that the Native Nations Institute has encountered in its work with Native nations across the country, and leaves audience members with some questions to consider as they assess how their nations are engaging their citizens. 

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the National Congress of American Indians.

Resource Type
Citation

Gray, Jim. "Citizen Engagement: The Key to Establishing and Sustaining Good Governance (Q&A)." 70th Annual Convention & Marketplace, National Congress of American Indians. Tulsa, Oklahoma. October 15, 2013. Presentation.

Riggs, Patricia. "Citizen Engagement: The Key to Establishing and Sustaining Good Governance (Q&A)." 70th Annual Convention & Marketplace, National Congress of American Indians. Tulsa, Oklahoma. October 15, 2013. Presentation.

Ian Record:

“You know, one of the things that really sticks out for me having worked with the Pueblo over the last several years is this use of focus groups and I was honored to be part of one such focus group that they convened about three and a half years ago. It was real interesting. They brought in a mix of folks: tribal leaders, leaders of the Pueblo, employees of the Pueblo, and just your average Joe citizens. And I remember when we were doing this focus group, one of the citizens became very emotional because she said, ‘This is the first time my Pueblo has actually asked me what I think. They actually care about my opinion and my view on where we are and where we want to head.’ And basically what she was saying is, ‘I have a voice and I matter.’ And I think that’s really the theme that I hear out of both of these wonderful, ongoing success stories is about restoring the voice to the people and figuring out not just about hearing that voice but, 'How do we actually actualize that in the governance of the nation? How do we put that into practice?' And that’s really what she’s staying up here. It’s not just garnering the tribal information, the voice of the people, but actually using it. How do we actually use that, how do we actually put that into play, how do we actually make that real, not just today, but into the future?”

Mark Macarro:

“My question is for Jim. Glad to see you used a movie quote, by the way. My question’s about the…I guess in the process of trying to reach a consensus or actually maybe it wasn’t the consensus point, it was the point where you tried to get moving past the status quo. Was there a rationalization by the head rights people that we shouldn’t do this because this is our custom and tradition, this is what we do, this is all we know and it’s who we are? But this is really a question about planting the flag of custom and tradition and using that as a reason for resisting the change. Did you encounter that in particular?”

James R. Gray:

“Oh, yeah. We really did and I would say the biggest part of it was tied to…what I wanted to make sure came across very clear was that the form of government that in 1906 the federal government imposed on us was not one of our choosing. We had a constitutional government before that and we had a three-branch government. We had our court system, we had law enforcement, we had all the elements of jurisdiction in place, and because of other reasons, the United States government abolished that unilaterally, illegally, as a part of their effort to try to bring all the tribes under allotment for statehood and breaking up the tribal land holdings was very difficult for the Osages because the full-blood faction would not ever gonna go along with allotment and it’s a historical fact that there was a lot of Osages enrolled out of nowhere, just suddenly started showing up as Osages. Another election was held, the next thing you know we went from having 1,000 Osages to 2,229 Osages. The new council that got in tried to fight it. In 1911, I think, the unilateral authority of the Indian agent at the time obliterated the members and installed interim council people because they weren’t going along with what was expected of them by the Indian agent.

I think the Osages by that time, when the oil was discovered and the money started coming in and the Osages started getting murdered in large numbers, most of them were people with numerous head rights that in today’s dollar were valued at a million dollars a year, much like the per capita distribution for Pechanga citizens. No, I’m just kidding. What I was saying was that there was what they called the 'reign of terror.' It was one of the first cases the FBI actually investigated was the complete and utter wipeout of Osages to get their money. It’s a historical fact. My mom was an orphan in 1925. My dad was an orphan in 1928 and my dad and mom’s stories aren’t unique in the Osage storyline. And you hit the period of time when they weren’t even allowing Osage women to participate in Osage elections. So not only were you…had to be Osage to have a head right, but you also had to be an Osage man to be able to participate in elections. Osage women could get a head right, but they couldn’t vote. All those changes occurred after World War II, so there was a steady drumbeat of slow but sure progress, but at the same time knowing that if Osages pushed too hard, there was going to be consequences: wipeout of your tribal council, the complete indifference of the BIA while your own citizens’ homes were being blown up and murdered on the street. My great grandfather, Henry Run Horse, was taken out in the countryside and shot in the head. These are common stories. Every one of these stories as tragic as they were resulted in Osage losing another head right.

In 1978, the tribal council was able to get to the U.S. Congress to amend the 1906 Act to make sure that no more Osages would be able to, no more non-Osages would be able to inherit any part of an Osage mineral estate again. So we had to go 70 plus years into that period of time at which we probably lost maybe a fourth to a third of those head rights during that period of time to what are now defunct oil companies, non-Indian spouses who’ve moved on and married on and still collect a head right check. Jean Harlow, the famous actress, some Osage fell in love with her in Kansas City and he died unfortunately, willed his head right to her. Unfortunately for her, she died shortly after that, didn’t have any heirs. IIM maintained Jean Harlows’ estate for years. These kind of stories are just…the Catholic Church owns several dozen head rights. Non-Indian wealthy landowners in Osage County own many head rights. Businesses like Phillips Petroleum Company own head rights. If Osages were a little reluctant for any radical change even as late as 2004 and ‘05, I have to give them some credit, because living memory of many of these people seeing all these changes occur and it was just a matter of getting to a moment of crisis, and that crisis was that last original allottee mark. Nobody knew the answer to that question when the last allottee died and in 2004 when [President George W.] Bush signed the bill into law, we only had one left. So if there was anyway to kind of get past that point to go forward and really move it, it was that critical issue, in my opinion. There may have been other people with different opinions but that was one of my [observations].”

Ian Record:

“Next question. I think we had the lady in front. Minnie, did you want to…”

Lenora Hall:

“Hello. My name’s Lenora Hall, I’m from the Smith River Rancheria in Northern California where the redwoods are. I’m just wondering, you went from -- this question is for Patricia [Riggs] -- you went from 68 acres to 78,000 acres. Did you have any, how much of that 78,000 acres is in trust now? What have you done? Are you buying land and seeking trust status with it? Because I seen a lot of them had economic enterprises on them, which are real lucrative and stuff and so I’m wondering what the status of your land is.”

Patricia Riggs:

“Well, we went from 68 acres that was conveyed into trust to 75,000 acres. 70,000 of those acres are a ranch and it’s not in trust. We’re working for it to be put into trust, but from those 68 original acres in trust we have something like 3,700 acres in trust. So we’ve got quite a bit of land into trust. One of the places that we put back into trust is an area called Waco Tanks and it’s a mountain. It’s a mountain that is sacred to us and unfortunately we couldn’t get all that mountain, it’s a state park, but we were able to get the back side of the mountain and put that back into trust and all our residential areas are in trust as well. The ranch is a working ranch, but there is also some significance as far as traditional places and where we go to gather different plants and things and hunting as well.”

Ian Record:

“Other questions? Sherry, go ahead.”

Sherry Salway Black:

“So Pat, and this is for both, but Pat you talked specifically about measuring impact and evaluation, like how do you know you’ve been successful? So I would ask that in the sense of how much are people participating now? So you’ve done the education, you’ve done the focus groups. So for your citizens, do you have high percentage of citizens voting in elections? So just again, how are you measuring your citizen participation on an ongoing basis?”

Patricia Riggs:

“Well, one of the things that we don’t measure officially, but participation in cultural events and ceremonies, I would have to say it’s more than doubled. We used to maybe have 50 dancers, now the line is so long and getting really hard, because we actually jog kind of through the streets and it used to be a short little jog, but now it’s so long you can barely jog. But the other thing is we also measure impact as far as how much more revenues are coming to the tribe, how much more taxes are coming to the tribe, how many more people are enrolled in college and coming to tribal meetings and things like that. So I’ve just pretty much learned to count everything, even when I’m participating in ceremony, I’m counting.”

Jim Gray:

“Shortly after the constitution was passed we had that kind of deer-in-the-headlights look on ourselves after the election was over and we were all sworn in it’s like, ‘Okay, now what do we do? We’ve been fighting this battle for 100 years.’ We got together and I put my cabinet together, it was the first time a chief got to put a cabinet together in 100 years. So a lot of new stuff was occurring and I realized there was a sense of historical importance in all the little things that I was doing in establishing new protocols for the executive branch, little things mattered in terms of how we addressed ourselves and how we separated the political appointees from the career employees and started drawing those distinctions in HR [human resources] policies. But I think the thing that really I recall the most was a desire to go back into the communities again, and this time not for a constitution that would require a referendum vote, but for a general direction to give us a plan, a strategy plan, and Pat used the term master plan, but a plan nonetheless that everyone had some ownership in. And we kind of brought back the old bunch of government reform, we brought in a bunch of new people that had been left out of the process before and we went back out there with what we called the 'Team of Teams' and we asked for a million dollar budget. Congress gave us half of it with the conditions of seeing certain things happen within six months and we all had to be very careful, but very specific at how we did this. And so we generated a strategic plan that would last for 25 years generally combined into six areas; education, health care, economic development, mineral and natural resources, governance and justice, and cultural preservation. And in each one of them they had a set of projects, in each six of those categories. And each one of those six categories were bunched up into three different categories of short term, midterm, long term. So each one of them had about 50 different projects assigned to it, everything from going after your water rights to establishing citizen input, citizen rights like a bill of rights kind of process to establish stronger justice systems. We didn’t have an AG [Attorney General] office at the time so there was a lot of institution building that called for…that came out of that. Updating our entire master campus plan, which was going to be a huge undertaking, because that campus had been a hodgepodge of trailers and metal buildings that we got from CDBG grants 30 years ago that we’re still using them and they leak like a sieve and their constant care of maintenance is just draining the tribe’s properties budget. So it took us years to kind of draw these conclusions about revitalizing our language program, revitalizing all these different categories, compacting our health clinic, taking greater control of the mineral estate. There was just this…but we wouldn’t take on anything big unless we went back out and talked to the communities again. And that’s how this whole thing kind of became part of what I believe is a new expectation that our citizens have of their tribal government. ‘If you’re going to do anything big, you better come out and talk to us.’ That seems to be the attitude now and I think that’s stuck.”

Audience member:

“I was wondering, how do you…you have a significant part of your membership out in the world, you said there’s Osages everywhere. So how do you communicate with them? How do you get them involved? That’s part of your whole thing is involvement.”

Jim Gray:

“Well, there’s one thing that has happened in the last 10 years that I think we all to some degree have become more familiar with and it’s social media.”

Audience member:

“Yeah.”

Jim Gray:

“Obviously we have people’s addresses, they get the newspaper every month. That was the traditional way. The advent of our expansion of our tribal website, [we were] able to put archived audio of council meetings and videos of special events that the tribe would undertake that anybody who wanted to can participate. It was kind of a one-way communication to them.”

Audience member:

“And did you say that your meetings are open?”

Jim Gray:

“Yes.”

Audience member:

“Oh, okay. So anybody in the world, any Osage in the world or non…?”

Jim Gray:

“Anybody.”

Audience member:

“Anybody can tap in and listen to your meetings?”

Jim Gray:

“…which that 'anybody' part has been the subject of a lot of debate too but…”

Audience member:

“Yeah.”

Jim Gray:

“…The thing is that in this day and era where we live it’s impossible to live on an island. You’re just going to have to embrace the fact that everyone’s going to know your business eventually. There’s so many public records, public documents, there’s Freedom of Information Act laws in our tribe, anybody can apply for them. And the tribal newspaper being an independent body can go get things and disclose it in their newspaper, which everybody can get. They’re members of the AP [Associated Press], it could be picked up. There’s just…don’t fight it, just accept it and go on.”

Audience member:

“Do you have council members who live in different parts of the world that can be on the council or do you have to live within the service area of the Osage?”

Jim Gray:

“We have election of councilmen at large, so the top six in staggered terms get elected and then another six in another staggered term get elected. There’s been a lot of discussion about district voting. When I told you we had a referendum vote before the big vote, that was one of the questions and the people by a large margin voted for at-large votes.”

Shawn Bordeaux:

“Good dialogue. I hate to break it up here. Especially for Pat, but Chief Gray, please comment as well. I’m from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and I work at a tribal college, Sente Gleska University, and we have engaged with our 20 communities about 130 miles by about 50 miles. We have five counties that we have roughly a million acres in and when you look at a map it just shows one of the counties and a lot of the development happens in that county and my question is about priorities. We have 135 hours of comments from when we went out as a tribal college and filmed, as you’re doing, all the ideas that people have and now the question is it’s a tug-o-war. When you’re a very big community, do you take care of the neediest first or do you develop where the revenues will lead to other opportunities to go to the bank and to continue to develop? I’m just kind of curious. You did a really good job of taking the flyer failure, I had to say it, but we have that problem, where some people don’t show up and I like your strategy of going to the little groups, but how do we get this tug-o-war…? How do we get past there where we say, ‘Okay, you guys, you’re coming in 30 years. We know you’re farthest away from the tribe, but you’re not going to be developed first.’ So I’m struggling trying to figure out how to help our community to set a priority list.”

Patricia Riggs:

“Well, as far as housing is concerned, that’s a real priority for us, but we’ve determined different ways to bring housing to the community. Of course we have HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development], but then it becomes very limited because we have this group of people that don’t qualify for HUD, but yet they can’t get affordable housing. So one of the things we did is we tried to diversify the way in which we brought housing to the community and we brought investors to do the low-income tax credits units. We also have housing, but then council is also, what they’re doing is some of the HUD housing that’s already paid off, they’re buying that back from tribal members who may be elders and then they’re reselling it to other tribal members. And we also have…we’ve started to…we’ve contacted the BIA and HUD to do the low income, not the low income, but the guaranteed loans. So we’re also looking at different ways to…maybe some of the elders, move them out of housing and bring in an elder center, but also bring in more housing around our ceremonial areas because what…so that’s one of our priorities is to rebuild our ceremonial areas in the places that were once villages around the ceremonial areas, because in order to protect our ceremonial places we need people there. So that’s one of the ways that we prioritize. Eventually what we want to do is rebuild some traditional houses around our ceremonial areas, bring the elders back there. But then we’re also thinking about, as far as priorities, the places that make the most sense for us are the places that are going to fill in those gaps where our original land base, in the core. We’re calling it the 'core' of our community. So we determined that that was going to be a priority for us. And then also to build either through commercial areas -- we know that it’s coming, so we’re just thinking, 'Why not do it ourselves?' And some of what you saw there was some of the boulevards that are closest to our community. So what our plan is is to invest and then be able to reinvest for more land acquisition, even if we have to lease to retail areas and things like that. So our priority for us is to protect those places that are most traditional and the core of our community and then to move outward and to fill those little gaps as well.”

Jim Gray:

“Real quick. One of the things that we were very blessed with at the time of our constitutional reformation was the fact that simultaneously, while that was going on, we were opening casinos at a very fast pace and getting a lot of people to work, creating a lot of jobs. In 2002, there was like 200 full-time employees at the Osage Nation. In 2006, there was about 900. In 2010, there was about 1,800. During that period of time, a lot of Osages came back because there was something to come back to -- there were jobs. Not just casino jobs because the money that was leaving the casinos and going to the tribe, the tribe would invest in expansion of a lot of programs, specifically the education program, scholarships. So the benefits of the tribe that spilled out into the communities, no matter where you were, you were an Osage, in New York City or California or Washington State, you were eligible to apply for a college scholarship program. If you met all the criteria of making the grades and getting yourself accepted into state-recognized schools, different types, private schools too, but couldn’t match the kind of funds that other tribes were giving because there was like 12 -- by the time I left office, I think we had 1,000 kids in college somewhere around the United States. Before we may have had a few hundred kids in college and they were getting like $300 a semester. Well, now we’re giving them like $5,000 a semester and that’s almost enough to cover all your expenses. Almost, depends on where you’re going, but it covers a big chunk of it. So the more we were able to bring the resources back out of the communities, simultaneously as their political rights were becoming more involved, questions of accountability and participation and eligibility became more part of the social media conversations. And I can promise you between that, the language program, which just blossomed in the last 10 years because the tribe was putting a million dollars a year into the program that we just invented on our own and the kids that got to take Osage language in the public school system were speaking it in the hallways and classes. There was one story in Skiatook where I’m from where the quarterback was Osage and he’d taken those classes and he convinced his linemen to take Osage that weren’t Osage. And his cadence in Osage was good for at least one to two offside penalties every game. All of a sudden people started getting the benefit and there was this swagger, this confidence that didn’t exist before that you had the political rights and the financial resources to actually exercise and were going on at the same time. And when that was going on we didn’t have any trouble filling up a room whenever we did something.”

Ian Record:

“Thank you panelists. One final round of applause. We only have a couple minutes left and I wanted to wrap up with just some food for thought as you leave. My colleague Minnie is handing out flash drives courtesy of NNI as a show of gratitude for your attending the session today. It’s got some really good information about some of NNIs current initiatives. I wanted to share with you some strategies we’ve seen have been effective and again you see a lot of these coming through the comprehensive and multi-faceted approaches that Osage and Ysleta del Sur have been pursuing there in citizen engagement.

And really what I want you to think about when I roll through these is really the challenge incumbent upon all of you is how do we re-instill a sense of tribal-specific civics in our community? How do we get our citizens to want to actively engage their governance in a constructive way where they feel like they’re contributing to the present and future of the nation? So things like high school classes, community college classes, community meetings to discuss tribal government, tribal history, tribal law, a series in the tribal newspaper, ongoing series conveying the messages and themes that you want to get across to begin to inspire your people to participate, youth councils. That’s a huge movement across Indian Country, where we’re seeing this emergence of youth councils to try to get the future generation of nation leaders oriented in the right way figuring out how they can contribute. Tribal government handbooks, history courses for tribal government employees -- Cherokee is a leader in this area -- focus groups, as Pat’s nation has used so effectively, and then one on one. I think the challenge facing everybody in this room is to think about how do I begin to move our citizen education and engagement work forward on my one on one interactions with my professional colleagues, with the citizens I run into at the grocery store to either start a new conversation or change the existing one to something that’s more productive that’s pointed towards moving the nation forward, to breaking through some of these barriers and sort of things that keep us in place. How do we keep that moving forward?

And then finally some things to think about. Think about citizen engagement not as an event, but as a process. I think what particularly Jim said and what you see from Pat’s visuals is that you really need to conceive of this as a permanent part of your governance challenge. This is not something you just do when you have a big referendum vote; it’s something you need to do all the time. You need to institutionalize it as a governmental priority and fund it accordingly. You need to pay people to help you do this work. It’s not just about the elective leadership going out and doing the messaging and getting citizens engaged. You need an actual governmental apparatus to carry this work out. Know all of your audiences. You saw that with Pat’s presentation. You have to know who you’re trying to reach. You need to know how they learn. Do you know how your young people learn? Do you know what sort of social media they’re using? Do you have a presence on that social media? Are you speaking to them through that mechanism? If not, you need to think about, 'How do we begin to do that?' And we’re seeing some tribes begin to develop social media policies because they realize, as Jim said, it’s a part of life; it’s a fact of life. You’ve got to figure out how do we take advantage of this. Develop a holistic approach to tribal civics that demands that everyone teach as well as learn. That’s why Indigenous societies were so vibrant traditionally is because everyone had a role in imparting the knowledge of the nation to carry it forward. It wasn’t just the job of government, it wasn’t just the job of formal education systems, it was the job of everybody. Keep up with and capitalize on new technology, just talked about that. And finally, track your citizen engagement activities and their effectiveness. Pat made that point crystal clear. So you’ve got to assess what you’re doing and figure out, 'Is there a way we can do it better?'"

Jim Gray: The Role of Citizen Engagement in Nation Building: The Osage Story

Producer
National Congress of American Indians
Year

Jim Gray, former Principal Chief of the Osage Nation, provides an overview of how the Osage Nation completely overhauled its constitution and system of governance, sharing the strategies that Osage used to educate and engage its citizens in order to ensure that their new government reflected the will of the people.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the National Congress of American IndiansThe short film shown in this video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Osage Nation.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Gray, Jim. "The Role of Citizen Engagement in Nation Building: The Osage Story." 70th Annual Convention & Marketplace, National Congress of American Indians. Tulsa, Oklahoma. October 15, 2013. Presentation.

Ian Record:

"And at this point I wanted to turn the floor over to Jim Gray. I mentioned, for those of you who are just joining us, former principal chief of the Osage Nation, that is here to tell the Osage story in terms of how they’ve approached this challenge of citizen engagement, citizen education. Jim, if you wanted to stand and perhaps just say a few words about the video that you want to lead off your presentation with.”

James R. Gray:

“Good afternoon, everybody. The video that we’re going to see is one that was produced by the Harvard Project’s Honoring Nations group. A few years ago we received one of those honors and in order to help inform everybody about what we actually did to earn it they produced this video and I think it captures some of the things that we’ve already started talking about, Ian, so go ahead and roll.”

[VIDEO]

Narrator:

“One of the boldest acts any tribal government can take is to initiate a wholesale reform process that puts their office and voting base at risk. The 31st Osage Tribal Council did just that when they set in motion the Osage Government Reform Initiative.”

The Problem:

Narrator:

“For almost 100 years, the federal government had dictated that the only recognized Osages were those listed on a 1906 roll. Only those Osages who had inherited a share in the mineral estate from someone on this roll could vote in tribal elections. This alienated 12,000 of the roughly 16,000 Osage descendants from their own political process.”

Corgus Bear:

“My father, he passed away when he was 52 and he never got to vote. My mother votes and she has multiple head rights so she has more than one vote. She has several votes. So unlike me, I’ve been registered to vote since I was 18, but I’ve never been able to vote in my own tribe’s...any election process or be any part of it, and on paper I was not considered Osage.”

Joe Conner:

“If you’re going to have a government where half, three-fourths of your citizens are speechless in terms of the official operation of the government, then you don’t have a government.”

Jaime Butler:

“There are so many smart people out there that aren’t head right...don’t have a head right and are Osage that I think would be...benefit our government.”

Narrator:

“Citizenship however was not the only way in which the federal government had limited the possibilities for the Osage people.”

Charles Red Corn:

“As much as we revere the 1906 Act, it did not give a clue about how you’re supposed to run a government and it resulted in an organism of personalities where whichever personality was the most persuasive or came up with the best game or whatever could control the council.”

Mark Freeman:

“As far as the form of government, this resolution form of government is good for one thing, you can pass a resolution one day and then do away with it the next. That’s not too good a way of running a business."

Jim Gray:

“We needed to get our sovereign rights back. That was the big issue. It became more than just a membership criteria, it became...why should we go ask permission to exercise our sovereign rights? And that’s what we’ve always done in the past and because we...after a good look around, we realized we’re the only tribe in the country that was set up this way."

The Process:

Narrator:

“In December of 2004, the Osage Tribal Council sponsored federal legislation that lifted 98 years of direct colonial control, allowing the Osage people to once again determine their own citizenship and form of government. The federal government was no longer going to hold the Osage people under a resolution style government with its 4,000 shareholders, but what instead would take its place? Because they were already occupied with the general operations of the tribe, the Osage tribal council decided to create the Osage Government Reform Commission to oversee the reform process. The first step in the process was education for the reform commissioners.”

Joseph P. Kalt:

“The first thing that emerged was, well it really wasn’t economic development, it was really social development. How do you build a healthy society?”

Kathy Supernaw:

“You might have a recommendation but you set forth all the possibilities. [Audience member: We represent what the people have told us.] Yeah. You’re taking...you’re going out and doing all these public hearings and you’re getting peoples’ opinions and then you collect all those opinions and you try to get them all in groups.”

Narrator:

“And then education for the Osage people.”

Leonard Maker:

“And in 1906, the United States imposed allotment on the Osage and imposed a government and membership standards on the Osage people.”

Narrator:

“The second step involved the collection of Osage opinions from 42 community meetings, a questionnaire, a phone survey and a referendum vote." [Voice: We’re here to figure out what the Osage people want in a constitution.]

Linda Lazelle:

“This one particular child -- although all of his ancestors was full blood Indian -- couldn’t qualify to go to a clinic or to get any social services because the government is pushing for blood quantum. That could happen to any of our children, any of them.”

Frank Oberly:

“We do need a legislative branch, we need an administrative or executive branch and we need a judicial branch because a lot of the tribes today, whenever they have troubles, it’s because they cannot enforce a law or an ordinance that they passed because the tribal council has precedence so then it just...it ends up being just a political mess.”

Narrator:

“Then the reform commission set out on the challenging task of using these opinions to write a constitution."

[Discussion]

Narrator:

“On March 11th, 2006, a vote was held to ratify the constitution."

[Discussion]

James R. Gray:

“And it’s my honor and my duty and certainly my pleasure to report the results of the referendum question. Shall the constitution be approved? Yes, 1,454. No, 728.”

[Cheering]

The Payoff:

Corgus Bear:

“Today, I’m an Osage finally.”

Joe Conner:

“Now the citizens are important.”

Jackie Butler:

“And no longer will it be a minimal council government but a government of the people.”

Hepsi Barnett:

“Research will bear out that that’s a system that will create the stability needed for a nation to prosper.”

Gregory Clavier:

“And I think you’ll see more participation, you’ll see more people getting involved and people that have a lot to offer. Osage people are all over the world basically and by doing this I think it pulls the whole tribe back together again, so I think this is a very important day.”

[END]

Jim Gray:

“There’s a lot to be said about that video because it captures a lot of what I think Ian [Record] was trying to set this...tee up this part of the presentation for me at least. But let me just start with a couple of things. One was the Government Reform Commission itself. One of the most interesting aspects of this is that when you start looking at the personality dynamics of the 31st Council, clearly I was the youngest person in the room. I was I think in my early 40s at the time and the ages ranged from...I think we had one councilman that was in her mid 30s and we had one councilman that was in his mid 80s and then we had everyone else in between, and all these different personalities and different backgrounds and different perspectives as shareholders, as someone who like our eldest person on there was 85. You saw him, Mark Freeman. He was all the way up into his mid-to-late 70s before he actually inherited a head right because his mom lived until she was in her 90s, so we’re talking about a system of government that created scenarios where the oldest person in the room was actually the youngest tribal member in the room, as bizarre as that sounds. Is there a question?

The head right is like a corporate share and the share was a piece of the Osage mineral estate, it was 1.5 million acres, still is, and it was divided up between all the original allottees that were signed up on the rolls in 1906. Each one of those allottees were given one corporate share or a head right of an interest of the royalties of the oil and gas development that occurred there. Unfortunately, one of the things that they did when they did that was that they closed the rolls. So there wasn’t going to be any more Osages because they were tying property interest in the mineral estate to political rights within the tribe. So we went all the way up until 2002, when I got elected and the council came in, we were faced with a dilemma. There was nine original allottees still alive. Our senior planner at the time, Leonard Maker, had [written] to the solicitor in D.C., asked them a question as a citizen, ‘What happens when the last original allottee passes away?’ And I think his name was...gosh, I can’t think of it now. It’ll come to me at some point during this session here. But he wrote back and said that...Verdon, Terry Verdon, that was his name. He said, ‘When the last original allottee passes away, there won’t be a federal trust responsibility with the Osage Tribe because the Osage Tribe won’t exist any more in the eyes of federal law.’

So we didn’t need any more motivation than that. We decided to go get federal legislation passed, which happened in two years, from 2002 to 2004. So once President [George W.] Bush signed the bill into law, it became law, we called a big celebration, called it Osage Sovereignty and Celebration Day and that was in 2005. In 2005 we set up the commission and as I was getting into the discussion of the dynamics of the personalities involved, the commission was selected by members of the council. We got together and we said, ‘Okay, we’re going to do a secret ballot.’ We want four people picked by each one of us and each one of us would turn in our names of people that we want to sit on that commission and they wanted them to be people with good reputations in the community, good education, good cultural backgrounds, basically model citizens that would reflect the best in all of us, and that’s kind of the way we went into it. And so the people that you saw and some of them were interviewed in that video, were the ones that did the primary work of holding the meetings, getting citizen input and trying to consolidate the broadest consensus they could to make up the constitution, the key elements that they heard from the citizens and what they wanted in it.

As an elected official who was in charge of the day-to-day operations of the tribe, we were certainly of...well, let’s say from a political standpoint as [an] elected official, I think Congressman [Tom] Cole asked me the right question at the time we were holding committee meetings on our legislation. He said, ‘Chief Gray, why would any elected official change the constituency that put him in office?’ He was bewildered by that. He says, ‘I’ve never heard of a politician do that.’ And I told him, I said, ‘The mandate for change was in the election in 2002 when basically everybody who was running ran on that issue and those that ran on that issue got elected and all those that were opposed to it got thrown out.’ And it was the biggest wipeout in 90 years of Osage elections. Didn’t think we needed much more in a mandate than that. But after the meeting was over and they turned the cameras off and the Congressional Record was over, I walked up to him and I said, ‘You really want to know why I did that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I really do.’ And I told him that my...I was watching the news one day, they were showing scenes from the period of time when the Soviet Union collapsed and I realized I had a choice because I was watching two different scenes on the screen. It was a split screen. One of them was Mikhail Gorbachev under house arrest by his own government and the other one was Boris Yeltsin holding the Russian flag sitting on a tank. And I really pretty much had my choice. Do I really want to be under house arrest or do I want to be on top of that tank with the flag. And I said, ‘But at a congressional hearing, that’s the last thing you want to put on the record about how the Russians came into power.’ We got a big laugh out of that, but the reason I bring this up is that when they counted up those secret ballots and each one of them, if there was more than one person picked, they got two votes and we just developed a consensus based without actually having to lobby or nudge or twist arms or anything like that. It was all a very personal decision among each one of us, and as a result we ended up getting the group that we did.

So as we turned them loose onto the Osage public, part of our biggest thing to overcome is, as you saw on there, there was 100 years of paternalism that was imposed on the tribe that basically split us in two. So it was not hard at all to get the shareholders or head right owners within the tribe to show up for meetings. The difficult thing was to get the non-shareholders to show up for meetings because they had any interest of expressing a political voice pretty much beat out of them as a child. And so it has taken us all these years to still, it’s still a trouble that I think still exists out there, that at a time when we really needed to hear them it was very difficult to get them to come out. And we had individual events that was targeted just towards the youth, we had big dinners, invited everyone to come, bring their families. We gave the employees that were working for the tribe special presentations. We tried every way we could think of to get them engaged. Social media didn’t exist really at that time, so we relied mostly on emails, that kind of correspondence, we used our tribal newspaper. We had to get people to update their addresses to us. It was a very, very challenging thing to do but during the process we were able to get a lot of feedback because once the momentum started, the buzz was starting and people were making phone calls, ‘Oh, so I hear they’re coming out to California.’ ‘Oh, I hear they’re coming out to Denver,’ or ‘They’re coming out to Dallas,’ and ‘They’re going to be in your...the commission is going to be in your town soon.’ So, as the word started to get out, you saw a lot more interest in participation and each week they would have regular business meetings and citizens locally would come in and express their concerns for the record. So there was never...I’d say the last six months it just took off, things were just moving really fast. They were getting a lot of good data in and they realized they hit a wall and part of it was that there was conflicts among the commissioners as to what certain fundamental issues they couldn’t achieve a consensus on.

So we backed up, instead of doing one referendum on the constitution, we basically had a mini referendum then the big one on the constitution. The mini one was a series of questions of things that there was not a consensus among the commission on; things like, how strong was the old minerals council going to be in the new form of government? Was it going to be a stand alone, was it going to be just a board within the tribe, was it going to have any other governmental functions beyond just approving oil and gas leases? Because if you read the 1906 Act, that’s all the government gave that minerals council. But as time went on, for lack of any other reason, they just became the de facto government of the tribe with all its imperfections of isolating three-fourths of the tribal members from participation as well. So we knew that that was unsustainable as an option. So as we went through that process of trying to figure that out, we had to put that back to the people and when I say to the people I meant everybody. Everyone got to participate on both of those referendums. I caught some crap for that. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to use that word, but there was just a lot of reasons for people wanting to keep it just with the head right owners. And at that point, I just realized it was -- I don’t know if you call it leadership or impatience or just determination--  that somehow we were going to allow the Osage people, all the Osage people, by lineal descendency participate in forming their own government and as many of you here probably think that, ‘Well, of course, that’s exactly what you would do,’ you would be surprised how outrageous and controversial and divisive that notion became because there were people that said, ‘Only shareholders can do the government reform.’ ‘Only shareholders can participate in the reform itself.’ ‘Only shareholders will have a say in drafting the constitution.’ And as that process seemed to permeate within the most politically organized group of the tribe, while being a minority, never really had any big answers for how and when and in what manner were the non-shareholders ever going to be a part of the tribe.

And those were the two competing issues that really was the theme that ran through the Government Reform Commission’s work. And as somebody who was in part a participate as an Osage citizen and a shareholder myself, but also as an elected official under the old form of government and as somebody who’s an advocate for change as was my colleagues on the council, you could see the obvious dynamics even within that small group. We’re like, ‘Well, maybe we should wait on this, maybe we should wait 10 years and just ease into it.’ Like I said, I snapped. I could be a next episode of that movie, that show 'Snapped,' because I just said, ‘We’ve waited 100 years for this. The United States government says, 'It’s your decision now. It’s not ours, we’re not imposing this on you anymore. It is your responsibility.'‘ So our response to getting this responsibility given to us is to give it right back or to ignore it? I just wasn’t going to accept that and I just...they were wanting to put off the referendum, they wanted to put off the vote, they wanted to keep the government in two pieces, they wanted...there were some that were advocating, ‘Maybe we need two Osage tribes.’ Because all the other options were comfortable because it didn’t require them to deal with the heavy matters of bringing some unity within the tribe, realizing that even though this was an imposed designed structure that was never meant to last more than 20 years. And by federal law we were able to get extension and extension and extension, but it was never designed to last more than a generation.

And so beholden to a structure that was never designed to last very long seemed like a dangerous option and the only way out of the mess was to continue going forward and the citizen outreach began to pay off towards the end. People started to get it, it started to click and they were starting to embrace it and they were starting to see elements of that constitution appear in early drafts that were being sent out to everybody in the mail. And once people started to get the taste for what those words coming to life actually would look like in a new Osage government, it gave you a sense of hope and inspiration and a feeling that, 'This is ours.' We had the hardest time letting go of the idea of being able to blame the Bureau [of Indian Affairs] for all the problems at the Osage Tribe, and we had to come to grips with the fact like my old friend Mark Freeman said, ‘Well, this thing lives or dies, it ain’t gonna be nobody’s fault but our own. We did this to ourselves and by god it’s a long time coming. The days of blaming the BIA for our sorry lot in life are over. We’ve got to grow up and grow out of that.’ And in a way, he couldn’t have said it better. This came from a man who by federal law and Bureau interpretation was never given his head right in restricted status. It was immediately decided that he was going to be a competent and he had to pay taxes on all the royalty that he got and he had to wait 77 years before he even got on. Well, you saw Curtis Bear up there. He got one the second he turned 18. Unfortunately, it was because he inherited his because his parents died and what a morbid way to run a government anyway. Your parents have to die before you inherit any part of the political franchise of the Osage Tribe. Like I said, there wasn’t any other tribe set up this way and at some point along the way like some victim of a hostage crisis, we didn’t...at some point after about four generations we didn’t realize that what we were living with wasn’t right. It became normal.

So when I advocated the fact that, ‘No, everyone gets to vote on a referendum, that everyone gets to participate in the government reform process.’ To try to explain the heresy of those words to a group like yourself who maybe are not even familiar with such a thing, back home it was crazy. And at that point, you just tried to do the best you could and just say, ‘Look, the only way this government’s ever going to reflect the will of the Osage people is that the Osage people participate in voting for it or voting it down. That’s the only way it’s going to last,’ because at that point we were no longer defined by our property possessions, we were defined by what was in here and that our connections were all related to the same rolls and it became something bigger than that. All of a sudden, it became a matter of people issues and not necessarily property.

And so as we got through that referendum process and the commission finished its work and submitted it for the council for final approval to be put before the voters, there was a 'cold feet' for lack of a better term of the councilmen because they had been hearing the voices of the concerned that, ‘We aren’t ready for this, we don’t need to be doing this. We need to wait, we need to wait, we need to wait.’ And because by federal law the United States government says, ‘From this point forward, August 4th, 2004, whatever you...however the Osage Nation is going to govern itself is up to the Osages.' They are recognizing the Osage Nation’s inherent right of self-determination, of what form of government they’re going to have and who are their members going to be as long, as those that were receiving an interest in the mineral estate are not affected by it.’ And that was the compromise that was made at that time because it was a Fifth Amendment issue, there was a property right interest. ‘You inherited that, that’s yours. The Constitution can’t take that away from you.’

And as the Government Reform Commission went about doing its business, according to them, that issue alone -- that was already decided when Congress passed the law, that issue was already decided before we even started the Government Reform Commission -- that nothing this new government can do can take away that head right that belongs to you. But unfortunately in all the meetings, that issue took up probably 80 percent of their time and only 20 percent of the time was spent on all these other matters. At one point, when we videotaped all these meetings, one individual citizen was beating this table and screaming as loud as he could, ‘It’s mine. It’s mine. It’s mine.’ With every ounce of energy he had, he’s beating that table. The passion of the fear that an Osage government will take away your head right was so deep and so pervasive throughout the communities of our nation, it dominated the politics of the government reform process, it dominated the process, it dominated the conversations, it dominated the agenda. And the sad part of it was is that that issue was already decided in D.C. when Bush signed that bill into law. So we had a communications issue that went far beyond the constitution.

And so when I try to explain the chronology of how we got through this process -- and as chief at the time I was looking at the end of my term -- they voted on the constitution in March of 2006. My term ended in July of that year. We had an election in June and there was a big debate as to whether or not we needed to have the election with everybody participating, so we had a communications issue there. ‘Well, of course.’ And they said, ‘Well, when does this constitution go into effect?’ It went into effect when the people voted for it. But what parts? The parts that call for a three-branch government or the part that calls for an election at the end of our terms. There was all these other little questions. Do elected officials, can they continue to serve on the gaming enterprise board? We had a corporate entity that did non-gaming businesses and there was elected officials on that board. Well, the constitution that was just passed by referendum says explicitly, ‘No elected official will serve on enterprise board.’ So what parts are in effect and which parts aren’t? And so the elected officials who were thinking about running for re-election under the new government had enormous things on their plate of having to grapple with while they’re even thinking about whether they wanted to run again. I was one of them. And so I just kept moving forward.

I use this quote because in this case it definitely applies. You know the movie John Candy was in called 'Canadian Bacon'? Ya’ll remember that? He had this great line in that movie. A group of United States citizens decide to invade Canada and that’s the comedy. He gets out, he’s got this stupid little hat on, he’s got his gun and he says, ‘There’s a time for thinkin’ and there’s a time for action and this is no time for thinkin’.’ As only John Candy can deliver a line and I was laughing to myself because I thought, ‘Osages have been thinking about this for 100 years. If there was ever a time you go for it on fourth down, this is it. This is the time you make your move.' And I had to do some subtle diplomacy with my councilmen and I had to create a boogey man of sorts.

The commission was worried. They were legitimately worried that the council was not going to allow that vote to go forward. There were two members of the council that got up and made very passionate statements that the tribe was not ready for this, ‘We want to...let’s go ahead and do another shareholder vote and another minerals council for another four years. Maybe we’ll do it after that, but definitely not now.’ And I was the only one who spoke on that council at the time saying, ‘No, we have to do it.’ And the only reason I had to do it was...the only reason I had that I think resonated was the fact that under the Public Law 091430...I can’t remember exactly what the public law was, but the government’s no longer in charge of telling the Osages how to run their tribe, their government. It’s our job now, and if you don’t like what the Government Reform Commission produced, vote it down, but if you’re going to use your position to stop the vote from even taking place, then I enjoy a certain degree of power under this constitution too, as now the executive branch. ‘I’m going to call a constitutional convention next month and whoever shows up at Wakon Iron Hall is going to decide how the government’s going to go.’ Well, the prospect of a mob deciding how the constitution was going to look like resulted in a quick vote of approval and submit it to the people and let’s get it over with. And that’s...you saw how relieved I looked when I did those results, because I didn’t know whether this was going to work. Nobody knew how this was going to work.

If you’re waiting for a roadmap to tell you exactly how everything is supposed to happen, it ain’t never going to happen in politics. Maybe you take calculated risks, you push it as far as you can, but at the end of the day, it’s all about a process, a process that involves a commitment from the governed and a commitment from the citizens. And those that are participating in carrying out the will of the people have all got to realize that this was a window of opportunity that was very unique in Osage history, that the timing, all the right people were in the right places at the time. Had this thing waited another four years, I don’t know, I don’t know.

My worry was that the day President Bush signed that bill into law in 2004 we were down to one original allottee and I did not want to wait to find out whether or not we could fight this in the federal courts and have our recognition restored, not while we had a chance to do it ourselves. And so I have enormous amount of respect for my colleagues who were just people living in a very unique period of time in tribal history to be able to build a process that would last, and realize that the 1906 Act was never meant to be a government for the Osage people. It was meant to be a way to extricate the Osages from their land and their property and their citizenship within 20 years. That’s what it was designed to do. The allotment acts that occurred at that period of time were designed to only do one thing -- to separate Indians from their land, Indians from their tribes, destabilize everything about them that was Indian. Boarding schools, all these programs came out of that era.

So it’s not so unique of a situation the Osages were in, it’s just that because of the oil and gas industry needed to have one entity they could work with that would approve their oil and gas leases so the drilling can go unabated and only have one entity to deal with probably was our saving grace. We also paid for our reservation with our sale of our lands in Kansas which gave us some property right interest even though there was some debate of whether or not Indians were human at the time I think and eligible for Fifth Amendment protections. A lot of uncertainty in the air. If you wanted to make a change for yourself and realize that this uncertainty is not satisfactory for you or succeeding generations, if you take the chance and realize the time is right and you have the people with you, you don’t need any more ammunition, you just go. You just go as far as you can and for me, I went as far as 2010 and I got thrown out of office.

I will say this though, Steve Cornell was interviewed after I left office and I really appreciated what he said because...at first I wasn’t quite sure how to take it, but after reflecting on that quote I realized that it was a very, very nice thing to say, because you’re not defined by how long you serve in office, at least I hope not. But I think you’re defined by what you get done while you’re in office, because in some ways that lasts and...because it’s not just about holding office, it’s about doing something, doing something important that you’re proud of that you can always look back and fondly remember the days that you were engaged in something important and realize that there’s...I don’t have any reason to regret any of this and I don’t, but when Steve Cornell was asked by a reporter about my experience as chief, because it made news of sorts at the statewide level that I lost and when you lose third place, you don’t have any second thoughts about, ‘Wow, if I could have only done this or done that I could have won.’ No, I think it’s better to get blown out, that way you don’t have any second thoughts. When you think about it, it’s like, ‘Okay, I heard you.’ But Steve Cornell said, ‘The thing that you have to remember is that the strength of the Osage constitutional government, one of the big questions was answered already, was whether or not it would sustain itself or was it only there as long as Chief Gray was there.’ And it was perceived by many people, in my own tribe and even outside, that this was Chief Gray’s constitution and I argued passionately that it was never my constitution. If it was up to me to write it, I would have wrote it very differently. I probably would have done something different with the minerals council, but at the same time I think that there was reason to believe that somewhere along the line the Osage people took ownership over that governing document and demonstrating the first ability to show that ownership of that governing document was to ask me to move on to something else because they put in new leadership and that constitution is still there, it is still being used, the legislative branch...and I want to recognize Speaker Raymond Red Corn back there, he’s speaker of the Osage Congress, and I want to recognize Benny Polacca who enjoys a very comfortable life in Osage Country being a reporter for the Osage News, which is one of only three newspapers in Indian Country that has a free press act and freedom of speech is governed and protected under the Osage Constitution. There are certain things that I’m really still proud of in this constitution and these are two of them right there: a separation of powers and three branches of government, a free press and the ability to exercise jurisdiction. It is one of the most, well, certainly with the work that I’m doing now with the Delawares it’s something that I’ve come to appreciate more and more each day about our own tribe because not every tribe is that fortunate and the fact that we were able to get ahead of the problem before it blew us over is probably one of the luckiest things to happen to our tribe. But with that being said, Ian, thank you very much and I appreciate the time to be here.”

Ian Record: Citizen Engagement: The Key to Establishing and Sustaining Good Governance

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National Congress of American Indians
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For Native nations, establishing and sustaining the good governance necessary to determine and then achieve their strategic priorities hinges on citizen engagement: the ability of a nation and its government to consult and educate its citizens about the major decisions it makes and implements in order to move the nation forward. This panel session explores examples of successful, innovative approaches to citizen engagement, and discusses the transferrable lessons other Native nations can learn from as they work to enhance their ability to effectively engage their citizens.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the National Congress of American Indians.

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Citation

Record, Ian. "Citizen Engagement: The Key to Establishing and Sustaining Good Governance." 70th Annual Convention & Marketplace. National Congress of American Indians. Tulsa, Oklahoma. October 15, 2013. Presentation.

Ian Record:

“As some of you may know, the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the University of Arizona is the partner organization with the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. So for instance, my boss Steven Cornell is also the co-founder of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. We share a lot of staff, we work on a lot of projects together, and we both continue this research that began in the mid to late 1980s that’s come to be called 'nation building.' How many of you are familiar with that term 'nation building' in the context of Native nations and sovereignty? Okay, some of you. So basically just to give you a quick nutshell before I sort of dive into the content of this particular session, what began this research was Drs. Cornell and Joseph Kalt -- who were joined shortly thereafter by a Navajo educator named Dr. Manley Begay -- were looking at data that was coming out of Indian Country -- socioeconomic data, a lot of the data that all of you are probably well familiar with: poverty, social ills, employment, unemployment, things like that. And what they were finding was that if you took the whole picture, Indian Country was pretty poor, but when you look reservation to reservation, there was great variety in terms of economic performance and in some of those indicators that I referred to and they wanted to figure out why. So that began this long line of ongoing research into, what is it that tribes are doing that determines whether or not they are successful, and not just with their economic development priorities, but with any of their priorities, be those culture, political, social, etc.?

And so what I wanted to do today was focus on what we are encountering as we continue our on-the-ground work, working directly with Native nations. And I wanted to acknowledge a couple of my colleagues here in the audience today. We have Herminia Frias who is also with the Native Nations Institute. She’s a former chairwoman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and I’m going to put her on the spot during the second half of our session today because she can speak firsthand to the great challenges that come into play when you think about citizen engagement. And then also Renée Goldtooth, who is the Manager of Leadership & Management Programs. And for those of you who are interested in the...are looking through these brochures that I’ve circulated, Rebuilding Native Nations online course series, Renée is the course guide. So if you really like Renée, if you think she’s got a great personality and you want to see more of her, I encourage you to check out those courses. Sherry [Salway Black] mentioned that in the back of the room we have a videographer and it has been our practice at the Native Nations Institute for the past several years is to always get tape. It’s one thing for all of you, all of you are very fortunate in respect that you can afford to come to this sort of session and learn what you’re going to learn from these esteemed panelists, but not all the folks from your nations have such an opportunity. And so what we’ve been working to do over the past several years is to make the perspectives about nation building, make the knowledge about nation building, the success stories that you heard about this morning more widely accessible to all of those that need to have a voice in the nation-building work of your nation moving forward. And so what we’re doing today is we’re going to be videotaping this session and at some point in the very near future this video will be featured...a video of this session will be featured on this Indigenous Governance Database. So you can go there and you can learn...if you say, ‘Wow, this Jim Gray was really saying some interesting stuff,' or 'I love what Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is doing around citizen engagement,’ you can share that link with your friends, your colleagues, your elected leadership and they can learn what you’ve learned today.

So just to give you a quick idea of what we’re going to do today over the next two hours or so, I’m going to go through a very quick framing piece to kind of get you guys thinking about some of the issues around citizen engagement and then I’m going to turn it over to our two panelists and I’ll do very short introductions of them right now. We’re going to ask that you hold your questions until after they’re done presenting and then we’ll engage in a lively question and answer and discussion. Does that sound good to everyone? Okay.

Well, first I’d like to introduce Jim Gray. Many of you know him or know the name at least. Jim is the former principal chief of the Osage Nation and served in that capacity until about four or five years ago. He was instrumental in the Osage Nation’s government reform process and basically what they did was they overhauled their entire constitution and system of government from the ground up and he’ll talk a lot about that during his presentation, in particular the citizen engagement challenges inherent in that process, and then what they did after that process was over, and how what they learned in terms of citizen engagement through the government reform process has benefited them in the years since.

And then second, I’d like to introduce Patricia Riggs. Patricia Riggs is Director of Economic Development with Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, a nation that also experienced some significant change over the past decade plus and really focused on educating and engaging their citizens as the way to move their nation forward and they’re doing a lot of amazing things. And what you’re going to hear from her is how they’ve taken citizen engagement as sort of the pivot upon which all of the foundational change and the achievement of their priorities is going to be determined moving forward. And so for instance, we’ve been working, the Native Nations Institute has been working with Ysleta del Sur on an ongoing basis and it’s really interesting to see how they continually fine-tune their approaches to citizen engagement and how they really focus on the particular audience they’re trying to reach. So for instance, if it’s youth that they’re trying to reach, they make sure that the messaging that they use and the way, the methods by which they inform those people is determined by the audience, that particular audience. The same thing with elders and so forth, and we’ll touch on that later.

But what I wanted to do right now is take about 10 to 15 minutes and talk about this issue of citizen engagement as we see it from our research lens and as we see it in terms of our on-the-ground work, working with tribes to strengthen their governments, to engage in some of this foundational reform that Jim and Pat are going to talk about and then talk about some of the challenges inherent to the citizen engagement question and then talk about what we’re seeing as some of the strategies that were working. And I’m sure Jim and Pat will pick up on some of this as we move forward.

As I mentioned, what we’re about is -- at the Native Nations Institute and the Harvard Project -- is nation building, or as Chief Oren Lyons always likes to remind us, ‘Nation rebuilding,’ because, as he says, ‘Tribes were once very powerful, vibrant, sophisticated native nations who had developed over centuries and millennia their own very complex and very thoughtful systems of government,’ and the question is, ‘how do we reclaim those and rebuild those?’ And really what it’s about, it’s about foundational change. It’s about foundational change. It’s about changing the status quo that has existed in some communities for entire people’s lifetimes, people’s entire lifetimes, right? If you think about the Indian Reorganization Act, most of those were instituted in the 1930s. There’s not many people in your communities -- if you have an IRA government -- that remember how you governed prior to that, what sort of system you had in place. And so really when you think about this, it’s foundational change that talks about completely recasting how the government serves the nation, how citizens interface with the government and so forth. And so it requires that everyone, leaders, leaders of that nation, employees, people that work for the government -- whether you’re a senior manager, a department head or just an entry-level employee -- and those citizens, where are they in the nation-building process? And my colleagues and I, we’ve seen this time and again: the leadership gets a great idea and they just run with it and they run out the door and they get that train moving down the tracks and they forgot that the people are still at the station. And so it’s critical that all of these folks are onboard that nation-building train before it leaves the station.

If you’re thinking about, 'How do we get this train moving and how do we keep it on course,' what we’ve seen in terms of nations much like these two that are represented here today, what we’ve seen that works is when nations take a thoughtful, multi-faceted -- that’s critical, multi-faceted -- approach to citizen engagement. Really it’s about the ability of a nation and its government to elicit their citizens’ participation, active participation in the decisions both big and small that the nation makes and then educating them about those decisions and why they were made. And so if you think about it as this ongoing cycle of listening, deliberating and educating -- and this is an ongoing process, it continues on, continues on -- and really this is the first and foremost job of leaders, if you think about it. And I think what we’ve witnessed in our work with so many tribes across Indian Country is the mindset and I think thankfully we’re seeing it less and less where the leader’s sort of tunnel vision is, ‘I’m a decision maker. I was elected to make decisions,’ when we’ve had many very wise leaders tell us, ‘My job is as much to be an educator as it is to be a decision maker. I’ve got to make sure our people understand what it is we’re doing and why, and not only that, but that I’m consulting them to get guidance on what decisions to make.’ Because that’s how Indigenous societies worked traditionally. And the question is, 'How do you get back to that if you don’t have it right now?' So there’s that ongoing cycle of listening, deliberating and educating that really needs to take place and I would remind folks that this may look very different from one nation to the next. It’s really up to you to determine what this looks like and what this involves and what sort of processes you need to put in place, what sort of mechanisms do you have to have that work? What sort of individuals need to be delegated certain responsibilities to make sure that this process continues to function, not just today, not just tomorrow, but permanently? I wanted to share a clip from our 'Leadership' online course. This is one of our video assignments that appears in our 'Leadership' course about the role of leaders as educators."

[Video]

Heather Kendall-Miller:

"Leadership goes beyond just having an active role in making things happen. It also requires the ability to inspire others to take action."

Joseph P. Kalt:

"There's one more thing, and it's leadership. When we say that, we don't mean necessarily leadership as decision-maker, we mean leader as educator. Someone carries into any community the ideas, the ways of doing things, the new ways of doing things, the old ways of doing things. And it's leaders that do that. Not just elected and appointed officials, but all the dimensions of leadership. And the challenge that you face -- you all are leaders. You got out of bed this morning, or yesterday you flew here. You're not here because you're crawling under a rock and hiding. You're here [because] you're leaders, and the challenge is to carry these messages of effective nation building into communities. And the more you do that, what we find, the more successful the leadership of a community is in getting on the same page and talking about the fundamental nature of these needs for running things ourselves, founding them on our own institutions that are culturally legitimate. Then suddenly, the community starts to stand behind you and then you get stability and then you build a community and then the kids stay home instead of moving away and you've rebuilt a nation."

Wilma Mankiller:

"But I do believe that an essential part of leadership is -- besides all the things like making sure you're working on legislative issues and legal issues and health and education and jobs and all that sort of thing -- is to try to help people understand their own history and understand where we are within the context of that history and to believe in ourselves; to look at our past and see what we've done as a people and to remind people that if they want to see our future they just simply need to look at our past to believe in ourselves, to believe in our intellectual ability, to believe in our skills, to believe in our ability to think up solutions to our own problems. I think that is critical to our survival."

Gerald Sherman:

"I think nation-building leaders need to first just start talking nation building and getting people to think about it a lot and trying to win other people over to get other people to understand what it's all about because what I've seen is you'll get one leader in and they'll understand some of these things but one leader it's hard to make a system change. I've seen it in like the Bureau of Indian Affairs, they pull in some good people to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs thinking that they can make a change but there's a very strong system that exists there and they just can't change it."

Jaime Pinkham:

"When you look at the issues facing tribal communities, issues about per capita distribution, blood quantum, constitutional reform and others, those are very difficult issues that are communities are facing and quite honestly they could be wedge issues that would eventually fractionate communities and so doing education within the community must come first to talk about nation building, to overcome these challenges. I think when there was a time when tribes looked at the greatest threats were from the Colonials and from the Cavalry, then it was from the states but really my fear is that the greatest threats because of these wedge issues that are really pressing on our communities, the greatest threats may come from the inside. And so if we don't do a good job of developing the sense of nationhood within our communities through education and empowerment that the challenges are going to come from the inside not from the outside."

Rebecca Miles:

"Engagement, getting engaged with your people frequently. A lot of times you see tribal council that the first time that they're chewed out they just, it's just now we're in this hole and we're not coming out. And that happens and it's really at no fault of a tribal leader because you can only get chewed out so many times, but instead you do have to have the courage, you chose to run, face your people, get them involved to the extent of, no, they're not micromanaging you as the government, but you've got to inform them and know what it is you need to inform them about. There's just some things that are not...you're wasting everybody's time. That's just not something you inform people about. There's other things that you want to hear from them about. If you want to change enrollment, you better talk to your people. If you're going to make a big decision like our water settlement, go out and get your input from your people and if they have the wrong perception, then whose job is it to change that or work to change it? It's yours, and a lot of times tribal leaders do not think it's their job to do, to be that public person and it very much is your job. You've got to get out there and talk to people and you have to be able to tell them things that they don't want to hear."

Robert McGhee:

"I do believe that at first you are an educator. You are educating your other general council members, well your other council members, especially if it's an idea that you're proposing, or if it's an issue or a concern that you have, you're educating them. But you're also educating your tribal members. Like I said before, in order to make, have a strong government and to have a government that's going to last and to have focus and change, you're going to need the support of the members. And I think if you have any opportunity that you can educate, I think you should, especially on the issue. However, I think the flip side of that is being the student. And there's a lot of times that it's the general council that can educate you, it can be your elders, it can be the youth, that can educate you as a tribal leader to say, 'This is the issue impacting us.' If it's youth it's usually drugs, alcohol, or social media issues, or bullying. And if it's the elders, it's like, 'How can you provide a sustainable, in our last years, how can you make these [years] a little bit better for us?' But also, let's tell you about why this didn't work in the past. So I think they're both valuable tools. I mean you have to be an educator, you have to be a student, but I think there's always being just willing to listen."

Ned Norris, Jr.:

"'You can accomplish anything in life provided that you do not mind who gets the credit.' As leaders -- and that quote is attributed to Harry Truman -- as leaders I like to think of myself in that way. That what I have to do -- the people have entrusted in me their trust to lead them and to guide them for the term that I have been elected. As a leader, I should not ever take advantage of that trust that the people have placed in me. I should never take the position that, 'That was my idea, not yours.' I should not take the position that, 'It's my way or the highway.' As a leader, that should not -- that's not something that we should be doing as tribal leaders. The [Tohono O'odham Nation] vice chairman and I -- Isidro Lopez -- when we ran for these offices, we ran on a campaign that we say in O'odham, it says [O'odham language], and [O'odham language] translates to 'All of us together.' And what we wanted to be able to do was to bring the people together, to bring our people together, to give our people the opportunity to actively participate in the decision-making process. Too many times, we get tribal leadership that think they are going to impose those decisions on the people. We can't accomplish that, we can't accomplish what we need to accomplish if we are going to dictate to our people. That's not our purpose. Our purpose is to lead, our purpose is to work together, and our purpose is to bring our people to the table so that we can hear what they have to say."