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BigHorse becomes Osage Nation Principal Chief

There are an estimated 60 full-blood members among approximately 14,000 persons who claim Osage ancestry.

One of those purebred Osages, John D. Red Eagle, was disqualified last week from representing the locally-based tribe in any official capacity following his removal as Osage Nation Principal Chief.

Red Eagle was found guilty on five of six allegations brought against him by the Osage Nation Congress. The voting to remove him from office concluded a seven-day trial, with each of the actions approved by at least 10 members of the nine-man, three-woman congressional delegation.

Following the removal vote, Osage Nation Assistant Principal Chief Scott BigHorse was sworn in as Principal Chief. He will serve the remaining six months of the four-year term to which Red Eagle had been elected in 2010. General elections for both executive positions of the tribe are scheduled in June.

BigHorse is a highly-respected tribal member and a former multi-term Oklahoma state legislator. He did not file for re-election as Assistant Chief or as a candidate for Principal Chief during the recent filing period.

As the elected executive leader of the Osages, Red Eagle was removed from office for five counts of malfeasance in office, four counts each of arrogation of power and disregard of constitutional duties/oath of office and one count of both abuse of the government process and undermining the integrity of the office.

The tribal Congress voted 11-0 on a separate motion to deny Red Eagle from holding “any office of honor, trust or profit in the Osage Nation.” Congressman Geoffrey StandingBear, who is a third cousin of the ousted Chief, abstained from that vote.

In his closing argument at the trial, Osage Congress Special Prosecutor Mark Lyons said Red Eagle “has no respect for this Congress, the Osage Constitution or the laws of the Osage Nation.” The Tulsa attorney claimed that the chief had openly flaunted his power and violated the law.

“The Osage Nation is a democracy — it is not a dictatorship,” said Lyons.

On Monday, Red Eagle addressed the Congress with a five-minute dissertation concerning possible adverse consequences the removal proceedings might bring with regard to the tribe’s valuable Mineral Estate.

“If you don’t like me, tell me,” the 63-year-old Principal Chief said. “But don’t put this Nation, and our most prized possession, at risk.”

Red Eagle referred to his status as a full-blooded Osage during the appearance, at which he offered final defenses for some of the actions raised by the allegations.

“I am nothing but Osage, this is all I have,” said Red Eagle. “I speak Osage, I dance Osage. Wherever there are Osages, that’s where I’ll be, because I’m Osage — that is what I am.”

Lyons responded afterward by saying that the chief remained “defiant” and “combative.”

“He’s unapologetic about his behavior,” the prosecutor said of Red Eagle. “He would not change anything that he did.”

In his closing argument as defense attorney for Red Eagle, Klint Cowan said the prosecutors had not met their burden of proof by establishing that the allegations against the Principal Chief “rise to the level of an impeachable offense.”

Lyons said the actions of the Chief showed a general pattern that supported the arrogation of power claims.

“We’re not talking about some esoteric standard here,” said the prosecutor. “It’s admitted conduct.”

Red Eagle testified three times during the proceedings. He admitted to knowingly violating Osage Open Records Law request and to illegally intervening on behalf of a relative during an investigation of the tribal Attorney General’s office.

Associate Justice Jeanine Logan of the Osage Nation Supreme Court presided over the removal trial, which was the first in the history of the tribe. More than two dozen persons testified in the chambers of the Osage Nation Congress. It has been estimated that legal fees in the case have exceeded $500,000.

Following the removal vote, Logan administered the swearing-in of Big Horse as Principal Chief.

Members of the Osage Nation Congress are Geoff StandingBear, Daniel Boone, Shannon Edwards, John Free, Archie Mason, John Jech, William “Kugee” Supernaw, Maria Whitehorn, John Maker, Raymond Red Corn, Alice Buffalohead and R.J. Walker..

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