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Red Eagle responds to report by Osage Congress committee

(Following is a statement by Osage Nation Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle that was made in response to a report released last week by a Osage Congress Select Committee of Inquiry which investigated 15 allegations made against him. Findings of the committee will be considered by the ON Congress on Nov. 14 and a motion calling for Red Eagle’s removal from office was recommended by the committee.)

“The Osage Nation adopted a new Constitution in 2006. This change of government presented a new opportunity to protect our culture, our language, our traditions, our values, our lands, and most importantly of all, the Osage people.

Our Osage Tribal Council government, similar in form to the Business Committee government of many other tribes, placed legislative and executive duties in one body, the Osage Tribal Council. The 2006 Osage Constitution divided the powers of government among the legislative, executive and judicial branches. It mirrors the United States government and many states.

This new form of government meant that the Council no longer sat at the elbow of the Principal Chief with the ability to directly impact the Chief’s policies and decisions.

The 2006 Osage Constitution creates three branches of government and separates the powers that each may exercise. Power is separated and Congress sets a framework of government through laws passed. To influence the Chief, the Congress must make persuasive arguments on larger issues. Congress has little control of the day-to-day operations of government because the Osage Constitution forbids Congress that role.

Principal Chief Jim Gray was in constant conflict with the Osage Congress including numerous lawsuits. Congress wanted to control both the legislative and executive branch as they did under the Tribal Council form of government. I find myself embroiled in a similar conflict. This conflict has come about because I am performing my duties as head of the Executive Branch of government to do my best to protect our culture, our language, our traditions, our values, our lands, and most importantly of all, the Osage people. Congress disagrees with my judgment and wants to run the Executive Branch and Congress.

They have convened a Committee of Inquiry which has recommended I face an impeachment trial. Such a trial would also make them a court, so they want to be the Legislative branch, the Executive branch and the Judicial branch. Their basic accusation is that I have exceeded and abused my authority.

Kugee Supernaw has brought disruptive tactics to the Osage government. He made up 15 accusations against me. The Committee of Inquiry tossed out 9 charges and has proposed to accept 6 of those accusations.

Accusation Number 1 and 2 are that I interfered with and stopped an investigation of the Attorney General and sought preferential treatment for my great niece. The Committee of Inquiry report left out the testimony of Investigating Officer Brian Herbert that the investigation has not ended. The Committee of Inquiry investigation did not make clear that Attorney General Jones referred inquiries from my office to Officer Herbert. Consequently my phone call, the alleged “interference,” was invited by the Attorney General. The Committee of Inquiry also failed to call as witnesses the three people in my office during the call with Officer Herbert. Those witnesses would have made clear that Officer Herbert was shouting so loudly that the witnesses could hear his statements over a cell phone receiver. Those witnesses will make clear that Officer Herbert’s version of events did not occur.

Accusation Number 6 is that I failed to turn all Mineral Estate Accounts over to the Osage Mineral Council. I questioned the Constitutionality of the Osage Nation Law, ONCA 11-78 in my veto message and insisted the mineral estates funds remain in the Osage Nation Treasury. The Osage Minerals Council filed suit against me as Chief and the suit remains ongoing litigation undecided in the Osage Nation Courts. This is the way a three branch government operates under the rule of law. A controversy is submitted to the courts and the Osage Courts, not the Congress, interpret the validity and meaning of the law. This is a civil matter and deals with the fundamental operations of the Executive Branch and the role of the Osage Minerals Council in the handling and accounting of money. When the Osage Court makes a decision, it may issue an order telling one or both parties what action to take. Congress, apparently not satisfied with the workings of our Judiciary, is trying to usurp Court’s role as well as the Chief’s role.

Ask yourself: Is it proper for a Committee of Congress to threaten removal of the Chief over a good faith disagreement about the legality of a law? Didn’t the Osage people establish a Judicial Branch to handle such matters?

Accusation Number 8 alleges I improperly influenced the Election Board by forbidding disciplinary actions against an Election Board employee. I did not forbid the Election Board to discipline an employee and testified to that effect. The complete transcripts of testimony before the Committee of Inquiry have not been published in its report. The proper course would have been to publish the full testimony. I warned the Committee that publishing only a few pages has the potential to distort the testimony of witnesses as it has in this instance.

Allegation Number 11 alleges I withheld contracts subject to the Open Records Act. These requests went unnoticed when they were initially received. We responded to the Bigheart Times, owned by Congressman Redcorn’s wife, when we realized in June that the request had been received. We ended up in litigation with the Osage News over the question whether the Osage News was a tribal government agency or an independent business. The Osage court on August 14, 2013, decided the Osage News was a business contrary to my belief that it was a tribal agency. My office provided the requested contract to the Osage News and we settled the lawsuit.

Allegation Number 12 is one of the ethics allegations by the Select Committee which claims I misused Osage Nation resources to pay for publication of official Osage-related articles. I am accused of hiring a vendor “to maintain and update a website entitled “johnredeagle.com” which was Principal Chief’s campaign website” and which was supposedly, after my election, being used as my “personal website.” It is true that “johnredeagle.com” was a website address used during my campaign. However, since my election, that website has not been used as my personal site, rather it has only published official communications of the Chief’s Office.

Paying someone to assist me in publishing official communications on that website is no more a misuse of Osage funds than the Nation reimbursing me for using my own car on official Osage business. It never occurred to me at the time we switched the content of the website from “campaign mode” to “official mode,” that someone for political gain would accuse me of acting improperly as the Chief of the Osage Nation to put official content on that site for the public.

My desire was to have a space for me, as the Principal Chief, to communicate relevant official Osage governmental information directly to tribal members and the public. This would allow tribal members to hear straight from the Chief and not just from other news outlets who may have editorial license and independence. I also had concern that the same information posted on the official Osage Nation website would be difficult to find or be deleted too soon.

I can appreciate there may be differing views on the preferred way for the Chief to have official communications with constituents and the public. But, let me pose this: Are we now going to resolve such disagreements by bringing ethics charges against each other or convening a congressional removal inquiry process? Wouldn’t it be better for us to communicate our concerns with each other in a manner that does not disparage each other’s character and motives as our Constitution and Osage culture direct?”

John Red Eagle,

Principal Chief of the Osage Nation,

Pawhuska, Okla.

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