IGNACIO, Colo. – Tribal energy can meet changing national needs in effective ways, said James Roan Gray, principal chief of the Osage Nation, Oklahoma. He was elected chairman of the Council of Energy Resource Tribes July 1.
“I am excited about the future of CERT,” Gray said. “We have a great opportunity to bring tribal energy issues before the new Obama administration, and we have a great opportunity to build this organization to meet the new challenges of the changing energy economy.”
Representatives of about 20 tribes also elected Southern Ute Chairman Matthew J. Box as vice chairman, and Marcus Levings, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, N.D., as treasurer. A designee of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, Washington, will serve as secretary.
CERT, headquartered in Denver, was founded in 1975 to support strengthening the sovereignty of tribal governments through the economic development of their energy resources.
David Lester, CERT executive director, said the organization’s structure was also changed at the Ignacio meeting. Instead of the 57 tribal nations formerly constituting the board, the organization decided to create an executive board of nine members “to make us more agile and responsive to the rapid changes going on in energy.”
“It will still keep the terms of having governance by our own members and tribes that maintain the philosophy of the organization.”
In addition to the Southern Ute, Osage, Colville and Three Affiliated Tribes representatives, the other members of the executive board are the Navajo Nation, Ariz., N.M., Utah; Hualapai Nation, Ariz.; Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Calif.; Crow (Apsaalooke) Nation, Mont.; and St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, N.Y.
Gray first became Osage principal chief in 2002. Among his accomplishments was expanding the tribe’s voter base and encouraging greater citizen participation. He worked with the 31st Osage Minerals Council making changes in tribal government.
After Gray was re-elected as principal chief in 2006, the Osage Nation was recognized by the Honoring Nations Program of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development for the tribe’s work in government reformation.
The Osage chief, one of the founding board members of the Indian Country Renewable Energy Consortium, has been appointed to serve on the Department of the Interior’s Tribal Energy Policy Advisory Committee, where he is tribal co-chair. He was also named co-chair of the National Congress of American Indians’ Natural Resources Committee and the BIA’s national tribal budget advisory council, which sets the priorities for the agency’s $2.3 billion budget.
He was appointed to the Office of the Special Trustee Board of Advisors and is co-chair of the Inter-Tribal Monitoring Association, which deliberates on the federal government’s mismanagement of Native American trust funds.
CERT plays a major role in energy development decisions in Indian country, where about one-fourth of U.S. oil and gas and about one-third of coal resources are on tribal lands. Most energy products cross tribal lands through transmission lines or pipelines.
“A new generation of tribal leadership has laid the foundation for us to develop our resources into stable and diversified economic assets according to tribes’ own values and economic priorities,” Lester said. “We want the value of revenues to go to tribal employment and tribal facilities, based on the choices we make, not on mandates imposed from the outside.”
Energy tribes have worked very hard in the last 30 years and have “laid the foundation for a whole new energy paradigm for Indian country.”