The TziZho, or Fall, Session of the Fourth Osage Congress kicked-off September 8 with an Executive Message delivered by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear. Twenty bills and resolutions were introduced by various Congressional sponsors. Members of Congress will review annual budgets, reports, and appropriate more than $40 million of the Nation’s revenue for various services, programs, and departments of the Osage Nation. The last day of Session is September 29.
Resolutions and Bills
Congress spent most of the first week in committee meetings and did not have session on Friday. While the majority of the bills are budgetary, there are a few items to be considered. Congressman John Maker sponsored the “Osage Graves Protection Act” to improve protections for Osage remains and artifacts which passed on September 15. Congressman James Norris sponsored a resolution for Osage Nation elections conduct, “Osage Nation Election Code.” Another resolution will honor the Osage Language contributions of Mongraine Lookout, Osage elder and Osage Language Director. And Congressman Ron Shaw sponsored legislation to support introducing Osage youth to careers in the health industry.
The Chief talked about the funding increases for direct assistance for Osage Nation citizens during past regular sessions and a Special Session. Standing Bear has focused his administration goals on improving several areas of the Osage Nation but has emphasized health, education, culture and language in past Executive Messages.
He said recent initiatives for Osage language and cultural preservation and revitalization were made possible by congressional appropriations. “[Congress and Executive] have done a good job on that, as far as funding to make sure that something is provided for our people. With your assistance we have created the language immersion program.”
The Chief encouraged members of Congress to be informed about the Indian Health Services clinic in Pawhuska transitioning to a health clinic fully managed by the Osage Nation. “There is zero tolerance for messing up this system,” he said about supporting a successful transition.
Congress passed legislation to start the clinic transition during the Seventh Special Session in July. The clinic is scheduled to open on October 1 and will be fully operated by the Osage Nation.
Standing Bear talked about the importance of upholding protections in the Osage Constitution. He specifically cited articles about Osage language and Culture, Article XVI, Osage Culture and Language, states, “Preservation of Linguistic and Cultural Lifeways: The Osage People have the inherent right to preserve and foster their historic linguistic and cultural lifeways,” and Article XVII, Osage Health Education and Welfare, states, “The Osage Nation shall provide for the protection and advancement of a health care system for the Osage People.”
The Nation’s gaming enterprise provides $40 million at the beginning of each fiscal year for the Nation’s annual budget to support various direct assistance programs, departments and staff. The Chief talked about a proposed budget increase from the casinos for $6.25 million.
The Chief said the increased amount should be directed to pay off the loan for the Osage Campus Master Plan loan and he encouraged Congress to appropriate the additional $6.25 million for this purpose. Two new state of the art facilities, a Welcome Center and Business Administration building, are nearing completion and comprise the first phase of the Osage Campus Master Plan. Currently, several of the Nation’s employees operate in temporary facilities or buildings that need major repairs and upgrades.