The new Osage Nation government began in earnest Wednesday, July 5th
with the opening of the special session of the Osage Nation Congress. The special session was called by Chief Jim Gray and Assistant Chief Johnny Red Eagle.
The purpose of the special session is to create the framework for the new Congress, and to establish the systems necessary for the Legislative Branch of the government which was overwhelmingly approved by the Osage people in a special election this spring.
The establishment of the new form of government has kept the 12 members of the new Osage Congress busy even before the first special session of this Congress went into session. All Congressional members went through an intense training program through the National Conference of State Legislatures prior to the opening of the Congress where they began to see the enormity of the task of creating a new branch of a new government. Since the beginning of the Special session, this Congress has moved forward with a workmanlike approach to the tasks before them.
The first order of business was to establish leadership within the Congress, and from the beginning, the freshman class of the first Osage Congress was faced by challenges. Archie Mason was chosen as the first Speaker of the Osage Nation Congress, but not before the new constitution would be taken for the first test of its young life. In a vote between the two candidates for speaker, Archie Mason, and Eddy Red Eagle, the vote came back a 6-6 tie. According to the Constitution, the tie breaking vote then falls to the Assistant Chief. Assistant Chief Johnny Red Eagle studied the constitution, and because one candidate was his brother Eddy, and he is also related to the second candidate Archie Mason, chose to recuse himself from the vote. “There have been problems with nepotism before in Osage governments, and this government needs to be beyond that reproach”, said Assistant Chief Red Eagle as he threw the ball back to the Congress. A second vote was taken, and it was also a tie. After every member of Congress had studied their constitution, they moved for another vote, and once again, the vote came back a 6-6 tie. After that, good old fashioned horse sense came into play, when both candidates agreed to abide by chance. The names were put into Osage Congressman Mark Simms’ cowboy hat, and Principal Chief Jim Gray drew out a name. Archie Mason became the winner, and the first Speaker of the Osage Congress. “It was a beautiful example of how the constitution directs us and the common sense of the Osage people. It set the tone of working together to find solutions for the people,” said Osage Congressman Eddie Red Eagle.
With leadership established, the Congress then moved to adopt rules of operation for the Congress, and the establishment of a committee structure, where 15 committees were formed to give the Congress oversight ability over the myriad of services and programs provided by the Osage Nation for the members of the Tribe, and all those who reside on the Osage Reservation.
The initial special session ran through Wednesday, July 20th, and work continues with committee meetings scheduled in the mornings, and full Congressional sessions scheduled every day of the Special session. The Osage Congress welcomes the presence of all Osage members and concerned citizens at its sessions and committee meetings. “We need to make sure that this government is driven by the will of the people of the Osage Nation,” said Osage Congresswoman Debbie Littleton. All agendas are posted, and all legislation, bills, and oth