Osage Nation focus on economic development

By D. Ray Tuttle
Tulsa, Oklahoma (AP)December 2010

Osage Nation officials are moving forward on economic development, said newly elected Chief John Red Eagle.

The tribe broke ground in November on the Pawhuska Business Development Center. The $1.8 million, 20,000-square-foot facility, which will be a business incubator, will house classrooms for the Bartlesville-based Tri County Technology Center. Also, there will be space for startup businesses and manufacturing entities, Red Eagle said.

Any organization must have the internal structure established before there can be growth, Red Eagle said.

“The business incubator will be an investment to make a better community,” Red Eagle said.

The building is expected to open in 2011 and could spur business relationships for the nation, Red Eagle said.

Fulfilling one of his pledges, Red Eagle said the Osage Nation will host a “Day of Unity” at the Osage County Fairgrounds in Pawhuska. Red Eagle said the purpose is to restore unity between the Osage Nation and its neighbors.

“It takes a spirit of unity to accomplish things,” Red Eagle said.

Officials from the state, county and local governments are expected to attend, in addition to several tribal leaders from across the area.

“This is an opportunity for all of us to come together and secure a brighter future,” Red Eagle said. “This is one of my administration’s top priorities.”

Red Eagle said the nation is looking at a number of economic development options in alternative energy as well as oil and natural gas.

In legal matters, Red Eagle’s administration in October filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court to rule whether Oklahoma has the right to tax Osage tribal members who work and live on the Osage reservation.

The Osage Nation contends it has a federally recognized reservation, which makes its tribal members living and working on the reservation, under federal law, exempt from paying state income taxes. The Oklahoma Tax Commission said that the reservation ceased to exist more than 100 years ago. The case centered on whether tribal members who live and work in Osage County were exempt from state income taxes.

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the tribe’s request for a rehearing in May.

Red Eagle and former Oklahoma state Rep. Scott BigHorse were sworn in as principal chief and assistant principal chief respectively on Aug. 4.

The Osage tribal government employs about 400 people with an annual payroll of $15.4 million.