Bush signs landmark bill for Osage Nation

Friday, December 3rd 2004, 2:06 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Osage Nation will be allowed to decide whether to open its doors to potentially thousands of people of Osage ancestry under a bill signed into law Friday by President Bush.

This ends the Osage Nation's distinction as the only American Indian tribe barred by federal law from choosing its own citizens.

In dividing up land under the Osage Allotment Act, Congress in 1906 recognized tribal control of the oil-rich mineral estate on its northern Oklahoma reservation and granted the 2,229 original allottees a share of the royalties, known as headrights.

Only about 4,300 Osages who have inherited a headright share can participate in tribal government. Nearly 16,000 people of Osage ancestry have no tribal voting rights.

The legislation sponsored by Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., affirmed the tribe's rights to select its citizenry and government but leaves members' mineral rights untouched.

An effort in the early 1900s to change the law through Congress failed, as did more recent efforts in the courts, which ruled only Congress had the power to do so.