University of Colorado at Boulder
BMP of Oil and Gas Development

Osage Nation Laws

The Osage Nation is located in Northern Oklahoma. The tribal headquarters are located in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. In 2010, the Tenth Circuit in Osage Nation v. Irby held that the Osage Nation’s reservation was disestablished by Congress in 1906 with the Osage Allotment Act, and that the mineral estate beneath the private surface estates did not constitute a reservation. Further, the court held in this controversial decision that the Nation had no civil jurisdiction over activities that were on surface estates. After this decision, the Osage Nation still owns all mineral rights located within the 1,475,000 acres of Osage County. The U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs still manages and regulates these minerals on behalf of the Osage Nation. With this decision, however, the Osage Nation is no longer exempt from state taxation on reservation lands.

The Osage Nation’s government is made up of three branches, the executive, legislative and judiciary. Currently there are twelve officers in the legislative branch. The executive branch has a Principal Chief and an Assistant Principal Chief. The Nation also has a Minerals Council which administers and develops the Osage Mineral Estate. The council consists of eight elected members.

Constitution of the Osage Nation

The Constitution of the Osage Nation was first approved in 1881 and 1882, but in 1906, the United States government instituted a new form of tribal government through the Osage Allotment Act. In 2006, the Nation adopted a new constitution.

Art. II – Jurisdiction
§ 2: The jurisdiction of the Osage Nation shall extend over all persons, subject, property, and over all activities that occur within the territory of the Osage Nation and over all Osage citizens, subjects, property and activities outside such territory affecting the rights and laws of the Osage Nation.

Art. XV – Natural Resources and Minerals
§ 1: The legislature of the Osage Nation shall provide for the utilization, development and conservation of all natural resources within the territory of the Nation for the maximum benefit of the Osage People.
§ 2: The oil, gas, coal and/or other minerals within the boundaries of the Osage Reservation are hereby reserved to the Osage Nation pursuant to the Act of June 5, 1906, (34 Stat. 539), as amended, and is hereby designated the Osage Mineral Estate.
§ 3: The Osage Minerals Council, elected by Osage mineral interest holders, administers the mineral estate and may promulgate its own rules and regulations. All leases and other development agreements must comply with applicable federal law and laws and regulations of the Osage nation.
§ 4: The Mineral Estate of the Osage Reservation is reserved to the Osage Nation. The government of the Osage Nation shall have the perpetual obligation to ensure the preservation of the Osage Mineral Estate. The government shall further ensure that the rights of the members of the Osage Nation to income derived from that Mineral Estate are protected. . . .

Additional Information

Financial Management: In 2012, the federal government agreed to pay the Osage Nation $380 million as part of a settlement agreement. The Nation had sued the federal government for past mismanaging of its trust funds and assets. The settlement also includes a plan for better future management of the Mineral Estate by the federal government.

Environmental Management: For an evaluation of the regulatory process of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in managing mineral development in Osage County, OK, see The Effectiveness of Oil and Gas Regulatory Oversight on Oil and Gas Operations: Osage County, Oklahoma.