2024 Osage election results
Osage voters cast their ballots at the Pawhuska Casino and Hotel on Monday, June 3, 2024. (Tristan Loveless)

PAWHUSKA — A thunderous morning and extremely humid afternoon gave way to a cool June evening as candidates and a few dozen of their supporters waited outside the Osage Mineral Council building for announcement of the 2024 Osage election results. Cans of bug spray to ward off mosquitos were passed around as chatter turned to prior elections’ wait times extending well beyond midnight.

When the crowd started gathering around 8 p.m., some had already been attending events for more than 12 hours. Polls opened at 8 a.m., and the congressional candidates’ Election Day campsites — a little delayed by morning thunderstorms — quickly set up for festivities and last-minute campaigning.

Just before midnight, about 11:50 p.m. Monday, Osage Nation election supervisor Alexis Rencountre announced results, pausing to check the time as she began.

“Good — evening — it’s not morning yet. You’re welcome,” Rencountre joked. “Without further ado, the constitutional amendment passed.”

She then announced the top six candidates who won seats in the Osage Congress: Pam Shaw, Maria Whitehorn, John Maker, Billy Keene, Jodie Revard and Joe Tillman.

Campsites turn Election Day into community event

The sun sets on Osage Nation candidate campsites Monday, June 3, 2024. (Tristan Loveless)

Early morning thunderstorms did not slow down Osage Nation Election Day activities. Candidates and voters gathered across Pawhuska, the capital of the Osage Nation and the county seat of Osage County. Fifteen of the 16 candidates set up campsites across town, with all but two camping on the Osage Nation campus.

Campsites play an integral role in Osage elections, serving as a place for voters to meet candidates before they cast their ballots and as a community event with free food and drinks for everyone. While running a campsite is not required to participate in the election, the only candidate not to set up a campsite, Patrick Cullen-Carroll, placed last in the election.

While voting took place for the first time on the eastern edge of town at the Pawhuska Casino and Hotel — which sold out of rooms for the night — campsites were more centrally located. William Kemble and Shaw both established their campsites in town, with Kemble reserving the Pawhuska Community Center and setting up a bouncy castle for children. Shaw reserved the Saucy Calf, an Osage restaurant, for her campsite and its catering.

The other 13 candidates to set up campsites used the Osage Nation campus on top of a big hill in the western half of town, colloquially called “The Hill” by locals.

While inclement weather thinned the crowd on The Hill, a few hundred Osage voters and their families attended the event throughout the day once rain cleared about noon. Barbecue, meat pies, nonalcoholic drinks and conversation filled the afternoon and evening.

When polls closed at 8 p.m., candidates and their supporters broke down campsites before walking to the Mineral Council building to await election results. Most people seemed to expect results between 9 and 10 p.m.

But as the clock ticked closer to midnight with no news, more people started telling the story of “that one year” when supporters waited until nearly 4 a.m. for 2014 election results. Waiting for those results is an Osage tradition, some said, with candidates sitting in lawn chairs alongside supporters until the announcement.

At least one candidate waited despite having to work in the morning. Keene, an attorney, said he was representing a client in a Cherokee Nation court hearing in Tahlequah on Tuesday morning. But he still chose to wait for the results, which showed him finishing third and winning another term on the Osage Congress.

Maria Whitehorn, five incumbents win Congress election

Results for the 2024 Osage Nation Congress election were announced just before midnight on Monday, June 3, 2024. (Tristan Loveless)

Sixteen candidates appeared on the ballot competing for six seats in the Osage Nation Congress. When the votes were counted, all five incumbents — Tillman, Revard, Keene, Maker and Shaw — won another four-year term.

Maria Whitehorn will return to the Osage Nation Congress for a third term after placing fifth in tribal voting Monday, June 3, 2024. (Osage News)

Whitehorn, who previously served as a congresswoman from 2012 to 2020 but who lost her seat by 22 votes in 2020, will return to the Osage Congress after placing fifth.

Tillman led with 1,202 votes (11.2 percent), while Revard came in a close second with 1,150 votes (10.7 percent). Tillman led among absentee voters and early voters, while Revard won Election Day voters by four ballots.

Keene will also return to the Osage Congress after garnering 1,061 votes (9.9 percent). Maker won his fourth term with 976 votes (9.1 percent), while Whitehorn won her third term with 953 votes (8.9 percent). Shaw won the final seat with 915 votes (8.5 percent).

Angela Pratt, a former Osage congresswoman, came in seventh with 822 votes (7.7 percent), 94 votes short of winning a seat.

Other results included:

  • William Kemble, a former Osage treasurer, received 788 votes (7.4 percent);
  • Christa Fulkerson received 656 votes (6.1 percent);
  • Traci Phillips received 575 votes (5.4 percent);
  • Jacque Jones received 498 votes (4.7 percent);
  • Liberty Metcalf received 342 votes (3.2 percent);
  • Alexis Martin received 242 votes (2.3 percent);
  • Brooklin Sweezy received 237 votes (2.2 percent);
  • Tina Allen received 172 votes (1.6 percent); and
  • Patrick Cullen-Carroll received 130 votes (1.2 percent).

Osage Nation voters approve constitutional amendment

Alexis Rencountre, left, announced the election results alongside other election workers just before midnight on Monday, June 3, 2024. (Tristan Loveless)

Discussion at candidate campsites centered on the Osage Congress election with much less attention paid to the constitutional amendment also on the ballot. However, lack of discussion did not translate to lack of enthusiasm, with the amendment easily passing with 76.9 percent support (1,450 votes) and 23.1 percent (435 votes) opposition.

The constitutional amendment gives the Osage Congress the power to reject executive appointees — made by the Osage principal chief — during a special session of congress. Previously, nominees could only be rejected during scheduled regular sessions. The amendment gives the Osage Congress an additional check to balance the appointment power of the principal chief, who is currently Geoffrey Standing Bear.

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Chief, Congress and Mineral Council elections coincide for 2026

Osage voters wait for election results in front of the Osage Nation Mineral Council building on Monday, June 3, 2024. (Tristan Loveless)

While 2024 is a presidential election year for the United States, in the Osage Nation it is a midterm election. The next election was also on some voters’ minds Monday. In 2026, the Osage Nation will hold its next principal chief, assistant chief and Mineral Council elections, as well as elections for the other half of the Osage Nation Congress.

With two executive offices, eight mineral council seats and six congressional seats on the ballot, the 2026 Osage Nation election will see more than twice as many offices at stake.

While all Osage citizens vote for the nation’s congress and chiefs, the Osage Nation Mineral Council is elected by shareholders, or the owners of Osage headrights. Osage headrights are property rights created by the U.S. Congress, which entitles owners to a quarterly payment of a portion of the Osage Nation’s mineral estate (which includes the rights to all minerals in Osage County).

The Osage Mineral Council is a uniquely independent agency within the Osage Nation’s government. The council is in charge of managing the nation’s mineral estate and is created by the tribe’s constitution. The Mineral Council also has the right to create its own election code. Votes are tabulated by share instead of using the “one person, one vote” principle.