Director for Osage County Tourism and Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce Steps Down

Pawhuska-Osage Information

Kelly Bland, the Osage County tourism director, resigned from that job March 17 after a sequence of incidents that displeased some Osage tribal members.

Bland wore two hats – and drew two salaries – because the county tourism director and the director of the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce.

In her letter requesting the termination of her $67,808 contract with the county, she wrote: “I wish to thanks for the previous 4 years. I fell in love with Osage County, its individuals, various cultures, and wealthy historical past. It has been my pleasure to advertise northeastern Oklahoma.”

Bland didn’t reply to a message on her cellular phone and calls to the chamber went unanswered Friday.

It’s unclear what the Chamber paid Bland however in keeping with the Chamber’s most up-to-date obtainable tax return at, her predecessor, Joni Nash, was paid $49,000 a yr plus advantages.

The county and chamber salaries had been mixed when the chamber employed Bland final Could, elevating her pay to at the least $116,000 – greater than twice what county commissioners, the county clerk, treasurer and all different elected county officers besides the district legal professional are paid. County officers – besides the DA – prime out at $57,000; their staff are capped at $42,500.

Final yr, the Osage County Tourism Oversight Committee requested the Osage County Commissioners to approve paying her a bonus of three p.c of the expansion in county lodging tax receipts – as much as $12,000 – however the measure failed.

Bland began out 4 years in the past as a part-time contractor making about $35,000 a yr.

Bland, a Texan who expresses nice enthusiasm for cowboy life, first fell afoul of Osages a couple of years in the past when she promoted vacationer visits to the Grayhorse Cemetery – a spot of nice religious significance and the ultimate resting place of many Osages who had been murdered in the course of the Reign of Terror.

Different missteps exacerbated the cultural discord: Wanting Osages to bop of their “costumes” for bus excursions, selling a spur show at Fairfax’s Safety State Financial institution through the use of a photograph of assassin William Hale’s spurs when she had the decide of greater than 100 others, yelling at staff within the Osage Cultural Middle to maneuver their automobiles from the car parking zone adjoining the chamber’s as a result of she was throwing a cowboy cocktail celebration, and referring to Osage County visits as “Osagin’ It” – which can also be the title of her podcast.

Kelly Bland

“She talks about us as if we’re black-and-white background photographs,” stated Addie Roanhorse, an Osage artist, member of the Chamber and great-granddaughter of Henry Roan, an Osage homicide sufferer of the avaricious Hale. “We’re talked about in previous tense. It’s horrifying.

“Most individuals who transfer right here who don’t have ties to Osages wish to study and wish to perceive. She didn’t be tactful, each step of the best way, creating division.”

Each Roanhorse and her uncle, former Osage Nation Chief Jim Grey, famous that not one of the former Pawhuska chamber administrators previously 20 years – Dia Doughty, Mike McCartney and Nash – had strained relations with Osages.

“I can’t consider a time the place it ever blew up like that,” stated Grey. “Everybody understood the worth the Osage Nation dropped at the economic system of this space. We had wholesome conversations and by no means had any downside with chamber administrators.”

Grey stated he hopes that some good would spring from the Bland expertise: One, that the chamber and tourism boards would change into extra consultant of the communities they serve.

“It might be good if we may get extra illustration from the tribe on the chamber and different boards and commissions,” Grey stated. “You need the Chamber to seem like its group. Possibly some modifications within the make-up of those organizations may very well be a approach to keep away from these conditions sooner or later.”

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