The 9,000-acre Freeman Ranch given to the Osage Nation is now in the hands of the Osage Foundation through a charitable trust established by former Osage Congressman Mark Freeman Jr. and his wife Eleanor.
“By the terms of the agreement, we are very limited in what we can do with it,” said Bill Webb, executive director of the foundation, in an email. “We can never sell it. We have to honor the existing two leases that are on the ranch which are 30-year leases. In short, it will remain exactly what it is today, a working cattle ranch. There are no plans for it to be anything different.
“According to the terms of the agreement, we have to put into reserve a significant amount of the lease income to handle maintenance and upkeep of the property. What is left over will be used to fund Foundation programs.”
Currently, the foundation holds educational summer camps for Osage youth, as well as various sports camps. They have charity events throughout the year and fund matching arts grants and have a cultural donations element as well.
According to a press release from the foundation, the transfer of the land was effective May 1.
Webb said he was contacted by the Freeman’s attorney in March of the possibility. He shared the news one-on-one with individual board members and in an April 16 meeting the board formally accepted the donation.
“Part of the terms for the donation placed on the Foundation by the Freemans and their counsel was that there was to be no public disclosure or discussion of the gift until both parties had agreed to terms of the donation,” Webb said by email. “We had a number of attorneys involved dealing with a number of intricacies of the transaction and all agreed that there should be no disclosure until the agreement was finalized because, prior to that at any point in time, there was no guarantee it would go through.”
He said to discuss it publicly prior to the board taking formal action would have been premature. The board considered discussing the matter in executive session on the April 16 board call but decided the matter should be discussed in open session, he said.
“The board ultimately, that day, voted to accept the donation and that was the final step in the approval process,” he said.
The foundation board consists of Alex Skibine, Monte Boulanger, Julie O’Keefe, and Russ Tall Chief. Jodie Revard recently resigned to begin employment in the Social Services Department with the Osage Nation.
The 9,000-acre working cattle ranch sits about 25 miles north of Pawhuska and runs north to the Kansas state line. Currently named MF Ranch, the property includes a small house on the south end of the land, a barn on the north and two barns on the south. Three corrals are located on the north, south and middle areas of the land.
The Osage Nation Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization, was established in 2005 by the Osage Nation for the charitable purpose of lessening the burdens of the Tribal Government by providing charitable services to the Nation and its members, according to the release.
“This transaction will honor the wishes of the Freemans that the ranch be preserved as it exists today for future generations while the revenue from the existing agricultural leases provides an income stream for the Osage Foundation which will allow us to help fund our ongoing mission,” Webb said in a prepared release. “Donation of the ranch will preserve one of the most beautiful pieces of countryside in Oklahoma and in the heart of Osage country. The current use of the ranch will continue unchanged.”