Community , Government , Business , Legal

Executive Branch releases update on Osage Nation 25-year strategic plan

The Osage Nation Office of the Chiefs is providing an update on the Nation’s 25-year strategic plan with a digital booklet available to view online.

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear announced the update on the strategic plan during the Nov. 4, 2017, United Osages of Southern California fall gathering in Carlsbad.

“Some of you may remember in 2007, (work started) on a 25-year plan and we’ve taken that as a guide in trying to accomplish these (goals) and I thought it would be a really good idea to get a measurement of where we are,” Standing Bear said.

In 2007, the Principal Chief Jim Gray administration undertook a nationwide initiative to identify needs and goals to formulate a 25-year plan for the Nation. The feedback resulted in the report titled Osage Nation 25-year Vision & Strategic Plan Summary Report, which was printed in September that year.

The plan identifies six areas of focus including economic development, cultural preservation, education, health, minerals/ natural resources and governance/ justice. The 2017 update includes newer initiatives and expansion of services in those areas, which Standing Bear briefly discussed at the UOSC event.  

“There were six categories and we chose four in each as a status – one’s economic development,” As an example of “where are we?” Standing Bear referred to the ongoing construction of the Tulsa Osage Casino and Hotel, which is the largest gaming project the Nation has taken on. The Tulsa casino provides half of the Nation’s gaming revenue and the new casino/ hotel property is scheduled to open this summer, he said. 

For economic development, Standing Bear also mentioned the Bluestem Ranch purchased last year from media mogul Ted Turner. “The Bluestem Ranch was purchased – 43,000 acres – since then, the Congress appropriated $4.5 million of our (tribal) money to (the Bluestem Ranch LLC Board) to have them get started and they’ve had great success on the cattle operations they’ve reported lately,” Standing Bear said. He also referred to the ranch addition of bison in October and said “to me and all of us that were there, it was very symbolic about Osage being able to get stronger and coming back … I think we’re on the right path.”

Standing Bear referred the Nation’s participation in the 2016 Cobell Land Buy-Back Program also in his update. The land buy-back program is a stipulation of the Cobell Settlement which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers at a fair market value within a 10-year period, according to a U.S. Department of Interior.

The Osage Nation received over $8 million in federal money and used it to buy back land from Osage landowners willing to sell it to the Nation. Standing Bear said: “We had a priority (in seeking land) over the aquifers, close to the Bluestem Ranch and we purchased 6,400 acres (in 2016) through that settlement program, so now so far, we’ve got about 50,000 acres. So, we’ve reversed for the first time in 100 years the loss of land of the Osage.”

For cultural preservation and education, Standing Bear mentioned the Nation’s Osage Language Immersion School program established in 2016, noting “the best way to preserve our language is through our children’s learning of it and we are seeing that our young children are speaking Osage.” He also noted the other Osage education programs including the Wah-Zha-Zhi Early Learning Academy use the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) curriculum in their teaching plans in addition to Osage culture and language.      

In the 2017 report, the strategic plan update mentions other programs and initiatives and their respective updates including:

- Health: The Osage Nation Health Benefit available to all enrolled Osages with the health benefits program with $500 card available for Osages up to age 65 and $1,000 available to Osages elders age 65 and up. There are also Medicare supplement health insurance benefits available to eligible Osages.

- Minerals and Natural Resources: The Nation is developing an inventory of natural resources. The Nation has 786.30 acres of surface land in trust status with the federal government and 1.4 million acres that are part of the Osage Minerals Estate. The Nation is in the process of placing the Bluestem Ranch land into trust status as well and the Environmental and Natural Resources Department is conducting a full biological inventory of the Bluestem Ranch, as well as other Nation-owned lands.

- Governance and Justice: The Nation has made the protection of tribal sovereignty a high-government policy. For example, the Nation has established entities including the Historic Preservation Office, a Self-Governance Office, assumed control of Bureau of Indian Affairs Real Estate Services and Natural Resource programs and developed ancestral lands for expanded ON access to cultural and historical sites, as well as economic development opportunities.

The 34-page booklet titled Snapshot of the 25-year Strategic Plan can be viewed on the Nation’s website at: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/news-events/news/25-year-strategic-plan-snapshot