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Bluestem Ranch, LLC board seeks management lease for 43,000-acre ranch

The Bluestem Ranch, LLC board of directors asked Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear for a lease agreement to manage the 43,000-acre ranch. The Nation will officially take over ranch operations from Ted Turner Enterprises on Nov. 1.

In a two-page letter sent on July 27, the board outlined their proposal. Appointed in April, the board consists of Faren Anderson, Francis Murphy, Teresa Meade, Jim Perrier and Jackie Badley.

The board requested the following:

  • A $1 management lease of 43,000 acres from the Osage Nation, known as the Bluestem Ranch. A long term agreement so the board can pursue opportunities that could exceed a 3 or 5-year lease, such as bank loans, wild horse contracts, etc. 

  • A waiver from the Nation regarding the bond requirement, if possible, since the Nation is leasing the property to an entity wholly owned by the Nation. 

  • The rights to the hunting on the 43,000 acres, with the ability to pursue different methods of management of such rights, as a source of income. For example: Lease to outfitters, third parties, etc. 

  • The Bluestem Ranch LLC will pursue owning a cattle herd and a bison herd. 

  • The board is asking for the Nation’s assistance in acquiring approval for third party leases.
  • The board is asking for the Nation’s assistance in acquiring prior approval for a lease with the government, in the case of pursuing a government contract solicitation for grazing of wild horses. 


The board added the timeframe to prepare and organize the ranch’s assets before Nov. 1. They said without the lease agreement they would not be able to move forward with any plans they have for the ranch, including hiring personnel.

Standing Bear sent the board an Executive Memorandum on Aug. 16 that included the Tallgrass Economic Development, LLC board, the Osage Nation Gaming Enterprise board and the ON Attorney General.

He said after consulting with his general counsel Terry Mason Moore and policy advisors, they believe the board should “reassess their position with regard to use of property of the Osage Nation.”

“As one advisor clearly stated to me, the Osage Nation has a duty to its members to maximize the use of the ranch, and $1 per year revenue from a remote entity does not contribute to the prosperity and security of the Osage Nation,” Standing Bear said in the memorandum. “This advisor points out the sole owner of Bluestem Ranch, LLC is Tallgrass Economic Development, LLC.”

The Bluestem Ranch, LLC is a subsidiary of Tallgrass.

He added that police protection, governmental oversight from damage or misuse, enforcement of environmental laws, and other associated costs would take more than $1.

He said the appraisals for lease values are still ongoing and he would share those appraisals with the board when they are complete. And, since the Nation is going through the complicated fee-to-trust application process, leases will have to wait until that process is complete. He said he would update the board on the status of the application at their request.

The Congress approved a resolution (ONCR 16-32) to put the ranch into federal trust on July 19 during its second special session.

“I will not waive any bond by any entity or person who seeks to lease the land, nor will I waive any other requirement required by Osage law or federal regulation. The bond will be posted for the amount of a lease for the term of a lease,” he said. “The term of a lease for grazing purposes at the Osage Nation has been three to five years. Hunting and fishing rights have enormous value over and above any grazing lease. Furthermore, no overgrazing by any livestock will be permitted.”

Intertribal Buffalo Council

The board met on July 21, and extensively discussed the Intertribal Buffalo Council (ITBC).

They sent in their application to become members with the ITBC in July. The ITBC meets in September and will review applications and determine who will receive bison, Anderson said.

She and Perrier visited the Cherokee Nation and Quapaw Nation’s bison operations. She said both operations run as government programs within their tribes, unlike the Bluestem Ranch, LLC, which is set up as a business entity. Running as government programs, they have employees who check on the bison every day.

She said the Cherokee got their start with the ITBC and is in their second year of their bison operation. They currently manage about 100-110 bison and have 10-foot high fencing. They currently do not process meat for tribal members. They received a $70,000 grant from the ITBC to set up their operation during their first year, she said.

Perrier said the Quapaw have 8-foot high fencing that cost about $100,000. They have roughly 100-120 bison. In total they’ve spent around $300,000 on their operation, which is evidenced by the raised catwalks they’ve built so workers don’t have to interact too much with the buffalo. They also have a meat-processing operation which they built with money from an Indian Community Block Grant.

Anderson said the Quapaws have had their bison operation longer than the Cherokee and the meat goes to their Title VI program, day cares, restaurants and casino steakhouse. She said they save around $6,000 in costs to their Title VI by using their own bison meat.

Both the Cherokee and Quapaw said if the Osage receive buffalo in September from the ITBC they could house them with either the Cherokee or Quapaw until the Osage is ready for a buffalo operation of their own.

“I can’t stress enough how both tribes said ITBC was the way to go. They help you, provide information, services, provide some training if you need it, they couldn’t go on any more about it,” Anderson said. “They thought we were right on track and that it was a good idea to use ITBC.”

Anderson said the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe also have bison operations. The Cheyenne and Arapaho have about 300 bison.


Shannon Shaw Duty

Original Publish Date: 2016-08-16 00:00:00


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Shannon Shaw Duty
Shannon Shaw Duty

Title: Editor


Twitter: @dutyshaw

Topic Expertise: Columnist, Culture, Community

Languages spoken: English, Osage (intermediate), Spanish (beginner)

Shannon Shaw Duty, Osage from the Grayhorse District, is the editor of the award-winning Osage News, the official independent media of the Osage Nation. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a master’s degree in Legal Studies with an emphasis in Indigenous Peoples Law. She currently sits on the Freedom of Information Committee for the Society of Professional Journalists. She has served as a board member for LION Publishers, as Vice President for the Pawhuska Public Schools Board of Education, on the Board of Directors for the Native American Journalists Association (now Indigenous Journalists Association) and served as a board member and Chairwoman for the Pawhuska Johnson O’Malley Parent Committee. She is a Chips Quinn Scholar, a former instructor for the Freedom Forum’s Native American Journalism Career Conference and the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute. She is a former reporter for The Santa Fe New Mexican. She is a 2012 recipient of the Native American 40 Under 40 from the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. In 2014 she helped lead the Osage News to receive NAJA's Elias Boudinot Free Press Award. The Osage News won Best Newspaper from the SPJ-Oklahoma Chapter in their division 2018-2022. Her award-winning work has been published in Indian Country Today, The Washington Post, the Center for Public Integrity, NPR, the Associated Press, Tulsa World and others. She currently resides in Pawhuska, Okla., with her husband and together they share six children, two dogs and two cats.

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