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Congress approves resolution to continue trust land application for Osage Nation Ranch

Earlier efforts to complete the ranch land-into-trust application process stalled due to a lack of updated information

Application efforts are continuing to place Osage Nation Ranch lands into federal trust status thanks to a resolution approved by the Eighth ON Congress

During the January special session, the 12-member Congress unanimously passed resolution ONCR 23-06 (sponsored by Congressman Scott BigHorse) authorizing the Executive Branch to continue the process as part of the resolution’s intent “to request the placement of fee lands into Trust by the (U.S.) Secretary of the Interior.”

Earlier efforts to complete the ranch land-into-trust application process stalled due to information needing updates and the process will continue with the revised information. According to the resolution, “The Osage Nation Ranch is currently used for agricultural, bison herd preservation and farming and grazing purposes, and the Osage Nation requests to place the Osage Ranch into trust status with no proposed change in use.”

“As all of you know, we’ve already made that application, but it went under the (formerly named) Bluestem Ranch and we needed to update the (land) titles,” Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear told Congress during the Jan. 10 start of the session. “This is a resubmission of that application for the ranch to the (Bureau of Indian Affairs). We’ve also been talking to Washington, D.C. about that process and everything’s looking good.”

The Congressional Commerce Gaming and Land Committee initially considered ONCR 23-06 and heard from Natasha Yancey who is acting director for the Nation’s Real Estate Services. Yancey said the Nation’s trust application is ready for submission and “we do have to do the Phase II sampling plan and that should be completed in 5-6 months per the (work) contract and then we have to wait for the BIA to review and do their process.”

In response to Congressional members’ questions, Yancey said the sampling work is based on the land’s environmental assessment “to sample soils and make sure there isn’t any contamination that needs to be remedied.” As part of the title cleanup, Yancey said some lands were removed from trust status consideration because “you can’t put undivided interest into trust and that was (a BIA) recommendation to remove that from the application and so they are aware we are submitting an updated application.”

Congressman Billy Keene asked Yancey if she was aware of a timeline and when the ranch land could be placed into trust status. Yancey responded, “I’m hoping a year, but that’s what the BIA wants and they do not want any trust applications over a year, but this is a lot of acreage.”

In January 2016, the Nation announced that it won a bid to purchase the 43,000-acre formerly named Bluestem Ranch from media mogul Ted Turner who raised bison on the land which he owned for 15 years.

Congressman Otto Hamilton asked if the Nation has any other pending land into trust applications. Yancey responded “no,” but there will be requests coming for other Nation-owned lands including those for the Fairfax senior housing complex, as well as the forthcoming Hominy senior housing complex, the ON Civic Center in Pawhuska, and land for a forthcoming ON cemetery. ONCR 23-06 passed on Jan. 17 before the special session adjourned and Standing Bear signed the resolution two days later.

Benny Polacca

Title: Senior Reporter


Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.


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