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Osage Casino land-into-trust applications delayed after government shutdown

TULSA, Okla. – During the longest partial federal government shutdown that lasted 35 days, efforts to place three Osage Nation-owned parcels of land into trust were delayed.

The Nation filed land-into-trust applications for land parcels near Pawhuska and Bartlesville for future gaming expansion and the Tulsa Airpark property built on the third parcel was slated to go into trust status Jan. 24, but that is delayed, said Kimberly Pearson, executive director for Osage Casino.

Pearson said once the government reopened, it could be one month after operations resume when the land-into-trust applications are finalized. The land-into-trust application process takes place with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and involves several procedures to transfer tribally-owned land to the federal government in trust for the benefit of the applicant.

The 35-day partial government shutdown ended Jan. 25 when President Donald Trump announced a bipartisan deal to end the shutdown, according to National Public Radio. With the newer development in reopening those closed government departments and offices – including the BIA – it’s unknown when the land-into-trust process will be finalized for the Nation-owned land parcels.

Pearson mentioned the land-into-trust application delays during the Jan. 23 Gaming Enterprise Board meeting. “Once the government reopens, we should see the parcels continue to be processed,” Pearson said.

In the meantime, Osage Casino CEO Byron Bighorse said management is deciding on which property to plan on improving and relocating first – Bartlesville or Pawhuska – for the best use of casino services. Both land parcels are located away from those two current casino properties with Bartlesville located closer to U.S. 60 and the Pawhuska parcel is by the intersection of State Highway 99 and U.S. 60/ East Main Street.

According to the BIA website, the land-into-trust process includes preparing a preliminary title opinion, an environmental compliance review and clearing any preliminary title opinion rejections before notice of the decision and recording the land title.



Benny Polacca

Original Publish Date: 2019-02-06 00:00:00

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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