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HomeCommunityOsage Nation celebrates purchase of Bluestem Ranch

Osage Nation celebrates purchase of Bluestem Ranch

NORTHWEST OF HOMINY, Okla. – A white covered, air-conditioned tent with a stage, chandelier lighting and hundreds of chairs stood on the rolling hills of the Bluestem Ranch to serve as the venue where the Osage Nation celebrated the 43,000-acre ranch purchase on a breezy and toasty summer day.

On Aug. 24, tribal and federal government officials along with the Osage public and fellow community members filled the tent to commemorate the Nation’s historic land acquisition of the ranch. Now the Nation will be one of the largest landowners in Osage County once again, thanks to winning the bid on the ranch previously owned by media mogul Ted Turner.

The Nation is scheduled to take possession of the ranch on Nov. 1, per the agreement. The Nation also secured the water rights to the property as part of the agreement. Turner, chairman of Turner Enterprises Inc. and one of the largest individual landowners in North America, owned the ranch for 15 years.

As many as 300 people were in attendance to hear from government officials and a Turner Enterprises representative speak about the land purchase that started with a simple word-of-mouth tip in December 2015.

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said he learned of the ranch sale opportunity during a meeting with Tim Tall Chief, the event’s emcee, and Osage rancher Mark Freeman IV who told Standing Bear: “Chief, Ted Turner is talking about selling the Bluestem Ranch and the Osage Nation needs to buy it.”

Timing became crucial once Standing Bear obtained a copy of the ranch bid package because the Nation had 30 days to make an offer with cash. Discussions involving parties including the Gaming Enterprise Board, the ON Congress, Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn and Bank of Oklahoma officials quickly started to obtain the money needed to secure the purchase.

The ranch purchase discussions included the gaming board in order to get their approval for the plan, which included paying for the ranch with gaming revenue.

“Between Christmas and New Year’s, (gaming board Chairman) Mark Simms told me the only way Osage Casinos would support the plan is if the plan included the expansion of the Osage Casino in Tulsa to increase the number of gaming machines, card tables and phase I of a hotel,” Standing Bear said. “On Jan. 11, the (gaming board) approved the plan. We then took this plan to our Osage Congress who set the limits for the low amount authorized for the opening bid and the maximum amount for the purchase. After weeks of bids and counterbids – an intrigue fit for a small movie – the Osage Nation emerged as the successful bidder.”

The sale and purchase agreement of the ranch was executed on Feb. 28. On June 8, the closing transaction date, the ranch purchase price revealed was $74 million.

“The owners of this land are now 20,190 Osage people,” Standing Bear said. “This is the same land our ancestors walked over 100 years ago. We are working with the federal government to expedite a process, which will return this land to federal Indian reservation status. This means this land will be held in federal trust for us, the Osage living today and for the generations to come … We cannot ever again be separated from this land and our heritage.”

The Osages arrived in present-day Osage County from their former lands in Missouri and Kansas in 1871 with the Oklahoma lands comprising nearly 1.5 million acres. The U.S. Congress later divided those lands into individual parcels with the passage of the 1906 Osage Allotment Act.

Osage Minerals Council Chairman Everett Waller (Hominy District) spoke passionately about the land from a historical perspective, noting: “We’ve been here 300 years, I’m a direct descendent of Claremore and Black Dog, I want them to know today is a purchase of a property that all of our warriors died for, all of your grandparents were killed here, your children were killed down here, and we still called it home. Never forget what they did to get us here. When we got here in the 1870s, it was our last move.”

ON Congressman and Second Speaker Otto Hamilton thanked everyone who had a role in the ranch purchase and said the Nation “used its sovereign right to increase our natural resource land base.” He also referred to the ongoing protests in North Dakota against the Dakota Access Pipeline being constructed north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and the nearby Missouri River. Protestors argue the oil pipeline is a cultural and environmental threat, especially for drinking water should a pipe leak occur.

Hamilton noted the Standing Rock Sioux are also using their sovereign rights “to protect their natural resources, speaking for myself, I would like to tell them my thoughts and prayers are with them and I’d like to tell them ‘wash-kon’ – do your best for your people.”

Osage Casinos CEO Byron Bighorse said the seven-casino enterprise recently finished its best year financially “and this purchase shows what great possibilities we have for the future of the Osage Nation … My family, both the Bighorses and the Lesserts, grew up in this area, and I’m proud to be a part of bringing the land back to the Osage Nation.”

Turner was unable to attend the celebration for health reasons and stayed behind at his ranch in Bozeman, Mont. Attending on his behalf was Taylor Glover, president and CEO of Turner Enterprises, Inc.

“Our primary reason for selling? Bluestem is far away from where our ranching operations are and our bison ranching operations have gotten to be a significant part of our overall enterprises and most of them are located in Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota, so I guess you can say we’re consolidating,” Glover said. “Ted was committed to finding an owner who would appreciate and manage the land the way he had,” and Turner was pleased to hear of the Nation’s intentions to also preserve the land, he added.

Also attending was Vince Logan (Osage), who is the Special Trustee for American Indians in the U.S. Department of Interior. Logan (also Hominy District) expressed greetings on behalf of Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel. Logan said he was humbled to attend due to the importance of the milestone for Osages, especially those unable to attend or who have passed.

Justin Wilson (Choctaw Nation), a political appointee also in the OST like Logan, sent greetings on behalf of President Barack Obama and read a letter sent from the White House wishing the Nation the best. He then presented the letter to Standing Bear.

Going forward, Standing Bear said: “the use of this land will be determined by generation after generation of Osage. Those of us today have a duty to make sure the land is not destroyed. That is why among all the dozens of proposals we have received for use of this land, some proposals cannot be allowed to occur. A good example of such a proposal, which has been brought to us, is to bring in 7,000 wild mustang horses. This use might bring in more money than other uses, but the effect on the land would be significant.”

“I hope one year from now we see this land as a refuge for our sacred bison, a classroom for our people, especially our young, a place where Osage companies and individuals will conduct profitable cattle operations and a place for well-regulated hunting and fishing recreation,” Standing Bear said. “We must be careful not to stray too far away from the value of something good. Our traditions, our language, our land, all mean something put together – that alone has a value which is priceless.” 


By

Benny Polacca


Original Publish Date: 2016-08-26 00:00:00

Author

  • Benny Polacca

    Title: Senior Reporter

    Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

    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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Benny Polacca
Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org

Title: Senior Reporter

Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

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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