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Osage Nation pays off $67M Ranch loan in less than five years


Benny Polacca

Photo caption: The Osage Nation has paid off its $67 million loan to purchase the 43,000-acre Osage Nation Ranch. The ranch is often used by Osage educators for their curriculums in teaching Osage history, culture and STEAM activities. Osage News 2019 File Photo

On Day One of the Ninth Osage Nation Congressional Special Session, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear announced the Nation’s government is debt-free after its most recent loans were deemed paid-off or forgiven.

The Executive Branch received updates noting the $67 million loan sought to purchase the Osage Nation Ranch is now repaid in full thanks to Osage Casinos revenue and the $5.1 million federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan sought last year by Standing Bear’s administration in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is considered fully forgiven due to meeting all loan terms.

In his July 8 executive message regarding the ranch purchase loan, Standing Bear told the Seventh ON Congress: “Land acquisition has been a priority of my administration and for the Congress. We embarked on an aggressive land repurchase of our former reservation and to convert them into our trust properties and to regain jurisdiction. The largest, of course, is Bluestem Ranch as it was named and now we call it Osage Nation Ranch – That is 43,000 acres.”

Standing Bear read a portion of a Bank of Oklahoma letter on the ranch loan, which was sent to the ON Gaming Enterprise dba Osage Casinos on July 7: “Additionally, we wanted to acknowledge and applaud your efforts in repaying the Bluestem Ranch Loan of $67,000,000 in fewer than 5 years. We recognize the vital importance the 43,000-acre Osage Nation Ranch plays in the Osage people’s culture, traditions, and history, and are proud to have been a partner in reclaiming these lands that were dispersed more than a century ago.”

The special session, which started July 7, was called by executive proclamation issued by Standing Bear. He called for Congress to consider appropriating tribal funding for more land purchases. He added the land purchases would not require a loan.

Standing Bear also said his office received a letter earlier in the week from the federal Small Business Administration on the ON government’s PPP loan “that confirms it is also 100% forgiven because we performed according to the rules and that is now shown as no loan existing on the books of the Osage Nation. In summary, where we are on land and debt is we have been purchasing land and as of today, the Osage Nation government has no debt and the ranch, and all the lands are free and clear.”

In April 2020, the Nation learned its application for the $5.1 million PPP loan was approved. The PPP loan service was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help businesses cover payroll and other allowed costs as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted countless business operations and workers worldwide. According to the PPP application, if the Nation uses the money solely for payroll and utility payments, the money acts as a guaranteed loan and will be forgiven for repayment.

In 2016, the Nation borrowed $67 million to purchase then-named Bluestem Ranch from media mogul Ted Turner. In a statement after his address, Standing Bear said: “This loan assisted us in bringing 43,000-acres of land back to Osage Nation. As planned, and despite a pandemic, we were able to successfully pay off this loan on schedule. We’d like to express our gratitude to Osage Casinos and employees for their significant efforts in making this happen.”

Original Publish Date: 2021-07-13 00:00:00


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Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org
Benny Polacca started at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter and has covered various stories and events impacting the Osage Nation and Osage people. Polacca is part of the News team awarded the Native American Journalist Association’s Elias Boudinot Free Press Award in 2014 and other NAJA Media Awards and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter awards for news coverage and photography. Polacca is an Arizona State University graduate and participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. He previously worked at The Forum newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. region as the weeknight reporter.

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