Land Purchase Returns Piece Of History To Osage Nation

Wednesday, August 24th 2016, 8:43 pm
By: Tess Maune

A piece of treasured history is back in the hands of the Osage Nation. It’s known as the Bluestem Ranch to some, but, to many others, it’s considered sacred land.

“We never lose that [connection to our ancestors], they're close. If we're in this environment, we feel their presence; they're in our hearts, in our minds,” Eddy Red Eagle, Jr. said.

Bluestem Ranch is 43,000 storied acres of Osage Nation history that now has a new story to tell.

“There's 20,190 of us, and we're scattered throughout the United States,” said Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear. “This land now belongs to all of us.”

The chief says the Osage tribe went from 1.5 million acres of land to a fraction of that back in 1906.

“It became fragmented by federal law that were trying get the Indians to assimilate...forget your language, forget your culture and forget your land,” he said.

Tribal members did not forget any of that; instead, they've worked ever since to keep their heritage alive while getting their land back.

“In the Osage culture, land is a living, breathing entity,” Red Eagle said.

Today, the tribe is celebrating the purchase of Ted Turner's 43,000-acre bison ranch in Osage County. The media mogul decided to sell the land after 15 years.

“In addition to raising bison, we also tried to turn back the clock,” Turner Enterprise President and CEO Taylor Glover said. “He tried to bring back all the Ecosystems of the indigenous plants, animals, free-ranging wildlife.”

Glover said Turner felt Osage Nation's commitment to preserve and protect the property made them the perfect buyer.

The acquisition makes Osage Nation one of the largest land owners in Osage County.

“The land, that's how we define ourselves, by the world around us,” Standing Bear said.

The chief said there are no firm plans yet for how the land will be used. But some options include raising cattle, using it as a refuge for bison and even tapping into the hunting and fishing industry.

“Prepare to preserve everything for the next generation, that's gonna be the difficult thing,” the chief said. “Make sure we don't get too short sighted, and we've got to make sure whatever we do from our interests takes care of those future generations.”

The younger generation was a driving force behind the purchase because, more than anything, the rolling hills of the tallgrass prairie will serve as a classroom for the tribe’s youth.

“They can walk on it, move on it, learn on it,” Red Eagle said.

And they can learn about the culture their ancestors died for, a heritage they’re proud to live for.

“This was our killing field and we’re damn proud of it,” Minerals Councilman Everett Waller said.

The tribe's casino gaming industry paid in-full for the $74 million land deal.

“When people go and play at a casino, that is where the profits are going - for health, our education and for the lands,” chief said.

Osage Nation takes control of the property November 1st.

The chief said the tribe is working to get a federal reservation status for the property.