Osage Nation Buying Back Part Of Historic Homeland From Ted Turner
PAWHUSKA, Oklahoma - This sprawling prairie of Osage County is dotted with oil pump jacks, herds of American Bison... and a rich, native spirit is rooted in every inch of soil.
“It's the people and it's the wide-open country, but yet there's hills and rocks and trees,” Osage Nation tribal member Ellen Weigant said. “It's just kind of a diverse ecology.”
Osage Nation Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear says until 1906, the tribe owned nearly 1.5 million acres of what is now Osage County.
Currently, the tribe owns only 5 percent of its original land.
But they’re in the process of getting a piece of their historic homeland back.
“I think it's a wonderful idea that we can get some of the Osage County land back into tribal hands,” Weigant said.
The Osage Nation says it's buying the 43,000-thousand acre Bluestem Ranch in Osage County. It currently is home to a large herd of bison. According to county records, the land is worth more than $3.3 million, though it's unclear how much the tribe paid. Osage Nation says it plans to release more details about the purchase and plans for the land in the future.
For years, the land has been owned by Ted Turner, founder of CNN and Turner Broadcasting Systems.
But soon it will change hands and go back to the Osage Nation, which says the purchase will reverse 200 years of loss of its lands.
In a letter, the chief told Turner, "We seek to preserve, protect and sustain the land and use it primarily as a home for the bison that are sacred to us."
The chief went on to say the bison would provide monetary and spiritual wealth for the tribe.
Weigant says she supports anything that brings industry to the area.
“With the oil companies being in such a depression, Osage County's hurting and this could be a great help for Osage County,” she said.
The chief told Turner the land also will help reconnect the youth of Osage Nation with their culture and the history the land where their ancestors once lived and hunted and thrived.
“There's just something in our blood, I think that just makes us love Osage County,” Weigant said.