The plight of Native Americans for the past century has been well-documented, but one tribe has made substantial progress in reclaiming the land it once owned — by outbidding its competition.
According to Indian Country Today, the Osage Nation recently won its bid to purchase the 43,000-acre Bluestem Ranch in northern Oklahoma from business mogul Ted Turner.
Until the early 1900s, the Osage Nation owned several million acres across the state of Oklahoma. With this deal, the tribe has restored 1.2 million of these acres. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but county records indicate the net worth of the property to be in excess of $3.3 million.
“We are extremely pleased to reverse 200 years of loss of our lands,” Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn said in a statement. He added that the Osage Nation would not provide further details until “additional steps are completed.”
Ted Turner is widely known for his success in the media world, but the entrepreneur is also quite prominent in the ranching industry. In 1988, Turner made national headlines when he bought the 100,000-plus acre Flying D Ranch in Montana for over $20 million.
Since this initial foray into ranching, Turner has gone on to purchase millions of acres of land all over the country. Just recently, the Albuquerque Journal reported that Turner will temporarily hold five endangered gray wolves for the U.S. government at his New Mexico ranch while they are transported from Washington state to Mexico.
When it was announced that Turner would be accepting bids for the Bluestem Ranch, the Osage Nation immediately submitted its bid to purchase the land. In a personal letter to Turner, Chief Standing Bear detailed the importance of regaining this land for the Nation.
“Until 1906 we owned nearly 1.5 million acres in one contiguous parcel of what is now Osage County,” he wrote. “Then, our ownership was fragmented into thousands of individual parcels and the mineral estate handed over to control of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. As a result of these actions we now own only five percent of our original land in scattered parcels.”
The tribe has also set aside money to purchase the ranch’s bison, though that is not included in its purchase of the land. The Osage Nation intends to “keep the majority of this property as a working bison ranch,” adding that it will also use the property “to connect our children and youth to nature.”
The Osage Nation may not have reclaimed all of the land it once owned, but the Bluestem Ranch acquisition is certainly positive news for the tribe.