In June 2016, the Osage Nation acquired Oklahoma’s Bluestem Ranch from Turner Enterprises for $74 million. It was one of many steps the Osage have taken as they seek to reassemble tribal lands dispersed more than a century ago. The 43,000-acre prairieland ranch west of Pawhuska was utilized by Turner Enterprises to run 3,000 head of bison and cattle.
In a letter to Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, Turner noted he had hoped all along that the tribe would become the new owner when he put the property up for sale.
“It is my sincere hope that our transaction is the last time this land is ever sold,” Turner wrote, “and that the Osage Nation owns this land for all future generations.”
The purchase was the latest effort by Standing Bear and the Osage leadership to reacquire tribal lands formerly owned in Osage County.
“Land,” Standing Bear said, “is central to the culture, traditions, and history of the Osage people.”
In addition to acquisitions such as the Bluestem, the Osage have partnered with the Department of the Interior in its Land Buy-Back Program, which facilitates the purchase of individual interests in fractionated trust lands and consolidates ownership.
“In the year 1906, the Osage owned all of the nearly 1.5 million acres of our reservation. Today, we have less than 4 percent of the land in Osage ownership,” said Standing Bear. “Much of the remaining land is fractionated ownership. The Land Buy-Back Program provides an opportunity for the Osage Nation to purchase some of the fractionated interests for complete ownership of land parcels. By having one owner, we can finally determine the highest and best use of the land.”
Land Report 2016 Ranchland Deal of the Year: Bluestem Ranch in Oklahoma
Seller: Turner Enterprises, Ted Turner, Chairman
Buyer: Osage Nation, Geoffrey Standing Bear, Principal Chief