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Retrieving Homelands: Osage Nation Wins Bid for Ted Turner’s 43,000-Acre Bluestem Ranch

The Osage Nation is regaining a portion of its original homeland in buying Ted Turner's 46,000-acre Bluestem Ranch with a bid that has been accepted.
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The Osage Nation has won a bid to buy the 43,000-acre Bluestem Ranch from Cable News Network founder Ted Turner, restoring some of the 1.2 million acres the tribe owned until the early 1900s.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the Osage reported that their bid had been accepted and that they were about to close on the property, which county records said are worth more than $3.3 million, according to News on 6.

“We are extremely pleased to reverse 200 years of loss of our lands,” Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn said in a statement on January 29, adding that further details would have to wait until “additional steps are completed.”

In a letter to Turner on January 21 making a case for the tribe’s bid, Chief Standing Bear detailed what had been lost, and what regaining even a portion of the Osage’s original homelands would mean.

“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 Osage Nation jumped on the chance to buy the land as soon as they heard it was up for sale in December, according to Native News Online, working through the holidays to peruse the bid package and craft an offer.

“The more I thought about it, this is our one chance in the foreseeable future to reestablish our Osage reservation,” Standing Bear told Native News Online.

The tribe has also set aside money to buy the ranch’s bison, though that is not included in the purchase, Native News Online said.

The Osage intend to “keep the majority of this property as a working bison ranch” and use it “to connect our children and youth to nature,” Standing Bear wrote in the letter to Turner, outlining the tribe’s plans for the land.

“We can think of no better learning environment for our children than these lands,” he wrote. “Land is central to the culture, traditions and history of the Osage people. This land is perfectly centered between our traditional towns of Wa-hock-o-li (Pawhuska), Zon-zo-lin (Hominy) and Pah-su-li (Grayhorse). The Osage Nation will hold this property as a contiguous land base at the heart of the Osage Nation.”