BIA OKs Osage Nation’s trust requests for casinos
WASHINGTON – Assistant Secretary–Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney announced on July 17 that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has approved two long-standing land-into-trust applications from the Osage Nation for its casino projects in Bartlesville and Pawhuska.
The applications were first submitted to the BIA in 2014 and 2016, respectively.
The ON lost more than 90 percent of its land base in 1907 when Oklahoma became a state and incorporated the Osage reservation as Osage County. It relies on its economic activities to fund its governmental programs and services. Approval of the two applications will provide the ON with significant economic development opportunities, BIA officials said.
“With this action, The Osage Nation can now move forward on its economic development plans and enjoy the benefits of its lands,” Sweeney said. “I congratulate Principal Chief (Geoffrey M.) Standing Bear and the Osage people on this achievement. Your success is a testament to your determination to bring greater prosperity to the Osage Nation now and for generations to come.”
Standing Bear said that land was central to the Osage way of life. “We are celebrating today because the approval of our Pawhuska and Bartlesville trust applications returns some of our land to us with full tribal authority. Interior Assistant Secretary Tara Sweeney, her deputy, Mark Cruz, (Office of Indian Gaming) Director Paula Hart and Deputy Director Maria Wiseman each deserve high praise for their diligent and prompt action to approve our applications after they languished for nearly a decade in the dust bins of the federal bureaucracy. Now the Osage Nation will begin at once to turn dirt and construct new amenities on these parcels that will help boost our region’s economic recovery from this COVID-19 pandemic.”
In 2014, the ON submitted to the BIA an application to transfer into trust for gaming and other purposes approximately 125 acres of land, known as the Bartlesville Property and located within the ON’s former reservation, on U.S. Highway 60 approximately two miles west of the city of Bartlesville.
The ON proposes to construct a casino of approximately 57,400 square feet and a hotel with 150 rooms and approximately 11,800 square feet of meeting space.
In 2016, the ON submitted an application to transfer into trust approximately 63.1 acres of land known as the Pawhuska Property, also located in Osage County, for gaming and other purposes. The ON will move its existing Pawhuska Osage Casino to 17 acres on the site and eventually replace it with a proposed casino and hotel project that will be located approximately 300 feet directly across Highway 99/60.