Chief announces Osage Nation is debt-free

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear last Thursday announced to the Osage Nation Congress that the tribe had become debt-free.

Standing Bear made his announcement during a special session that he called for July 8 in order to propose additional land purchases in an ongoing effort to restore the Osage Nation's land base. The Day 1 Agenda for the special session reflected that the chief was seeking an appropriation of $5.5 million for real property purchases.

Standing Bear has also issued a proclamation, calling a special session for Saturday, July 24, to consider appropriations by the Osage Nation Congress of American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds.

His announcement about the elimination of tribal debt came in the same week that the U.S. Economic Development Administration formally announced a $2.138 million grant to the Osage Nation to support it "with fully developing one of only three nation-wide non-military owned Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) research and development parks (also known as drone ports)." The drone port project is known as Skyway 36.

Standing Bear had briefed the Osage Nation Congress in early April about the upcoming grant award from the federal government in support of Skyway 36.

In a news release regarding Standing Bear's announcement that the Osage Nation had paid off its debts, the Osage Nation noted that loans received through the U.S. Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program had been "forgiven and concluded" due to the tribe conforming strictly to program guidelines.

“The PPP loans were forgiven because both the Osage Nation Government and Osage Nation Casinos stayed in strict conformance with the guidelines,” Standing Bear said.

Additionally, the Osage Nation received word that a $67 million loan, taken out in 2016 to purchase the Bluestem Ranch (now known as Osage Nation Ranch), had been paid off. 

"On July 7, 2021, the Osage Nation received notification of a zero-balance," the Osage Nation said in a news release. "In a letter to Osage Nation Gaming Enterprise dba Osage Casinos, the bank said, 'Additionally, we wanted to acknowledge and applaud your efforts in repaying the Bluestem Ranch Loan of $67,000,000 in fewer than 5-years. We recognize the vital importance the 43,000 acre Osage Nation Ranch plays in the Osage people’s culture, traditions, and history, and are proud to have been a partner in reclaiming these lands that were dispersed more than a century ago.'"

“This loan assisted us in bringing 43,000 acres of land back to Osage Nation,” Standing Bear said in a news release. “As planned, and despite a pandemic, we were able to successfully pay off this loan on schedule."