Land Is Power, and the Osage Nation Is Buying Theirs Back

The Osage Nation Ranch, which the tribe bought in 2016.
The Osage Nation Ranch, which the tribe bought in 2016.

The Osage Nation Ranch, which the tribe bought in 2016. Over a century, theft, murder, and business dealings stripped the Osages of oil and land wealth. They’re clawing it back, tract by tract.

Raymond Red Corn remembers every bit of the drive up to Kansas to buy back his people’s land. Red Corn, who was the assistant principal chief of the Osage Nation , had gotten up early one morning in January 2016 and, with a colleague, loaded up in a Ford SUV they jokingly called “the chief mobile.” It wasn’t a long drive from Osage County, in northern Oklahoma, to Hutchinson, where a ranch broker stood ready to collect bids for the sprawling patch of prairie, but Red Corn wasn’t taking any chances. There was a backup plan: If he crashed or the truck broke down, Osage Nation police would leave him on the side of the road. Their only job was to make sure the sealed envelope they were carrying got to Kansas.

“It was all done with a smirk and a wink,” Red Corn says. “And we also knew that if we got in a wreck of some kind, that somebody was going to get this on up there.” Raymond Red Corn on his property in Osage County. This article is based in part on the Bloomberg-iHeart Media podcast In Trust and includes some spoilers. For the full audio, visit bloomberg.com/intrust or your favorite podcast app.

The drive ended up being uneventful. Red Corn and RJ Walker, then […]

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