Published May 1, 2016
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — A nearly 1,334-acre swath of land owned by the Cherokee Nation became the largest acreage ever placed into “trust status” by the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Eastern Oklahoma Regional office.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs Regional Director Eddie Streater signed a deed on April 21 that places the land from fee status into trust status.
The property is about 22 miles north of Ponca City in Kay County. It was formerly the site of the Chilocco Indian Industrial School.
The tribe owns the land and leases it to farmers and ranchers for agricultural use.
“It makes our tribe stronger when we are able to grow our land base,” said Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Having land placed into trust status gives the Cherokee Nation the authority to decide how we use our natural resources, for things like new economic development or housing, to benefit our Cherokee people for generations to come.”
The 1,333.99 acres is the largest tract that the BIA’s Eastern Oklahoma office has put into trust at one time, according to Streater.
“The United States bought the property from the Cherokee Nation in 1893, and the government developed the Chilocco Indian School,” Streater said. “About 75 years later, the U.S. government determined 2,667 acres was surplus to the needs of the school and the Cherokee Nation was allowed to buy it back for $3.75 an acre.”
The Cherokee Nation’s 2,667 acres are in two parcels. Both parcels are now in trust.
The land is outside the Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction, but the property has strong historical connections to the tribe. The Chilocco Indian Industrial School was attended by more Cherokees than members of any other Indian tribe.
For the previous 180 years, the acreage has had no owner other than the Cherokee Nation and the United States of America. Previous to that, the land was under the ownership of Spain from 1762 to 1803, when it was purchased by the United States of America in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase for $15 million.
Originally, the school was 8,640 acres. The Cherokee Nation, Kaw, Pawnee, Ponca, Otoe-Missouri and Tonkawa tribes now own the land.
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