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Council approves tribal trust land lease

The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council approved the leasing of more than 4,000 acres of tribal trust land near the former Chilocco Indian School site to wind farm developer PNE Wind, according to a news release.

Chilocco Indian School operated from 1884 to 1980 in Kay County near Newkirk. The ground lease agreement means an additional $1 million per year, on average, for tribal programs and services over the life of the lease.

The agreement brings Cherokee Nation in line with other tribes owning land in the area to develop a wind energy project that would be profitable for all tribes involved.

“This is a great step toward advancing clean energy and moving away from coal-fired power. This is what it means to be stewards of our land,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Wind energy is pollution free, doesn’t require fuel or water, and the land beneath wind farms can still be used for agricultural purposes. This project will also bring in a considerable amount of new revenue for the Cherokee Nation.”

In addition to the $1 million in ground lease revenue, the Chilocco site will continue to be leased for livestock ranching purposes. PNE Wind is also obligated to restore the land to its present condition should the company cease operations.

“We have a responsibility to explore all avenues of clean, renewable energy in order to leave our land and environment in better shape than we inherited it,” said Tribal Councilor Keith Austin. “Through this partnership with a well-respected company, the Cherokee Nation is embracing that calling and working diligently to leave our land, air and water in better circumstances for future generations.”

The tribe has studied the feasibility of a wind farm at Chilocco and its potential impact on the site of the former Indian school for more 10 years.

In other business, the legislative body confirmed the reappointment of Shannon Buhl as marshal over the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, the tribe’s law enforcement agency. Buhl was first appointed to the position in December 2011 after serving on the Marshal Service for 11 years.

Buhl, a U.S. Air Force veteran, is a graduate of Langston University and Northeastern State University. He also serves as an adjunct professor at NSU in Tahlequah.

The next Tribal Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 14, at 6 p.m. at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah.