The Million Dollar Elm Story
The name “Million Dollar Elm” is part of the rich history of the Osage Nation. Hidden beneath the rolling prairie of what is now Osage County in northeastern Oklahoma lay vast deposits of crude oil and natural gas. After the first oil strike in 1897, federal legislation was enacted to ensure that the tribe retain valuable mineral rights. But oil barons such as E.W. Marland and Frank Phillips clamored for leases on this land that would make them and later their companies fortunes.
Lease auctions were held just north of the Osage Agency in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Under the towering canopy of a giant elm tree, more than 100,000 acres of unused tribal land changed hands. On March 2, 1922, Skelly Oil and Phillips Petroleum Company jointly bid more than $1 million on a 160-acre tract, the single-largest purchase to date, and the story of the “Million Dollar Elm” was born.
As Indian gaming received federal approval and became more prevalent, the Osage Tribal Council created the Osage Tribe Gaming Enterprise Board. This group today provides oversight for the business entity known as Million Dollar Elm Casino (MDEC).
Hominy opened in Spring 2002 under Osage Nation Gaming; Pawhuska, opened Spring 2003; Sand Springs, Fall 2004; Tulsa, Summer 2005; Bartlesville, Spring 2006; Skiatook, Fall 2007 and Ponca City, opened Winter 2007.
Today, the Osage Nation uses revenues from its Casinos to:
- Fund tribal government or programs
- Provide for the general welfare of the tribe and its members
- Promote tribal economic development
- Support charitable organizations
- Help fund operations of local government agencies of the Osage Nation