State In Talks to Return Land Stolen 175 Years Ago

( – Illinois is considering returning land to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation tribe, which the US government sold to white settlers in 1829. The tribe’s Chief Shab-eh-nay signed an agreement with the government that his group would maintain possession of a 1,280-acre reservation in the north of the state, but officials sold it on while he was visiting relatives in Kansas.

Prairie State officials now propose shifting a 1,500-acre park near Chicago into the tribe’s ownership, while contining to fund its maintenance. The tribe says it would not make any changes to the land, which is currently used as a public park. “The average citizen shouldn’t know that title has been transferred,” said the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation chairman, Joseph Rupnick.

The returned land will not be exactly what was sold on in 1829, as much of that territory is now privately owned. Instead, ownership of the Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area will transfer. The area is home to a fishing lake with boat hire facilities, and includes restaurants, tackle shops, and other businesses.

Legislation to transfer the title to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation tribe was introduced by Democrat state Rep. Mark Walker, who filed House Bill 4107 and said, “I believe it’s high time we correct this injustice and return the lands to their rightful owners.” Mr. Rupnick described the legislation as an opportunity “to right a historic wrong.”

Similar efforts to transfer land ownership to Indian tribes have been proposed elsewhere in America, including California, where Governor Gavin Newsom proposed giving over 2,800 acres of ancestral land to the Shasta Indian Nation. Newsom described the move as a “down payment” on California’s future commitment to “do better by Native American communities.” Shasta Indian Nation Chairperson Janice Crowe said the tribe was “pleased” with Newsom’s plans and described them as “the beginning of restorative justice for our people.”

Newsom also apologized to native tribes and announced the foundation of the California Truth and Healing Council.

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