Houses, state park now sit on a 1,000+ acre Reservation
**media interviews available upon request**
SPRINGFIELD, ILL. – Illinois lawmakers today introduced a resolution that would support Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s efforts to build on its history as an original part of the DeKalb County community.
After the U.S. Government in the late 1840s illegally sold more than 1,280 acres of the Nation’s land near the village of Shabbona in southern DeKalb County, the Nation has been working tirelessly to reclaim its Reservation.
“We simply want to reclaim the land that was taken from us and we want to do so in the most community-focused, least disruptive way,” Prairie Band Chairman Joseph Rupnick said. “We’re rooted in the northern Illinois community and after 170 years, we just want this issue resolved.”
Senate Resolution 896 sponsored by state Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago) and House Resolution 504 sponsored by state Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) encourage the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that would allow the Nation to secure 1,151 acres of land near Shabbona State Park in the southern part of DeKalb County. HR 504 unanimously passed out of the House State Government Administration Committee this afternoon.
“We have a chance to correct this injustice and it’s our responsibility to do so,” Pacione-Zayas said. “I’m proud to sponsor this resolution in the state Senate and I implore our Congressional leaders to do the same with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Shab-eh-nay Band Reservation Settlement Act of 2021 that’s currently in the United States Senate.”
In the late 1840s when Chief Shab-eh-nay traveled from his home Reservation in DeKalb to visit his family in Kansas, the U.S. government illegally auctioned off more than 1,280 acres of his land near the village of Shabbona in southern DeKalb County.
In 2001, the U.S. Department of the Interior confirmed the history and legal status of the Shab-eh-nay Reservation as federally recognized Indian Country because the U.S. Government never received the required Congressional approval to auction off land that rightfully belonged to Chief Shab-eh-nay.
The U.S. Congress is the only governing body that has the authority to designate land titles for native nations.
Currently, deeds for homeowners within the Reservation are subject to “all rights, claims, or title to the descendants of a Potawatomi Indian Chieftain named Shabbona and his Band.” The federal legislation would wipe those deeds clean of that clause in favor of assuring current homeowners that their property is theirs without condition. It would also provide clean title to the State and DeKalb County governments who also own land within the current Reservation.
“The U.S. Government made a mistake 170 years ago by illegally selling the Nation’s land,” Demmer said. “Now we as lawmakers here in Illinois and our counterparts in Congress have a chance to correct it.”