May 9, 2023 —
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Sharice Davids (KS-03), Jake LaTurner (KS-02), and Tracey Mann (KS-01) along with Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Roger Marshall (R-KS), reintroduced the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Shab-eh-nay Band Reservation Settlement Act, a bipartisan and bicameral effort to right a historic wrong against the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. This legislation settles ownership interests of the Nation and current non-Native occupants within the Shab-eh-nay Band Reservation. It also provides the Nation with financial compensation for the damages and lost rents associated with more than 170 years of being denied the use of its lands by federal officials.
“This legislation is an important first step towards justice,” said Representative García. “While this legislation will not entirely right a historical wrong, this bill finally enables the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation to reclaim a portion of stolen land and be rightfully compensated.”
“174 years ago, the federal government sold the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s land in Illinois in an unlawful sale,” said Representative Underwood. “Representative García and I introduced the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Shab-eh-nay Band Reservation Settlement Act to right this historic wrong, and I’m proud to be the Nation’s partner on this legislation.”
“We as federal partners have a responsibility to uphold our nation’s treaty and trust obligations. This bill is an important step to addressing the federal government’s unlawful land sale of the Prairie Band Potawatomi’s reservation in Illinois and helps right a historical wrong. I am proud to join my colleagues in this bipartisan legislation,” said Representative Davids.
“Congress never repealed the treaty governing the Prairie Band Potawatomi’s home lands in Illinois,” said Senator Moran. “Recognizing the importance of ancestral homes to our nation’s tribes, I am pleased to lead this bipartisan effort to settle an historical wrong suffered by one of the tribes in my state.”
“Under federal law, only the United States Congress has the authority to transfer the title of Native American land. Unfortunately, over 170 years ago, the U.S. Government illegally auctioned off more than 1,280 acres in Illinois, creating title issues that still are outstanding today. I’m proud to partner with Senator Moran and support the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in rectifying this ill-advised and frankly illegal decision,” said Senator Marshall.
The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Shab-eh-nay Band Reservation Settlement Act would:
- Reaffirm the Nation’s ownership and jurisdiction to the 130 acres of land within the Reservation that the Nation has reacquired;
- Extinguish the Nation’s title to the remainder of the original Shab-eh-nay Reservation and confirm ownership and title of the non-Indian individuals and governments occupying land within the Reservation;
- Establish a process for compensating the Nation for the wrongful taking of 1,151 acres of land within the original Reservation;
- Allow the Nation to utilize settlement funds to reacquire additional lands on or near the Reservation.
The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Shab-eh-nay Band Reservation Settlement Act is endorsed by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.
You can read the full text of the bill here.
The Potawatomi people of northern Illinois were forced out of their traditional homelands by the U.S. government in the early 1830s in connection with the federal Indian removal policy. At the Treaty of Prairie du Chien of July 29, 1829, the Potawatomi ceded 5 million acres of land to the federal government, but the treaty expressly reserved two parcels of land for Potawatomi Chief Shab-eh-nay totaling 1,280 acres. In 1849, while Chief Shab-eh-nay was away visiting relatives in Kansas, the U.S. General Land Office illegally sold his land at a public auction and passed the title to non-Indians. Despite several years of effort, neither Shab-eh-nay nor his heirs were ever successful in regaining the land or receiving compensation for its illegal sale before he died in 1859. Today, the State of Illinois, DeKalb County, individuals, and other entities occupy the Shab-eh-nay Band Reservation. Deeds within the Reservation are subject to “all rights, claims, or title to the descendants of a Potawatomi Indian Chieftain named Shabbona and his band.”
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This article originally appeared as a press release on the congressional website for Representative Jesús G. “Chuy” García on May 9, 2023.