Senator Roger Marshall (R) representing Kansas’ 117th District visited the Reservation during the 2022 Powwow where Chairman Joseph “Zeke” Rupnick and Council Member Raphael Wahwassuck gave the Senator a tour . They showed the Senator the Reservation’s facilities on K road, the Health Center, and the hemp operation. The tour also included the Government Center and then finished with a stop at the Veterans Memorial.
“I was honored to participate in the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Pow Wow this past Saturday. The celebration was an incredibly moving experience full of rich heritage. Thank you to Chairman Rupnick and Councilman Wahwassuck for being such gracious hosts and tour guides,” Senator Marshall said. “The resilience and strength of the Potawatomi Nation was on full display. They embody what it means to be part of a community: they look out for their neighbor, honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and reinvest in their own. I look forward to joining them again next summer.”
During the tour, Marshall informed Rupnick and Wahwassuck that he had signed on as a cosponsor of legislation concerning Tribal interests in Illinois.
Chairman Rupnick’s work to educate legislators and gain their support on the Tribe’s efforts to regain control of land in northern Illinois that was sold illegally in 1849 brought him in contact with Senator Marshall and other members of Congress. These educational efforts continue to move the Tribe’s cause forward as Senator Marshall did recently sign on to Senate Bill 3242 as a cosponsor. This bill was introduced by Kansas Senator Jerry Moran (R) in November of last year.
“When I met with Senator Marshall in DC, I had asked for his support on our bill for Illinois. He has now signed on as a Cosponsor on the bill and now, because of the work we are doing, influential lawmakers are starting to hear about this injustice and are wanting to act,” Chairman Rupnick said.
If the bill passes, it will provide for the settlement of claims by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation relating to the Shab-eh-nay Band Reservation in northern Illinois. The reservation consists of 1,280 acres and, due to a sale in 1849, is currently occupied by the tribe and nontribal entities, including the State of Illinois, the Dekalb County government, and corporate entities.
In particular, the bill recognizes the tribe’s ownership of 130 acres of land within the reservation.
Additionally, the bill requires the Department of the Interior to pay the tribe a specified amount as partial settlement of the tribe’s claims for the tribe to promote economic development and land acquisition. The bill also outlines a process for subsequent payments to the tribe.
The bill authorizes the tribe to enter into agreements with the State of Illinois and local governments. It requires land that is located within the boundaries of the reservation and owned by state and local governments to be managed to protect any human or cultural remains.
Rupnick said, “The way we right past injustices done to our people is by educating as many people as we can about who we are and what we have been through. This education may start with elected officials, but it has to extend to all people in general. We are a proud people with proud traditions and by inviting others to our cherished events, like the recent powwow, they can begin to understand who we are.”