ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Helping to correct a historic injustice, state Rep. Mark Walker, D-Arlington Heights, today filed House Bill 4107 to return state-owned lands comprising the Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.
“By federal recognition, much of the land making up Shabbona Lake is legally owed to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation,” Walker said. “However, the land was taken and sold illegally nearly two hundred years ago. Because the state now owns much of the Nation’s ancestral lands and the surrounding area, I believe it’s high time we correct this injustice and return the lands to their rightful owners.”
Signed in 1829, the Second Treaty of Prairie du Chien gave sections of land in Illinois to Chief Shab-eh-nay of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. In 1849, however, the U.S. General Land Office illegally sold this land at a public auction and passed title to non-Indians. Illinois began purchasing some of those lands in 1965 and has been operating the lands as the Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area since.
“The legislation filed this week would give Illinois an opportunity to right a historic wrong,” said Prairie Band Chairman Joseph Rupnick, the fourth generation great-grandson of Chief Shab-eh-nay and a U.S. Army veteran. “Illinois has been a national example lately for what justice truly looks like and it’s our hope that continues with the return of our land. We’re rooted in the community and after more than 170 years, we’re finally on a path to having this issue resolved.”
The U.S. Congress is the only governing body that has the authority to designate land titles for Native nations. However, because the State of Illinois owns and operates a state park on a portion of Prairie Band’s 1,280 acres, they have the agency to return that to Prairie Band with legislation or through executive action.