Illinois now home to federally recognized tribal nation following historic decision by U.S. Department of the Interior

DEKALB COUNTY, Ill. — Illinois is once again home to a federally recognized tribal nation, following a major announcement by the U.S. government.

The Department of the Interior announced Friday that it placed portions of the Shab-eh-nay Reservation land into trust for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. It is now the only federally recognized Tribal Nation in the state.

1,280 acres of Prairie Band’s Reservation land was illegally auctioned off by the U.S. government in 1849, when Chief Shab-eh-nay traveled to visit family in Kansas, from his home reservation, in what is now DeKalb County.

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Officials say placing the land into trust transfers the legal title to the U.S., which holds it in trust for the Prairie Band. It also confirms the land as an “Indian country” and solidifies jurisdictional boundaries, which ensures that the nation can exercise sovereignty over the land.

“175 years ago, our federal government unlawfully sold the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s land in Illinois,” U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14) said. “In Congress, I’ve been working in partnership with the Nation to correct this historic injustice. The decision to put portions of the Shab-eh-nay Reservation into Trust is an important step to returning the land that is rightfully theirs, and I am so honored to represent the first federally-recognized reservation in Illinois.”

Officials said Friday that the decision is seen as “not only an acknowledgment of past wrongs, but also as a commitment to preserving and cherishing the rich history and culture of the original inhabitants of DeKalb County.”

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“Prairie Band has sought to continue our history as an original part of DeKalb County and right historical wrongs,” Prairie Band Chairman Joseph Rupnick said in a news release on Friday. “We have been asking for this recognition and for what is rightfully ours for nearly 200 years, and we are grateful to the U.S. Department of Interior for this significant step in the pursuit of justice for our people and ancestors.”

Officials said all current homeowners will retain the title to their land and will be able to live in their homes undisturbed.

According to officials, no immediate changes for usage have been decided and the nation will continue to evaluate the land for potential uses.

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