Illinois now home to federally recognized tribal nation in historic Department of Interior decision

Illinois now home to federally recognized tribal nation in historic Department of Interior decision

Illinois is now home to a federally recognized tribal nation after the U.S. Department of the Interior placed portions of the Shab-eh-nay Reservation into trust, according to a statement Friday from the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

The federal government illegally auctioned off 1,280 acres of the Prairie Band’s reservation land 175 years ago, the Nation said. At the time, Chief Shab-eh-nay had been traveling from his home reservation in DeKalb County to visit his family in Kansas.

“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,” said Prairie Band Chairman Joseph Rupnick, the fourth great-grandson of Chief Shab-eh-nay.

The 1833 Treaty of Chicago forced Native Americans off their land, but legal disputes continued for years

The legal title of the land has been transferred to the U.S. government, which holds it in trust for the Prairie Brand. The move establishes jurisdictional boundaries and allows the Nation to exercise sovereignty, the statement said.

The Nation is headquartered in Kansas. Other Midwest states — including Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa — already have federally recognized tribal lands.

“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,” U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood said.

The Nation is seeking “the least disruptive path” to recovering the land, according to the statement. All current homeowners will retain the title to their land, and the Prairie Band is still evaluating potential uses for the area.

“The move to put the land into trust for Prairie Band will hopefully be the first of many steps by the U.S. government to rectify historical injustices against indigenous peoples across the country,” according to the statement.