Illinois May Return Land Stolen 175 Years Ago From A Prairie Band Potawatomi Chief

( – The US government stole land from a Native American chief about 175 years ago. Instead of giving him the land back, they sold it to white settlers. Now, Illinois might return it to the tribe.

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s chief, Shab-eh-nay, was away visiting relatives in Kansas when the US government stole his land. In 1829, the chief signed a treaty with the American government and was promised that they would preserve a reservation for him. Approximately 19 years later, in 1848, the US reneged on its promise and sold the land to white settlers.

The original 1,280-acre property owned by the chief is now a county forest preserve, a golf course, and acres of privately owned land. State lawmakers are pushing a bill through that would transfer a 1,500-acre park located west of Chicago to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. The park, the Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area, is named after the chief the government once stole from the tribe.

The government at the state and federal levels both admit that the reservation still belongs to the Potawatomi Nation. In July 2000, an Interior Department memo found the tribe’s claim to the land was valid and said that it appeared “Illinois officials are struggling with the concept of having” a Native American reservation in the state. Even though the federal government supported the position of the tribe, nothing has happened for almost 25 years.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D) sponsored the legislation to give the state park to the tribe. He said it made a major concession when it decided not to pursue ownership of the original plot of land. Instead of putting everyone through the hassle, the tribe said that they would take the entire park and give up their claim to the other property. The lawmaker called the bill a “better deal for all parties involved.”

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