Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe One Step Closer to Land Restoration With Public Map Release
Recent developments in the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation Restoration Act and the land transfer could lead the federal government to being one step closer to righting a historical wrong.
The release of the proposed parcels map between the Leech Lake Band and Chippewa National Forest means public input will be collected to finalize the map and aim to transfer the land by the end of the year.
“What you see with the land coming back is sort of an understanding that Leech Lake people are sophisticated enough, have the ability to manage, oversee and control the land,” said Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Secretary/Treasurer Leonard Fineday. “From our standpoint, this is the first step in returning that [land] and it’s the right direction.”
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation Restoration Act provides the transfer approximately 11,760 acres. This land is all public and located within the reservation boundaries and Cass County.
“I believe the number [of parcels] is … close to 260 parcels that were originally taken,” said Chippewa National Forest Supervisor Michael Stansberry. “To transfer those, it would be a checkerboard. It wouldn’t make sense to just transfer those back.”
“The map that’s published … most of the land is around some of our existing tribal communities,” explained Fineday. “The idea behind that is that’s going to help us as we look at expanding housing opportunities on the reservation. We have a severe housing shortage here. But, also, as we balance the conservation and the need for our people to have the infrastructure and places to live.”
With the actual transfer planned for the end of this year, Leech Lake hopes this restoration will not only be for the land, but their communities as well.
“This is humbling,” said Stansberry. “To know what had happened in the past and then to be a part of this. I will say though that the conversations between Leech Lake and the Chippewa National Forest have been fantastic.”
“It’s still a starting point, and it’s a momentous thing that we’re very happy about,” said Fineday. “I do think that this first step will go a long way in helping us to heal a lot of those issues that have resulted from the historic trauma that we’ve dealt with from being stripped of our lands.”
The public comment submission is open until September 15. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. These comments will then be taken into account for the final proposal later this year.