Over 11,000 Acres of Land to be Returned to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
On December 3rd, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed S.199, the Leech Lake Reservation Restoration Act. The bill was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn. 04). The bill had previously passed the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent in June 2019, and it will now go to the White House for the President’s signature.
The bill will transfer 11,760 acres of land. According to a release from Sen. Smith’s office, it “would transfer land from the Chippewa National Forest in Cass County, Minnesota, to the United States Department of Interior, to be held in trust for the benefit of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. This land restoration would honor Tribal sovereignty and allow the Leech Lake Band to invest in its future generations and build more housing to accommodate their growing community.”
Congressman Pete Stauber expressed in a separate release, “Back in the 1950s, the Secretary of Agriculture wrongly claimed land belonging to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Today, I was proud to help advance legislation that would right this wrong. This legislation is a win-win for everyone involved as it would not only return ownership of the land back to the Band, but it will also help continue the safe delivery of power.”
Sen. Smith and Rep. McCollum said in a release they want to acknowledge the amount and effort that went into the passage. “I want to recognize the decades of work that Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe put into making this possible,” said Sen. Smith. “This historic win belongs to them and future generations who will benefit.” Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was also an original co-sponsor of the bill.
Leech Lake Tribal Chairman Faron Jackson, Sr. commented saying this is a win for Tribal rights. “Passage of this bill helps restore a sense of justice that generations of Leech Lakers have worked to achieve. Our entire community rejoices today, and we again thank Senator Smith, Rep. McCollum and everyone that helped make this day a reality.”
This story was originally posted on Dec. 4, 2020 and was updated on Dec. 9 with video.