Plan in Place to Transfer Over 11,000 Acres Back to Leech Lake Band
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Chippewa National Forest have come together to create a plan of survey for a reservation restoration act that will transfer over 11,000 acres of land to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
In the 1940s and ’50s, land belonging to the Leech Lake Band was inappropriately sold in Cass, Hubbard, and Beltrami Counties.
“It was land that was wrongfully taken through the [Bureau of Indian Affairs], Chippewa National Forest back in the ’40s and ’50s, and it stayed that way for some time,” said Faron Jackson, Sr., Leech Lake Tribal Chairman. “And we wanted it returned, and they acknowledged that the land was wrongfully taken but we still had to lobby constantly to pass it into law.”
The act was passed in December of 2020 with a 180-day deadline to create a plan for surveying that land in Cass County specifically.
“One of the important things about the act is it developed a timeline for us as the Department of Agriculture to transfer 11,760 acres to the Department of the Interior to be held in trust for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe,” said Michael Stansberry, forest supervisor for Chippewa National Forest.
That deadline was met in June of this year, and now the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe will work with Chippewa National Forest to agree on the parcels that will be used.
The land represents a lot to the people who fought for so long to have it restored.
“There’s cultural connection to a lot of different property that a lot of people have been kind of disconnected to through this, and so outside of economic opportunity or housing opportunity, needing land for things, people have this direct access and direct connection back culturally to the land,” said LeRoy Staples-Fairbanks, Leech Lake Band District Three Representative.
The Chippewa National Forest encompasses over 1.5 million acres.