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Government to return 12,000 acres to Leech Lake Ojibwe

Documents show the government illegally seized the land from the tribe more than 70 years ago.
Credit: KARE
Stock Image - KARE

A bill recently passed by Congress and headed to President Donald Trump’s desk for a signature will return nearly 12,000 acres of land in the Chippewa National Forest to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. 

Documents show the government illegally seized the land from the tribe more than 70 years ago. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who sponsored the legislation in the House, says the Dec. 3 vote to pass the bill was an opportunity to right a wrong. 

The bill previously passed the U.S. Senate unanimously in June 2019. It was co-sponsored by McCollum and Sen. Tina Smith. 

The band’s original reservation covered nearly 600,000 acres in northern Minnesota, but federal policies passed in the late 1800s and early 1900s took about 530,000 acres out of trust status without the consent of the tribe.

"Restoring this small portion of our homelands will enable us to combat the lack of housing and related problems that have been highlighted as urgent needs by the ongoing pandemic," said Tribal Chairman Faron Jackson in a released statement. "Passage of this bill helps restore a sense of justice that generations of Leech Lakers have worked to achieve. Our entire community rejoices today."