In a Historic Announcement from the U.S. Government, Illinois is Now Home to a Federally Recognized Tribal Nation

The U.S. Department of Interior placed portions of Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s northern Illinois Reservation land into trust today

DEKALB COUNTY, ILL. (April 22, 2024) — In a historic decision announced today, the U.S. Department of the Interior placed portions of the Shab-eh-nay Reservation land into trust for Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, making it the only federally recognized Tribal Nation in Illinois.

The news comes 175 years after the U.S. government illegally auctioned off 1,280 acres of Prairie Band’s Reservation land in northern Illinois when Chief Shab-eh-nay traveled from his home Reservation in what is now DeKalb County to visit his family in Kansas.

“Prairie Band has sought to continue our history as an original part of DeKalb County and right historical wrongs,” said Prairie Band Chairman Joseph Rupnick, the fourth generation great grandson of Chief Shab-eh-nay. “We have been asking for this recognition and for what is rightfully ours for nearly 200 years, and we are grateful to the U.S. Department of Interior for this significant step in the pursuit of justice for our people and ancestors.”

By placing the land into trust, the legal title is transferred to the United States, which holds it in trust for the Prairie Band. This confirms the land as an “Indian country” and solidifies jurisdictional boundaries, ensuring that the Nation can exercise sovereignty over the land.

The rightful return of this land is seen by Prairie Band as not only an acknowledgment of past wrongs, but also as a commitment to preserving and cherishing the rich history and culture of the original inhabitants of DeKalb County.

“175 years ago, our federal government unlawfully sold the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s land in Illinois,” said U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14). “In Congress, I’ve been working in partnership with the Nation to correct this historic injustice. The decision to put portions of the Shab-eh-nay Reservation into Trust is an important step to returning the land that is rightfully theirs, and I am so honored to represent the first federally-recognized reservation in Illinois.”

“I am supportive of the recent action taken by the Department of Interior to accept trust lands owned by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation within their reservation in Illinois. One hundred seventy-five years ago, the federal government illegally sold the lands reserved for their Chief Shab-eh-nay and his descendants under the 1833 Treaty of Chicago,” said U.S. Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas, where Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation is headquartered. “Today’s action is a milestone, but more remains to be done. I have co-sponsored S. 1492, the Nation’s settlement legislation, and plan to work with my colleagues to fully address this historic wrong and provide a fair settlement of all issues for the Nation and the non-Indian governments and residents of the Shah-eh-nay Reservation.”

Prairie Band has sought the least disruptive path to recovering this land for current residents and homeowners. All current homeowners will continue to retain title to their land and to live in their homes undisturbed.

The Nation will carefully evaluate potential uses for the land, but no immediate changes for usage have been decided upon.

The move to put the land into trust for Prairie Band will hopefully be the first of many steps by the U.S. government to rectify historical injustices against indigenous peoples across the country.