Welcoming the Potawatomi Back to Illinois

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentarySlowly but surely, the Prairie Band of the Potawatomi Nation is returning to Illinois after 175 of having been evicted from this state. In April of this year, the U.S. Department of the Interior put 130 acres of land in DeKalb County into trust for the Potawatomi and with this the Potawatomi have now been established as the only tribe in Illinois. At the same time, the Illinois State Assembly is trying to restore 1,280 acres to the Potawatomi in southern DeKalb County. Hopefully, in the fall session of the Assembly, the legislators will finally restore this amount of tribal land to the Potawatomi. Personally speaking, there has been too much delay as it is.

In 1800, there were a number of Native American people in what is now Illinois. Besides the Porawatomi, these other peoples included the Chickasaw, the Dakota Sioux, the Ho-Chunk, the Illini, the Miami, and the Shawnee. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced every Native American tribe out of Illinois. With one exception, all of these tribes were thrown out of Illinois and other eastern states to the Indian territory west of the Mississippi River. That one exception was the Potawatomi led by Chief Shab-eh-nay, who was provided with a private reservation in southern DeKalb County. But even this treaty with a Native American tribe was broken by the Illinois state and federal governments. When Chief Shab-eh-nay went to visit the Potawatomi tribe in the state of Kansas in 1849, the U.S. government illegally confiscated and auctioned off this land in southern DeKalb County.

It is this land that the Potawatomi have been trying to get back for all this time. They had appealed to the federal and Illinois state governments, had tried to appeal through the judicial system, and have written almost countless petitions to get back what had been taken away from them. Yes, there are still negotiations going on between the Potawatomi and the state of Illinois about receiving the land they had held a long time ago. But by treaty this land still belongs to them, and in my view they have been kept away from this home for too long. There is no possibility that all the wrongs of the past can be be made right. Nevertheless, perhaps we as a people and a state and nation can right some of these injustices. I say we should welcome back the Potswatomi people to Illinois and work out how to give them back the lands taken from them so long ago. After all, this is their home.

Comments are closed.