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Dalton Walker
Indian Country Today

Nearly 12,000 acres taken from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in the 1940s and 1950s will be returned.

Legislation that called for the Chippewa National Forest to transfer 11,760 acres to the Interior Department to be held in trust for the northern Minnesota tribe is now law.

The House unanimously passed the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation Restoration Act in early December, and the Senate approved the bill in 2019. The measure was then presented to President Donald Trump, who had 10 days to sign or veto it.

On Wednesday, the president signed the bill into law, the tribe announced on Facebook.

"Miigwech to everyone involved in getting this historic legislation passed!" the post said.

The legislation was written by Rep. Betty McCollum and U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, both Minnesota Democrats.

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Leech Lake Chairman Faron Jackson said the measure will enable the tribe to build housing and counter issues highlighted by the pandemic.

The Leech Lake reservation was established through treaties and executive orders from 1855 to 1874.

(Previous story: Restoring the Leech Lake homelands)

In the 1940s and '50s, 11,760 acres were taken without consent from the tribe or individual allottees. The Bureau of Indian Affairs wrongly interpreted an Interior directive that led it to believe it had the authority to sell tribal land without consent, according to the tribe.

Leech Lake holds the smallest percentage of reservation land of tribes in Minnesota, and the county, state and federal government owns more than half of the original land, according to the history of Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe listed on the tribe’s website. Seventy-five percent of the national forest is within the reservation.

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Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.

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