Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Celebrates Major Milestone in Land Restoration Efforts

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Cass Lake, MN, June 20, 2024– The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (LLBO) is proud to announce a significant milestone in the implementation of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation Restoration Act. The Chief of the US Forest Service has signed a Decision Memo, achieving the legislative goal of transferring approximately 11,760 acres of federal land, currently managed by the Chippewa National Forest (CPF), into trust for the benefit of the LLBO.

This legislation, enacted in December 2020, is a crucial step in addressing historical injustices faced by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. These lands, wrongfully taken through illegal transfers, are now being restored after generations of effort by the LLBO. The recent development involves 345 Restoration Parcels totaling 11,778.13 acres. The next steps include the publication of legal descriptions in the Federal Register, formalizing the land transfer process.

“It is with great joy and hope for the future in our hearts that we celebrate the latest step forward in restoring a portion of the illegally transferred lands back to the Leech Lake Ojibwe. On behalf of the Band, I want to express my gratitude to the Forest Service and Tribal staff collaborating behind the scenes to move this land transfer towards completion. This is one of the most monumental and positive developments to take place on Leech Lake since the first treaties were signed and the reservation was established in 1855,” said Faron Jackson Sr., Chairman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

For over a century, the Leech Lake people have worked relentlessly to reclaim our ancestral lands. This restoration addresses critical housing needs, enhances access to wild rice beds, and restores justice to the community.

The Leech Lake Reservation, established through treaties and executive orders in the mid-1800s, was meant to be a permanent home for the Ojibwe people, who ceded millions of acres to create what is now Minnesota. However, subsequent laws, beginning with the Nelson Act of 1889 and continuing with the establishment of the Chippewa National Forest and “Secretarial Transfers” in the 1940s and 50s, resulted in significant land loss and dispossession.

The loss of these lands has had lasting effects, perpetuating historical trauma, fostering resentment towards federal agencies, and exacerbating social issues such as homelessness and overcrowding. Today, less than 5% of the treaty-guaranteed lands remain in trust.

The signing of the Decision Memo represents the culmination of decades of effort and advocacy, affirming the rights of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and restoring a vital connection to our ancestral lands. This momentous achievement marks a profound step forward in recognizing and correcting the social inequities and injustices endured by the Leech Lake people.

A commemorative ceremony to celebrate this historic land restoration will take place on July 17, 2024, beginning at 11:00 AM at the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School (15353 Silver Eagle Dr NW, Bena, MN 56626). The public is invited to attend and join in the celebration of this momentous occasion.

For detailed information about the land transfer parcels, including the Decision Memo, FAQs, and an online StoryMap, visit the Chippewa National Forest website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/chippewa

For more information on Public Law 116–255, visit: https://www.congress.gov/116/plaws/publ255/PLAW-116publ255.pdf

 

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