U.S. Senate passes bill returning land to Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska

24 de Junio de 2024 a las 06:00 ·

Winnebago land near Missouri River
The Winnebago Tribe has worked to reclaim around 1600 acres of land from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after it was taken in the 1970s for a recreation project. (Garan Coons / WInnebago Tribe of Nebraska)

Listen To This Story

In 1970, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to use Winnebago land near the Missouri River for a proposed recreation project.

The project was never fully developed, but tracts of land in Nebraska and Iowa were taken through eminent domain proceedings later found to be illegal.

The Winnebago land in Nebraska was returned to the tribe, but 1600 acres on the Iowa side remains under the Corps’ jurisdiction and is maintained by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer introduced the Winnebago Land Transfer Act in the U.S. Senate to return the around 1,600 acres of land in Iowa to the Winnebago.

Similar legislation was first introduced in 2017, but was never voted on in Congress.

Fischer said she hopes the legislation will help make things right after the land was wrongfully seized.

“America is defined by our striving toward the ideals of justice and equity," she said. "Our government was established to protect these ideals and that is what we will do by passing the Winnebago Land Transfer Act.”

The bill passed the Senate unanimously and a similar bill in the House, introduced by Iowa Rep. Randy Feenstra, also passed without opposition in February.

Nebraska Sen. Pete Ricketts and both senators from Iowa cosponsored the Senate bill.

Next, the bill heads to President Joe Biden's desk where he is expected to sign it into law.

Once the land transferred back to the tribe, the Winnebago Wildlife and Parks Department plans to use it for conservation purposes.