Missouri River in Cass County. (Courtesy of the Nebraska State Patrol)
LINCOLN — The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska stands to receive 1,600 acres of land that was taken a half century ago for a recreation area that never materialized.
The land, on the Iowa side of the Missouri River, would be returned under a bill introduced recently in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer and her fellow Iowa and Nebraska senators — Pete Ricketts, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst.
The chairman of the Winnebago Tribe, Victoria Kitcheyan, said the return will be a “historic and beautiful moment” for her tribe, whose reservation is located north of Omaha.
“We have been waiting for this wrong to be made right,” Kitcheyan said in a press release that expressed thanks to the Nebraska and Iowa senators.
The land was taken via eminent domain in 1970s as part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers effort to stabilize the banks of the Missouri River and to establish a recreation area.
A portion of the property on the Nebraska side of the river was eventually returned to the Winnebago Tribe, but two tracts of land on the Iowa side of the river remain under Corps control.
Fischer said it was wrong for the Corps to seize the land back in 1970 and “it’s time to make this right.”
The land is managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources as wildlife areas. In a recent management renewal agreement with the Army Corps, it was anticipated that the property would be returned to the tribe.
Messages left with the Winnebago Tribe to inquire about future plans for the land were not immediately returned Thursday.
A press release from Fischer’s office says the Bureau of Indian Affairs will hold the land in trust for the tribe.
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