Land taken from Leech Lake decades ago soon to be returned

CASS LAKE, Minn. (AP) — The federal government will soon return nearly 12,000 acres of land in northern Minnesota it wrongfully took from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe decades ago.

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs thought it had the power to sell tribal tracts without the consent of the majority of the owners, a misinterpretation of an Interior Department order back in 1948.

Tribal District 3 Representative LeRoy Staples Fairbanks III said he asked his staff to begin looking into the issue in 2012 after hearing from community members for many years.

Then-President Donald Trump signed legislation in December 2020 allowing for the return of the land.