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Michigan NewsTribe living in Michigan to benefit of recent bill supported by both...

Tribe living in Michigan to benefit of recent bill supported by both parties

Baraga, Michigan – The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community might get about $34 million from the government for land taken from them 150 years ago.

Recently, the U.S. Senate, with support from both parties, passed a bill to resolve old land disputes for the tribe in Upper Peninsula and sort out current property ownership. The bill, backed by Michigan’s Democratic Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, now awaits action in the House, led by Michigan Congressman Jack Bergman, a Republican.

Originally, the Keweenaw Bay tribe had rights to a large area in the L’Anse Reservation, promised in treaties from 1842 and 1854. However, the government took thousands of acres from them without paying.

This land was then given to Michigan by the U.S. government.

Specifically, around 2,720 acres were handed over for building the Sault Ste. Marie Canal, and an additional 2,743 acres of marshland were included.

Tribal leaders say that taking the land wrongly caused big economic losses. They lost valuable land near Lake Superior, which could have helped tribal members start businesses and grow wealth.

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The new 2023 Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Land Claim Settlement Act means the tribe will get $33.9 million as compensation for this land.

This money can be spent on things like public services, business growth, protecting natural resources, and buying more land. However, it can’t be used for gambling.

Doreen Blaker, the President of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, expressed that both the Tribal Council and the community are extremely happy about the Senate’s decision.

“We have sought relief and compensation for generations for the unlawful taking of our lands. Thanks to Sen. Peters and Sen. Stabenow we finally feel heard,” Blaker said.

Senator Peters mentioned that this bill fairly resolves the tribe’s land claims and also makes sure that current local landowners have legal rights to their properties.

People, organizations, and local governments who bought the disputed lands honestly will have their ownership rights made clear by this law.

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Peters emphasized that it’s time to correct this injustice.

Stabenow also agrees and described the bill as a much-needed fix.

If the U.S. House approves this law and President Joe Biden signs it, the tribe will get the millions of dollars through future government budgets.

The Department of Interior is expected to request this already-approved amount from Congress as part of the administration’s budget proposal. The tribe’s payment might be included in the next national budget.