Senator Walker holds a notepad and speaks into a microphone while on the Senate floor.SPRINGFIELD — Taking a significant step toward correcting a historic wrong, legislation that would return ancestral lands to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation cleared the Senate on Sunday. The initiative, led by State Senator Mark Walker, would transfer state-owned lands comprising Shabbona Lake and State Park in DeKalb County to the tribe.

“This is an opportunity to right a past injustice and honor the sovereignty of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation,” said Walker (D-Arlington Heights). “By supporting the creation of the tribe’s reservation, we are making strides toward reconciliation while fostering a partnership with Indigenous communities.”

Senate Bill 867 would authorize the state to transfer approximately 1,500 acres of land that is now Shabbona Lake and State Park to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources would enter into a land-management agreement with the Potawatomi regarding how the park would be managed in the future.

In 1829, the federal government gave the Potawatomi much of the land of what is now Shabbona Lake. However, the land was illegally sold in 1849. Illinois later purchased the land with federal grant funds in the 1970s to establish the state park. The Potawatomi, which are now headquartered in Kansas, have spent the last 20 years trying to reestablish roots on the Illinois land it once owned.

“Illinois has a rich, but complicated, history with Native American tribes, and it’s our obligation to acknowledge and take action to correct the wrongs of the past,” said Walker. “Illinoisans will still have access to state parks and residents will not lose their private property — this is simply returning land to its rightful owners.”

Senate Bill 867 heads to the House for further consideration.