Thursday, November 25, 2021

Pass the Prairie Island Indian Community Land Claim Settlement Act

I picked up last Sunday's Pioneer Press several days late, and in it I found a lengthy reprinted New York Times story about a Minnesota topic. The headline as the PiPress ran it was "Flooding, nuclear waste endanger tribes ancestral land." The deck was "Prairie Island Indian Community seeks to preserve its future by putting acreage 35 miles away into a trust."

While I've long known there is a nuclear power plant adjacent to the Prairie Island reservation, and that spent nuclear fuel is stored there "temporarily," and that it's controversial, there were other facts in this story that I didn't know and that I have not seen reported in local media, including that:

  • Flooding, caused by a lock and dam installed by the Army Corps of Engineers just south of the reservation, substantially decreases the usable land.
  • The increasing amount of nuclear waste, with no plan for removing it as was promised, was foreseen by a judge who tried to prevent it from happening. 
  • The tribe has purchased 1,200 acres of land south of Zumbrota that it wants to place in trust. That would give them civil regulatory control. In exchange, they would give up the right to sue the government for the flooding caused by the dam. Essentially, it would give them a second sovereign area for their reservation not in the shadow of a nuclear power plant and not subject to flooding from the Mississippi.
  • Minnesota Rep. Angie Craig introduced the Prairie Island Indian Community Land Claim Settlement Act in the House of Representatives in 2019. It would put the land into trust as the tribe wants, but the bill has seen no action.

The House bill doesn't appear to have a Senate companion yet.

Why did it take the New York Times to report this? I'm glad the Pioneer Press reprinted it, but the Star Tribune, with its much larger circulation, did not.


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