Native News

U of M remains committed to transfer land back to Fond Du Lac band despite legislative stall

A sign for a reservation
The boundary of the Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa along Hwy 210 near Cloquet.
Melissa Olson | MPR News

The University of Minnesota says it remains committed to returning land to the Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Ojibwe despite not receiving the necessary support from the state Legislature in the waning days of the session.

A bill introduced by Rep. Alicia Kozlowski (DFL-Duluth) earlier in the session would have transferred the title for approximately 400 acres of land from the state to the University of Minnesota, which had already outlined a plan to return the land to Fond du Lac. The land is the site of the U’s research facility, the Cloquet Forestry Center. The bill would also have pre-paid previously issued state bonds used for capital projects at the center.

That bill was tabled in March. However, some of its language ended up in the large bonding bill introduced an hour before the end of the session, which did not receive a vote. Approval of that language was a necessary step in the U of M’s plan to return all 3,400 acres to the Fond du Lac Band.

Wednesday, University of Minnesota Senior Director of Public Relations Jake Ricker re-stated the university’s support for return of the land.

“Returning the land is the right thing to do and we will continue working with Fond du Lac Band leaders toward our mutual goals of returning this land to the care of the Fond du Lac while also collaborating on important education, research and community outreach programs,” wrote Ricker. 

The return of land to Fond du Lac was one of several measures before lawmakers which proposed returning land to tribal nations in Minnesota. Those bills, which included returning state lands around Upper Red Lake to Red Lake Nation and transferring land within the White Earth State Forest to White Earth Nation, were tabled earlier in the session. 

The Legislature did pass a provision in the environment and natural resources bill transferring 18 acres of land to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. The parcel is within the Band’s north-central reservation.

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