Winnebago Tribe sees progress in having Northwest Iowa land returned

SIOUX CITY — U.S. senators from Iowa and Nebraska are backing federal legislation that would return land in northwest Iowa to the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. In 1970, the federal government took 16-hundred acres from the tribe using the power of eminent domain.

The plan was to use the ground along the Missouri River in Woodbury and Monona counties for a recreation area, but it was never built.

“Land is very important to us. We are stewards of the land. That’s something that we always try to take care of our Mother Earth,” according to Garan Coons, communications director for the Winnebago Tribe. Coons says they won a legal fight in the ’70s to get the land back, but it required an act of Congress to complete the process.

Tribal officials have been making a direct appeal to lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to push for passage of the legislation.

Coons says, “They’re just knocking on doors out there and trying to kind of tell him how important this is and what it means for the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.”

A bill co-sponsored by Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, along with the two senators from Nebraska, would return the land to the tribe.

“A long time coming and I’m just glad in my lifetime, we get to see it,” Coons says, “and we’re one step closer to getting that land back for the Winnebago Tribe.” Coons says so far, there are no plans to develop the land, which is currently overseen by the Iowa DNR.

In a Radio Iowa interview, Senator Grassley said last week the bill is “non-controversial” and he expects it to pass.