Published October 11, 2019
PRAIRIE ISLAND, Minn. — The Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, which is comprised of representation from Minnesota’s federally recognized tribal nations, passed a resolution of support for the Prairie Island Indian Community’s effort to obtain federal legislation to settle the Tribe’s claims against the federal government. The claims relate to the federal government’s failure to protect the Tribe’s current reservation and people from ongoing threats from nearby operation of a nuclear power plant where dangerous nuclear waste is stored and from persistent flooding from a federal dam project.
“The federal government put our people in this dangerous and untenable position; it is the federal government’s responsibility to address the harm it has caused,” said President Buck. “The Army Corps of Engineers flooded our lands when it built Lock and Dam No. 3 just down the river from our reservation; and then the federal government later licensed a nuclear power plant and nuclear waste storage site just 600 yards from our homes, government offices and tribal businesses. The federal government’s actions have resulted in an unconscionable threat to our families and our very existence. Federal action to make this right is long overdue.”
Rather than suing for a financial settlement, the Tribe is asking Congress for a land settlement. Specifically, the Tribe wants to be compensated by having land from historic territory near Rochester, Minnesota, known as Elk Run, added to its reservation in the same status as its current reservation to provide a safe alternative location for its members to live and work. One of the Tribe’s former leaders, Chief Red Wing, encamped in the Elk Run area prior to European settlers moving West.
“Adding the Elk Run property to our reservation land base has deep meaning to our people,” said President Buck. “Most importantly, it provides us with a safe alternative homeland, something that is crucial to righting the historical and current wrongs committed against Prairie Island.”
MIAC’s resolution supports the Tribe’s request that Congress take action to compensate the Tribe by providing it with additional reservation land, with the same status as its current reservation, located at a safe distance from the nuclear and flooding threats. MIAC urged the members of the Minnesota Delegation to support these efforts as well. The resolution passed by a vote of 9-0, with Prairie Island abstaining. The Upper Sioux Community was the only Minnesota tribe not present.
In addition to receiving support from MIAC, Prairie Island has secured resolutions and letters of support from a number of local governments, government officials including the cities of Rochester, Pine Island, Oronoco; Goodue and Olmsted Counties; New Haven Township; State Representative Barb Haley; State Senators Dave Senjem and Michael Goggin; and, Xcel Energy.