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Hastert says tribe has no claim to land in Shabbona

Speaker of the House Denny Hastert speaks to the Daily Chronicle editorial board Wednesday in DeKalb. Chronicle photo SAM CHOLKE
Speaker of the House Denny Hastert speaks to the Daily Chronicle editorial board Wednesday in DeKalb. Chronicle photo SAM CHOLKE

DeKALB - Speaker of the House Denny Hastert said Wednesday that an American Indian tribe interested in building a bingo parlor near Shabbona has no official standing in Illinois and never will. &#8220There's no legal standing for them to do that,” he said during a meeting with the Chronicle's editorial board. &#8220By the law, they can't get recognized.” As part of an 1829 treaty, the U.S. government gave the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation 1,280 acres near Shabbona. The now-Mayetta, Kan.-based tribe has pointed to a 2001 Department of Interior ruling that it still has &#8220credible” claim to that land as proof that the land remains in reservation. But Hastert referred to a deed purporting to show the sale of the land by the tribe's Chief Shabbona in the 1840s to white settlers. &#8220There's no treaty,” Hastert said. &#8220That land was sold. It was sold for $1,200 in 1842 or something like that, and there's a deed.” In a statement Thursday, Prairie Band Chairwoman Tracy Stanhoff said, &#8220The tribe respectively disagrees with House Speaker Hastert. The deed to which he refers to was an attempt to document an unlawful and unfounded transaction of the land. ... The status of the tribe's land as a reservation is beyond question and has not changed.” The deed in question reportedly shows that Chief Shabbona - the village's namesake - sold the land to the Gates family. The importance of that deed is far from clear. State Sen. Brad Burzynski said his office has a near-illegible copy of an &#8220indenture” that appears to show Shabbona sold the land to white settlers. And according to the 1868 &#8220History of DeKalb County, Illinois,” by Henry Boies, the land's buyers found out in 1848 that Shabbona never had the authority to sell the land, and that it therefore reverted to government control because Shabbona had since abandoned it. In April, the tribe purchased 128 acres in the original reservation area for $8.8 million and began working with county officials on an agreement that would allow them to build a bingo parlor on the site. The county cut off negotiations earlier this month amid questions about whether it can enter an intergovernmental agreement with an entity whose status as a governmental body is in question. The county's decision came after a letter issued by an Interior Department official on Sept. 22 raised questions in the minds of county officials about the tribe's legal status in Illinois. Hastert's comments Wednesday on the tribe's bingo plan are starker than ones he made last month, after the Department of Interior letter was issued. At that time, he said in a statement that &#8220Residents of Shabbona should be reassured that any plans to bring Indian gaming to their community are a long way from becoming reality. The Department of the Interior has a thorough process in place to review such claims, and the tribe has yet to begin that process.” But on Wednesday, Hastert claimed the tribe will &#8220absolutely not” ever have any right to open a bingo parlor on the land. Chris Rickert can be reached at crickert@daily-chronicle.com.

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