SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) announced Tuesday that she had introduced a bill to the Senate that would transfer a portion of land to the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

According to Fischer’s statement, the legislation, called the Winnebago Land Transfer Act, “would transfer approximately 1,600 acres of land back to the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska that were illegally seized in the 1970s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a proposed recreation project that was never started.” Fischer said that the Corps was wrong to “seize” this land.

The Corps condemned land on both the Nebraska and Iowa sides of the river for the project and used eminent domain to get the land. The project was never started. The reservation land in Nebraska was returned to the tribe, but the land in Iowa is still in the Corps’ jurisdiction.

“After decades of inaction, it’s time for us to make this right,” she said.

The bill is also sponsored by U.S. Senators Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). Ricketts called the seizure a case of government overreach.

“My colleagues in the Nebraska and Iowa delegations and I want to see this wrong corrected, and the land returned to the Winnebago people,” he said.

Winnebago Tribal Chairwoman Victoria Kitcheyan endorsed the bill and celebrated its significance for the Winnebago people.

“We have been waiting for this wrong to be made right,” Kitcheyan said, “and we are grateful for the leadership demonstrated by our congressional delegation. We look forward to the passage of this important legislation.”

U.S. Representative Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) introduced the House version of the bill in February. That legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Mike Flood (R-Neb.), Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Zachary Nunn (R-Iowa), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), and Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa). 

In 2017, former U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa also introduced a similar bill in the House, seeking to return the stretch of land in Woodbury and Monona Counties to the Winnebago Tribe. Local sportsmen objected to the bill at the time, fearful that they would lose access to significant hunting grounds.