Testimony of The Honorable Timothy V. Johnson
The Committee on Resources
In the summer of 2000, fifteen landowners in east-central Illinois received notice the Miami Indian Tribe of Oklahoma was suing them. These 15 individuals from 15 separate counties were told they were being sued because the Miami was claiming that some 2.6 million acres rightfully belonged to them under a treaty, the Treaty of Grouseland signed in 1805.
I am not opposed to the Miami Indian Tribe as a society within our great nation. I fact, I am encouraged by their stature and their ability to diversify our country and influence our future. And, I will concede that at one point in our nation's history, the Miami may have been rightful owners of the land they are now trying to reclaim. However, I do not feel they are justified in victimizing hard working landowners who live within the area I represent. Those families have owned and paid taxes on their land, in some cases for many generations. The Miami Indian Tribe alleges that the U. S. Government never properly obtained land title from them as required by the 1805 Treaty. Therein lies the dispute.
No one would argue that Native Americans were not wronged in our country's past. We would also welcome all attempts to improve the standard of living to which our Native Americans are subject. However, the landowners of east central Illinois should not pay this price.
The problem goes beyond Rex Walden and the 14 other landowners. A cloud has been cast over the titles of all property in the 2.6 million acre region. Imagine if you were thinking of locating a business in east central Illinois. Why locate in the region in question when you could locate that business, those jobs, and that tax revenue outside that region?
In closing, I want to thank you again, Chairman Hansen and the Members of the House Resources Committee for holding this hearing. This issue, while regional in scope, is of the utmost importance to the citizens of my congressional district in east central Illinois.