What conclusions can be drawn from the entirety of this research?
First, On the basis of the maps depicted in Section I of this Report, the tribe’s basic legal claim of un-extinguished title to the lands in Shabbona are negated. The lands at Shabbona’s Grove were not part of those lands within the tribal boundaries so agreed upon for the Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Chippewa by the tribes participating in the August 19, 1825 Treaty with the Sioux and Chippewa, Sacs, Fox, Menominie, Ioway, Sioux, Winnebago, and a portion of the Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawattomie Tribes. Therefore the lands at Shabbona’s Grove did not have a “treaty-recognized title”.
Second, there is no historical evidence to back Shabenay’s claim to being “Shobonier” the Ottawa village head man. Prior to1841 Shabenay never made such a claim nor did he exhibit any knowledge of having any lands or a village in Indiana/Illinois border region. He was not the individual whom Solon Robinson, testified about in 1837 nor was he the person who received two sections of land at his village near the Indiana/Illinois border in the October 20, 1832 Tippecanoe River Potawatomi Treaty. Shabenay appeared to have assumed Shobonier’s identity in order to gain access to $1,600.00 due to Shobonier or his heirs in payment of his cession of lands at his village.
Third, both the War Department and later, the Department of the Interior consistently opined that neither Shabenay nor his band had any vested title, or alienation rights to the lands at Shabbona’s Grove. As the chain of historical evidence maintains, Shabenay, the village okama, and his band, held only corporate usufructory privileges to the 1,280 acres of land at Shabbona’s Grove. Indeed the President’s tacit concurrence can be seen in the November 18, 1845 letter cited in this report.
In addition to the consistency of opinion maintained over the span of twenty years, not once did Congress or the Justice Department or the President contest or disagree with the Department of the Interior’s opinions and conclusions in regard to Shabenay, his band, and the nature of their land-holding at Shabbona’s Grove.
Fourth, Shabenay and his band did not reside on a federal reservation at Shabbona’s Grove as a result of the July 29, 1829 Prairie du Chien treaty; neither Shabenay nor his band held any fee title interest to the lands there. The lands described in the second cession area within this treaty were jointly utilized by the Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi.
Fifth, the lands at Shabbona’s Grove were abandoned by Shabenay’s band, the corporate usufruct right holders. The 1829 Prairie du Chien treaty did not bestow any usufructory rights to the lands at Shabbona’s Grove upon an individual, but as stated in Article three of the Treaty it did upon a corporate body, “the Chiefs and their bands.” Shabenay never held any personal rights to the lands at Shabbona, that fact was made abundantly clear in the many documentary source statements made by the Office and Commissioners of Indian Affairs. When the corporate body left the Grove via the removal stipulations stated in “Article 2d” of the September 26, 1833 treaty at Chicago as ratified by the Senate and the President on February 21, 1835, in September of 1837, the bands usufructory rights ceased. Abandonment had occurred. Added to this action were the disenfranchisement of Shabenay as a band okama by his tribe in Missouri and the later political dissolution of bands as politically autonomous units under the June 5, 1846 treaty of Council Bluffs. When Shabenay returned to the Grove, he did so not in any tribal leadership capacity, as he was no longer a band okama. He, as an individual, had no personal usufructory rights to the Shabbona lands. His failure to have a reservation established or to obtain a fee-hold to the Grove established in his name, via the stricken Article 5 of the 1833 Chicago treaty, clearly identified the land’s status as not being an established reservation under his personal control or ownership. The fact that a survey establishing the bounds of the Grove lands was not conducted until December 1842, thirteen years after the July 29, 1829 treaty at Prairie du Chien and five years after the band’s departure for Missouri, further supports this conclusion. If there were no established boundaries how could land be set aside for a tribal reservation?
Sixth, it is clear from the historical record that neither Shabenay nor his band held title to the lands at Shabbona’s Grove. If this were
the case why did he attempt to gain title via the 1833 Chicago treaty? We also have shown that no title was derived from the 1825 Prairie du Chien treaty, given that Shabenay’s village was located outside the established boundaries of the agreed upon Chippewa. Ottawa, and Potawatomi tribal lands.
Seventh, the 1846 cession would have included any residual usufructory rights, if any, remaining on the lands at Shabbona’s Grove.
Shabbona’s Grove was sold at public auction in 1850 and it was so done with the direct approval of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the Commissioner of the General Land Office and with the tacit approval of the land’s status from President Polk. If nothing else is demonstrated here, the War Department and the Department of the Interior were steadfastly consistent in their opinions pertaining to Shabbona’s Grove. The band held only usufructory rights,and when in 1836 the Indian Removal Agent told Shabenay and his band it was time to abandon the Grove and go west, they did. This aptly demonstrated that they were tenants at will of the Federal Government which was as many of the Commissioners acknowledged in their correspondence the holder of the fee title to the lands at Shabbona’s Grove. When the lands were declared abandoned, they as the other Government lands in Illinois were declared available for sale, and were subsequently sold at auction.
Historically, was there a reservation at Shabbona’s Grove? No. Did the historic Potawatomi tribe ever hold a “treaty-recognized title” to the lands at Shabbona’s Grove? No. Did Shabenay’s band hold any right other than usufructory privileges to the lands at Shabbona’s Grove? No. Does the present-day Prairie Band of Potawatomi hold their fee-owned lands at Shabbona as “Indian land” as defined by either the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the National Indian Gaming Commission? No.
In closing, during arguments presented to the Indian Claims Commission in November of 1962 concerning the lands reserved in the July 29, 1829 treaty at Prairie du Chien with the “United nations of Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatamie” the Potawatomi tribal Plaintiffs denied that these lands, including Shabenay’s Grove, were not established federal tribal reservations, but instead,
further allege that the grants to individuals under the 1829 Treaty were made in order to induce them and persons over whom they had influence to subscribe their marks to the treaty and therefore were not made for the benefit of the United Nations et al. but to its detriment and the said grants should be charged to the United States for whose benefit they were allegedly made.
James P. Lynch Date
Historical Consulting and Research Services LLC.
 11 Ind. Cl. Comm 693, Before the Indian Claims Commission: Citizen Band of Potawatomi Indians of
Oklahoma and The Prairie Band of Potawatomi Tribe of Indians, ET AL…v. The United States of
America. Decided: November 29, 1962.