The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community applied to transfer nearly 300 acres of land to tribal land this year.
The move could take $30,800 off Shakopee tax rolls and $11,700 off Prior Lake tax rolls.
Tribal Planner Nicole Hendrickson said the SMSC’s land once spanned half of the state, before several treaties broke it up and dwindled it down. Now, the tribe routinely evaluates how to accommodate its growing needs.
“They are intrinsically tied to this area,” Hendrickson said of tribal members. “A lot of their large settlements were located on the Minnesota River. A lot of ancestors were buried here.”
Transferring land into trust status allows the tribe to meet its growing needs in housing, community and economic development and environmental reservation. The transfer application — which includes 11 parcels in Shakopee and eight in Prior Lake, means the land will not just be owned by the tribe — it will be governed by it, as well.
Hendrickson said applications to transfer city land into tribal land isn’t rare; sometimes they come through as often as once a year.
“We’re always evaluating the land base and how to best provide for our people, and trust land is basically an extra administrative step we take,” she said.
Hendrickson said the SMSC plans to preserve this particular piece of land “to restore the lands that were historically taken from the tribes and further protect from similar land loss.”
Prior Lake and Shakopee each wrote routine letters in response to the Bureau of Indian Affairs regarding the SMSC’s application, which noted the property taxes that will be falling off the books in each community that will place more of a tax burden on city residents.
Shakopee has sent the letters for more than a decade, City Administrator Bill Reynolds said, ever since the city unsuccessfully went to court to curb the tribe’s trust applications.
Hendrickson said those letters are common, and the SMSC is not required to respond to them.
Neither city said the land trust applications hinder their working relationships with the tribe.
Prior Lake City Manager Jason Wedel said, “The last couple of trust applications have gone very well between the city and the SMSC, and the SMSC has been very gracious in working with us.”
“We have focused on working together on issues as opposed to divisiveness,” Reynolds said. “Prior Lake, Shakopee and Scott County have worked hard on this and it has led to many successful collaborations between all of us.”
Hendrickson said the application can take between one and two years to be approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.