Aaron LaPointe stood before a large map on his office wall in Ho-Chunk Inc. headquarters just as harvest season got underway. The map details all 178 square miles of the Winnebago Reservation in northeast Nebraska. It also depicts a success story for the tribe.
“We have 6,400 acres this year that we farm,” LaPointe said, pointing out color-coded land plots on the map. “We’re pretty much spread out all across the reservation.”
That wasn’t always the case. For years, harmful federal policies uprooted the Winnebago people, and tribal lands often were sold or leased to White farmers at rates that were below the true value of the land.
In 2012, the Winnebago Tribe aimed to change course by developing a land-leasing policy that furthered opportunities for Native American farmers to lease tribal land. The policy shift has brought an estimated $10 million to $12 million to the tribe.