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.
Read more at the Omaha World-Herald
The Winnebago tribe owns 30,000 acres of fertile land in northeast Nebraska. Growing up on the reservation there, Aaron Lapointe noticed the tribe leased most of it to non-Native farmers. With an eye toward reclaiming that land, he enrolled in the college of agriculture and natural resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and landed an internship at Ho-Chunk Farms — one of many for-profit companies the Winnebago tribe owns. When he graduated in 2016, Lapointe knew he wanted to return. Today, he runs the company. He has expanded the operation to 6,200 acres and incorporated cover-cropping, no-till, and other regenerative practices. “One of our main goals is to maintain the fertility of our tribal soils,” says Lapointe. “And not only maintain, but build them to make sure that our land is still going to be here for generations to come.”
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