Illini 411: I read that the “land” of “land-grant” universities was stolen from Indigenous tribes. Is that true of Illinois?

Question courtesy of Kathryn Wilson Hatlestad, ’84 ENG

old document with a read seal 1872 Land Script Certificate (Image courtesy of UI Archives)
Question courtesy of Kathryn Wilson Hatlestad, ’84 ENG

A: Yes, unfortunately. The Morrill Act of 1862, which created the land-grant university system, gave each U.S. state an allotment of “public lands” that it could lease or sell to fund a university. All “public lands” had been taken from Indigenous tribes by European settlers or the federal government, either through wars or broken/coerced treaties. Illinois received land in Gage County, Neb. (formerly an Otoe homeland), and two counties in Minnesota: Pope (Dakota and Ojibwe) and Kandiyohi (Dakota).

Have questions about U of I history, traditions and legends?

Write to Illini 411 at The most delectable questions will be selected for publication.