Work toward federal recognition of a Michigan tribe continues despite a new update last month.
The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians applauded the Michigan Senate for the recent approve a resolution urging the US Department of the Interior to allow the tribe’s petition.
Introduced by Sen. Mark Huizenga, R-Walker, Senate Resolution 151 calls on the department to pursue the tribe’s request for federal recognition so that members receive rights to health care, housing and assistance education and other resources provided to federally recognized tribes. .
“We are grateful to Senator Huizenga for supporting our tribe and honoring our deep roots here in West Michigan,” said Ron Yob, president of the Grand River Bands.
The tribe’s history dates back hundreds of years as 19 Ottawa bands originally lived along the Grand River and other waterways in southwestern Michigan. Treaties recognizing the tribe’s ancestral lands were signed in 1821 and 1836, and these areas are still sacred to the tribe today.
Other treaties with tribal participation include the Treaty of Greenville of 1795, the Treaty of Detroit of 1807, and the Treaty of Detroit of 1855.
Today, most members of the Grand River bands reside in Kent, Muskegon, and Oceana counties.
Despite Michigan’s statehood recognition and despite other treaties and agreements with the federal government, the tribe said it has been advocating for federal recognition for nearly 30 years.
The petition remains under Home Office review with no change in status since 2013. The petition was awaiting final review, which is the last step in the process, before the COVID-19 pandemic caused a delay.
The Michigan Senate’s new request comes after Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids, introduced a similar resolution in the Michigan House of Representatives encouraging approval of the Grand River Bands petition.
The delays with the decision created complications beyond the tribe’s own operations within the West Michigan community.
On June 15, Governor Gretchen Whitmer rejected a request from the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians to build an off-reserve casino in Fruitport – a project that had been underway since 2008. The reason she turned down the proposal had to do with the bands of GrandRiver. pending recognition and the future possibility for the tribe to open their own casino in the general area.
“I am unable to endorse the Little River Band’s two-part decision due to the remaining uncertainty created by the Grand River Bands’ pending recognition petition,” Whitmer said in June.
The Home Office granted Whitmer a six-month extension after initially asking for her decision by December 2021. Whitmer noted her “impossible position” on the matter as she awaited the ministry’s own decision on the Grand River bands.
While the casino’s rejection was a blow to the Little River Band, the Grand River Bands released a statement in support of Whitmer’s decision.
“We commend Governor Whitmer for her thoughtfulness and for exercising due diligence in making this important decision,” Yob said.
“With this decision now made, the Grand River Bands will finalize our federal recognition with the potential to pursue economic development activities in the Muskegon area.”
The Interior Ministry announced in April that it would issue a decision on recognizing the tribe by October 15.