Michigan Senate Urges DOI To Reconsider Tribal Legal Status

Michigan Senate Urges DOI To Reconsider Tribal Legal Status

Michigan lawmakers are asking the US Department of the Interior (DOI) to reconsider the legal status of the Grand River Bands of Ottowa Indians. Last month, the tribe was denied the opportunity to become the 16th Michigan online casino and sportsbook.

On June 23, the Michigan Senate published Senate Resolution 151 urging the DOI to,

“Approve the petition of the Grand River Bands of Ottowa Indians for federal acknowledgment.”

The tribe has been seeking recognition for 30 years and has been on the DOI’s “active consideration” list for nearly a decade.

Will the Senate Resolution help Michigan?

Introduced by Sen. Mark Huizenga, the resolution lays out several hardships tribal members face without legal status.

“Without federal recognition, members are denied their rights to healthcare, housing, and education assistance, among others, through resources that are provided only to federally recognized tribes.”

In response, Rob Yob, chairman of the Grand River Bands, said the tribe is thankful for lawmakers’ support.

“We are thankful to Sen. Huizenga for supporting our tribe and honoring our deep roots here in West Michigan. We are grateful to the Michigan Senate for approving this important resolution and we continue to urge federal officials to approve our petition as soon as possible.”

Michigan tribal casino implications

In June, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was forced to deny the tribe’s plan to build a casino near Fruitport Township. The reason? The DOI failed to extend its deadline to consider the tribe’s legal status.

At the time, Whitmer’s office said:

“After the U.S. Department of the Interior refused to extend a critical deadline for this decision or offer information on a separate tribal recognition decision currently pending before the Department, I am communicating my non-concurrence on the Little River Band of Ottawa Indian’s proposal to open an off-reservation casino in Fruitport Township.”

The $180 million casino would have been constructed on the former Great Lakes Downs Race Track site.

There are still several moving parts for the tribe should the DOI decide in favor of legal status. One such option is, placing the 86-acre parcel of land it owns into trust by the DOI. However, should the DOI grant legal status, the tribe must open compact negotiations with the state.

Currently, the tribal-state compact only allows the tribe to operate its Manistee casino. Regardless, there is no guarantee the DOI will approve the tribe’s request for legal status.

Author: Tyler Gutierrez