The long and tortuous process for the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians to gain federal recognition — they’ve been on the “active consideration” list for nearly a decade and have been seeking recognition for 30 years — has moved one tiny step closer to happening, with the Michigan Senate writing a resolution asking the U.S. Department of the Interior to grant the tribe legal status.
The federal government’s action on this, which is expected to happen by October, will be felt in Michigan’s gambling industry. For starters, if the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians gain federal recognition, they will theoretically be able to open a casino on tribal lands and, assuming hoops and hurdles, eventually be able to become the state’s 16th online casino and sportsbook.
If the feds deny the application, then Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will no doubt be hearing from the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, who were seeking to build an off-reservation casino in Fruitport on land the Grand River Bands claim is their own. Last month, Whitmer nixed plans for the Little River Band, citing the federal government’s inaction on the Grand River Bands issue.
Meanwhile, Senate Resolution 151, which was introduced by state Sen. Mark Huizenga, says, in part, “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.”
“We are thankful to Sen. Huizenga for supporting our tribe and honoring our deep roots here in West Michigan,” Ron Yob, chairman of the Grand River Bands, said in a Michigan Advance article. “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.”
Last winter, a resolution stating much of the same was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives by state Rep. David LaGrand, according to the Advance.