Advance Notice: Briefs

West Michigan tribe applauds Senate resolution

By: - June 30, 2022 1:16 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Tribal officials are applauding a Michigan Senate resolution urging the U.S. Department of the Interior to approve a petition by the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians (GRB) for federal recognition.

Senate Resolution 151, introduced by state Sen. Mark Huizenga (R-Walker), notes that the GRB has been seeking federal recognition for three decades and that the request has been on the “active consideration” list since 2013.

“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,” states the resolution, which was approved by the Senate on June 23.

“We are thankful to Sen. Huizenga for supporting our tribe and honoring our deep roots here in West Michigan,” said Ron Yob, chairman of the Grand River Bands. “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.”

A similar resolution was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives last March by State Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids).

The petition’s final review, which is the last step in the process, was delayed by COVID-19. However, the U.S. Department of the Interior has said it will issue a decision on the tribe’s recognition by Oct. 15.

In May, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked the federal government to promptly decide the federal status of the GRB so that she could make a better informed decision on whether to grant a request by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians for a casino in Muskegon County. The GRB strongly opposed the casino plan as it said it would intrude on its treaty lands.

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians originally descended from GRB village in what’s now West Michigan.

However, earlier this month Whitmer denied the casino request saying had been placed in an “impossible position” by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The GRB originally encompassed 19 Ottawa bands and now has about 600 enrolled members. It is based along waterways including the Grand River in present-day West Michigan. Most tribal citizens reside in Kent, Oceana and Muskegon counties.

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.