A casino in Muskegon County, Michigan has witnessed a dispute for a long time. But, it might be resolved soon after the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) decided about the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians. It found the Native tribe's application inadequate to get the federal government's recognition.
Even so, the Grand River Bands are determined to get recognized. Unfortunately, another Native tribe is likely to get approval to build a gaming site in the same region.
The Grand River Bands' Heartbreaking News
The BIA declared its decision about the Grand River Bands on February 23, 2023, stating that it didn't fulfill the seven qualification tenets necessary for the government to recognize it. Yet, the application had substantial facts except Criterion 83.7 (b) which needs a large section of a petitioning group to feature as an independent community that has existed for many years up to now.
The criterion's Section 83.1 states that a Community is a group of people who can prove to have strong social interactions and relationships amongst themselves. Also, members should have clear differences from nonmembers. Thus, the group should have in-depth information about its culture, geography, social organization, and history.
The Grand River Bands didn't show that they have a clear distinction from several Indigenous Peoples Groups for the federal government to recognize them as a separate tribe. But they pledged to appeal BIA's decision.
Ron Yob, the Grand River Bands' chairman said that they disagreed with BIA's findings on their petition and they believe they can offer more information to prove that they are distinct. Tribal members have sought recognition for a long time. Still, the news disappointed the tribe since another tribe is also interested in Muskegon County's gaming market.
The Tribe Faces Stiff Competition for a Muskegon County Casino
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians sealed a deal with Fruitport Township for its second Michigan gaming property. Besides, the agreement's execution has been delayed due to the Grand River Bands' interest in the same land.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer failed to negotiate with the Little River Band in June 2022 about the gaming compact due to the land dispute. By then, the Grand River Bands' federal recognition was pending and Whitmer didn't want to rush approving Little River Band's casino on that land.
The Grand River Bands' appeal option will hinder the Little River Band and Whitmer from moving forward now. Besides, the construction of another Muskegon County casino is a dream as the Grand River Bands' choices reduce and they might lose hope in the BIA.
The Native Tribe Might Depend on Congress
An act of the U.S. Congress might rescue the Grand River Bands as former Senator Carl Levin introduced another tribal recognition act in 2007. Even so, the Senate's Indian Affairs Committee didn't pass it.
So, the measure lacks a guarantee to bear fruit now as Congress occasionally has such acts. The previous Congress debated 16 similar resolutions and bills. The Little River Band is likely to demand another gaming compact with Whitmer if Congress fails to support the Grand River Bands' bid.