Decision On Federal Recognition For Grand River Bands Of Ottawa Indians Delayed 120 Days

Written By Drew Ellis on October 13, 2022

The ongoing saga for a potential new casino to be built in Fruitport Township has been extended even longer.

An Oct. 12 deadline for the federal government to recognize the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians as a tribe was extended by 120 days by the Department of Interior this past week.

This anticipated decision from the DOI is what led to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer not granting an off-reservation casino to the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in June.

Now, all parties will continue to wait for another four months before being able to close the book on this dilemma.

DOI delays federal decision on Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians

According to a letter sent to the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians dated Oct. 4, the DOI informed the tribe that it would be delaying the decision on whether to acknowledge them federally by 120 days from the Oct. 12 deadline.

The letter states that the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs found good cause to extend the decision further. The extension will “allow the department time to complete its review of the petition and issue a PF (proposed finding) under applicable regulations.”

This extension is just one of many that the Grand River Bands has experienced. They have been seeking federal recognition since 1994.

Federal recognition can provide the tribe with health care, housing and education assistance programs not currently provided to their members.

The 120-day extension would push the deadline for a decision to Feb. 9, 2023.

How decision impacts Michigan’s casino industry

This news doesn’t do much for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

Their plan to build a Little River Casino in Fruitport Township was rejected by Whitmer in June. She cited being put in an “impossible position.” Whitmer felt she couldn’t grant the project to Little River while the DOI contemplated its decision.

She had asked the DOI for an expedited decision on the federal recognition. That was in order to help make her decision, but the DOI declined.

The Grand River Bands claims the property Little River proposed for its new casino was part of its ancestral homelands. Should they earn federal recognition, they would have the right to build their own casino on those lands or in a neighboring area.

What’s next for Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians?

Unfortunately, what’s next is more waiting.

No further steps toward a new casino can be taken until the DOI makes its decision regarding Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians.

Should they ultimately approve, Grand River Bands could begin the process of establishing its own casino.

Should the DOI decline Grand River Bands, it opens the door for Little River to revisit its request for building a new casino in Fruitport Township.

Grand River Bands has already experienced delay after delay in this matter. Don’t be surprised if a decision is not official by the new Feb. 9, 2023 deadline.

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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis is currently the Lead Writer of He was the former Lead Writer of PlayMichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. A lifelong resident of the state, Ellis has been working in various forms of media since 1998, including more than a decade in the sports betting industry prior to transitioning into US casino markets in 2020.

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