In a predictable development, the Dept. of Interior has once again extended its decision on whether or not to grant federal recognition to the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians.
Facing a Feb. 9 deadline from its latest extension, the DOI extended its decision yet again, by two weeks, to Feb. 23.
The DOI decision is holding up an ongoing saga for a potential new retail casino to be built in the Fruitport Township area.
Decision on recognition of Grand River Bands delayed until Feb. 23
Back in October, the DOI faced a deadline for a decision to recognize the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians as a federal tribe. At that time the DOI pushed their decision back 120 days.
The DOI has requested at least nine extensions on the decision since 2017, citing “administrative issues.” Should the DOI ultimately reject the request, the tribe plans on appealing the decision.
“We’re confident that we have submitted everything that we need to submit and checked every box we had to check,” Grand River Bands Ogema Ron Yob told FOX 17 in West Michigan. “I hope we finally get a decision because positive or negative. If it’s negative then we got something to counter with, but positive, of course we’d love that. We’re ready either way.”
The Grand River Bands has 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.
New Michigan retail casino depends on outcome
This DOI decision is important as it not only impacts the Grand River Bands, but the Littler River Band of Ottawa Indians, as well.
Little River had a plan to build a Little River Casino in Fruitport Township that was ultimately rejected by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in June.
Whitmer cited being put in an “impossible position,” as the reason for the rejection. Whitmer felt she couldn’t grant the project to Little River while the DOI contemplated its decision on the Grand River Bands.
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.
Whitmer 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.
What’s next for Grand River and Little River?
The waiting game continues for all parties involved.
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.
Given the ongoing trend of delaying its decision, don’t be surprised if the DOI again extends its decision past this latest Feb. 23 deadline.