Report: FBI agents delay decision on tribal recognition

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – A group of West Michigan Native Americans will have to wait until next year to find out if the federal government will recognize them as an official tribe. MiBiz reports. The decision has been delayed for 28 years.

The Grand River Bands of the Ottawa Indians are recognized as an official tribe by the state of Michigan, but not by the federal government. It consists of 500 members living in and around the counties of Kent, Muskegon and Oceana.

Federal recognition would bring benefits to the group, including access to federal programs and resources like the Indian Health Service and the use of sovereign treaty rights for things like fisheries.

The tribe first applied to the Interior Department’s Office of Federal Acknowledgment 28 years ago, in October 1994. OFA kept extending the deadline and then issued a 2020-2022 suspension because of the pandemic. The latest deadline was Oct. 12, but she gave the tribe a 120-day extension over a “proposed finding” in the petition, MiBiz reports.

The federal government’s new deadline is February 9, 2023, when it will decide whether the Grand River Bands of the Ottawa Indians should receive the benefits of formal federal recognition.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer in June did not give the green light to plans for another group, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, to set up a tribal casino near Muskegon. She blamed the fact that the Ottawa Indians’ Grand River Bands did not receive federal recognition, saying it was “critical” for her to “make an informed decision.”

The Grand River Bands of the Ottawa Indians commended Whitmer and thanked her for maintaining their potential to develop the area when recognized federally.

To be recognized by the OFA, a tribe must meet certain criteria, including having a government document, having been in existence since 1900, and composed of people descended from historic Native American tribes that are not yet federally recognized, MiBiz reported. Report: FBI agents delay decision on tribal recognition

Dais Johnston

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