Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians applauds Michigan Senate for resolution on federal recognition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
DATE: Thursday, June 30, 2022

Rights to health care, housing and education assistance are among those provided to the tribe with federal recognition 

LANSING, Mich. – The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians is applauding the Michigan Senate for approving a resolution urging the U.S. Department of the Interior to approve the tribe’s petition for federal recognition. 

Introduced by Sen. Mark Huizenga, R-Walker, Senate Resolution 151 states that federal recognition is needed to provide Grand River Bands members rights to health care, housing and education assistance, as well as other resources, that are provided to federally recognized tribes. 

“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.” 

The tribe’s petition has been on the “active consideration list” since 2013, and the petition was awaiting a final review, the last step in the process, before COVID-19 caused a delay. The U.S. Department of the Interior has said it will issue a decision on the tribe’s recognition by Oct. 15. 

The Senate resolution comes after Rep. David LaGrand introduced a similar resolution in the Michigan House of Representatives encouraging the U.S. Department of the Interior to approve the Grand River Bands’ petition. 

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Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians applauds governor for decision impacting ancestral lands

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Governor’s decision leaves opportunities open for local economic development

LANSING – The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians issued the following statement after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declined to concur with the Little River Band proposal seeking to build an off-reservation casino in the Muskegon area.

“We applaud Gov. Whitmer for her thoughtfulness and for doing the appropriate due diligence to make this important decision,” said Ron Yob, chairman of the Grand River Bands. “With this decision now made, the Grand River Bands will finalize our federal recognition with the potential of pursuing economic development activities in the Muskegon area. On behalf of our hundreds of tribal members, we applaud Gov. Whitmer for issuing a nonconcurrence decision while our petition for federal recognition is still a pending matter.”

While recognized by the state of Michigan, the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians has been working to gain federal recognition for nearly three decades. Its petition for recognition has been on the “active consideration list” with the U.S. Department of the Interior since 2013 and is on the final step for being recognized.

In April, the Department of the Interior announced it would issue proposed findings on the Grand River Bands’ petition by Oct. 15.

Federal recognition would allow the Grand River Bands to access resources that are only afforded to federally recognized tribes such as tuition, health care and housing assistance.

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The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians is a native sovereign nation with agreements with the federal government dating back to 1795. The Grand River Bands originally included 19 bands of Ottawa people who lived along the Grand River and other waterways in southwest Michigan. Most of the Grand River Bands’ current membership resides in Kent, Muskegon and Oceana counties.

Sen. Hollier urges justice for Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians

Hollier urges governor to continue support of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
DATE: Friday, June 10, 2022

LANSING Michigan Sen. Adam Hollier has joined other state and U.S. lawmakers urging support for the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians and in its petition for federal recognition.  

In a letter, Hollier, a Detroit Democrat who is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma, urged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to support justice for the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians. 

“I would respectfully request you support the efforts of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians for federal recognition and protect their ancestral homelands,” Hollier wrote. “My own tribe serves as a reminder of the injustices the federal government has inflicted on Indian people.”  

In the 1830s, the Muscogee Creek people, over 14,000 of Hollier’s ancestors, were forcibly removed from their homelands in what is known as the Trail of Tears. Thousands of Native American people lost their lives as they were forced westward. The effort was supported by Lewis Cass, then governor of the Michigan Territory.  

While recognized by the state of Michigan, the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians has been working to gain federal recognition for nearly three decades. While on its last step to gaining federal recognition, the petition was further delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of the Interior announced earlier this year that it will issue its “proposed findings” on the Grand River Bands’ petition by Oct. 12. 

“On behalf of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians, we thank State Sen. Hollier for his support and applaud him for adding his voice to the long list of state and federal leaders calling for federal recognition for our tribe, which is long overdue,” said Ron Yob, chairman of the Grand River Bands. 

Federal recognition would allow the Grand River Bands to access resources that are only afforded to federally recognized tribes such as tuition, health care and housing assistance. The Grand River Bands have also launched digital ads and billboards in the Lansing area as part of the campaign. 

The full text of the letter is available here. 

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The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians is a native sovereign nation with agreements with the federal government dating back to 1795. The Grand River Bands originally included 19 bands of Ottawa people who lived along the Grand River and other waterways in southwest Michigan. Most of the Grand River Bands’ current membership residents in Kent, Muskegon and Oceana counties. 

Dismay and delay: Internal documents reveal Grand River Bands meets all federal criteria to achieve recognition

Tribal chairman urges immediate recognition of tribe after sworn affidavit shows federal officials voted to recognize tribe in 2016, but failed to act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: Wednesday, June 1, 2022

LANSING – Blockbuster internal documents prove the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians have met the criteria for federal recognition, and a leading federal historian called the delay of recognition “unconscionable.”

An affidavit from Aldo Salerno, longtime historian at the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Federal Acknowledgement. proves the tribe has met all seven criteria for federal recognition. Salerno was the head editor and historian on the Grand River Bands’ petition for federal recognition and the affidavit shows a favorable internal vote to recognize the tribe happened in late 2016.

Salerno blasted the inaction by federal officials in light of overwhelming evidence that the Grand River Bands should be recognized.

“Such a delay is unconscionable and intolerable,” Salerno wrote. “Therefore, I believe, based on abundant evidence, that the department should immediately issue a positive proposed finding and recognize the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians as an Indian tribe as quickly as required – within one year – under the 1994 regulations.”

Salerno was a historian for Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Federal Acknowledgment (OFA) from June 2001 to October 2017 and was head editor and historian for the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians petition from 2012 to 2017.

Key points from the affidavit include:

  • Based on his experience and research, Salerno concluded the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians met the requirements for federal acknowledgment as an Indian tribe.
  • In late 2016, the OFA team, consisting of five staff members (including Salerno), completed five full years of research as well as site visits and interviews, and produced 275 pages of analysis for the proposed finding, which underwent extensive review including three full drafts and two peer reviews.
  • The proposed finding was supported by a two-thirds majority of the OFA, including current Director Lee Fleming. It concluded the Grand River Bands met all seven of the required criteria under the 1994 federal acknowledgment regulations to be recognized. The completed proposed finding has sat dormant in the department for nearly six years.
  • Salerno concluded, “…the evidence for political authority shows the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians have been one of the most important Indian political groups in the state of Michigan since the treaty period.”

“Mr. Salerno and these blockbuster internal documents have only confirmed what we’ve known all along — that our tribe clearly meets the criteria for federal recognition, and yet we have been held back by politics and bureaucracy,” said Ron Yob, chairman of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians. “I’m grateful he has brought this important issue to light and join his call urging the Department of the Interior to issue an immediate decision on our recognition status.”

The Grand River Bands has been under active consideration for federal recognition for nearly a decade, longer than any tribe has waited for a decision, Salerno said.

Salerno’s team found three key points that support the Grand River Bands’ federal recognition:

  • 92 percent of the tribe’s membership demonstrated descent from historical Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians listed on the 1908-1910 Durant Roll (NOTE: The Durant Roll was a census roll of all members or descendants of members who were on the roll of the Ottawa and Chippewa Tribes of Michigan in 1870, and were living on March 4, 1907;
  • External observers continuously identified the Grand River Bands as an Indian tribe since the 1870s, and;
  • The tribe had previous unambiguous Federal acknowledgment in the 1870s.

The Grand River Bands also released a letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior stating it will issue a decision on the tribe’s petition by Oct. 12, 2022, following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions that paused the federal recognition process.

“We thank Sec. Deb Haaland for putting our petition back on active consideration,” Yob said. “If it were not for the COVID-19 pandemic, our tribe would have been recognized long ago, providing long overdue benefits to our tribal members that are afforded to federally recognized tribes.”

Yob also thanks Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and members of the Michigan Congressional delegation who have been relentless advocates in urging the department to issue a decision.

The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians is state recognized tribe and has been “active consideration list” with the U.S. Department of the Interior since 2013. While on its last step for being recognized, the petition was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal recognition would allow the Grand River Bands to access resources that are only afforded to federally recognized tribes such as tuition, health care and housing assistance.

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The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians is a native sovereign nation with agreements with the federal government dating back to 1795. The Grand River Bands originally included 19 bands of Ottawa people who lived along the Grand River and other waterways in southwest Michigan. Most of the Grand River Bands’ current membership residents in Kent, Muskegon and Oceana counties.