Grand River Continues To Fight For Federal Recognition

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The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians have been fighting tirelessly for nearly 30 years to gain tribal federal recognition. While they have been on an “active consideration” list for a decade, the tribe is still playing the waiting game until October, when a decision is intended to be made by the US Department of the Interior. 

The Grand River Bands include 19 bands of Ottawa Indians, with most members living in Kent, Muskegon, and Osceola. Federal recognition would give members of the tribe access to support services like health care, educational services, and real estate services.

The Office of Federal Acknowledgment (OFA), which falls under the US Department of the Interior’s jurisdiction, was supposed to come to a decision in April 2020. Unfortunately, the OFA suspended consideration for the tribe on the last day they were able, citing Covid-19 as the reason. It has now been over two years since the last communication from the federal government, leading to frustration among many members of the tribe. 

However, the group is one step closer to achieving the recognition they desire, thanks to the support of Pennsylvania Senators. The Pennsylvania senate submitted a resolution urging the government to approve their request.

Resolution Outline

Senate Resolution No. 151 was offered by several Pennsylvania Senators, including Huizenga, Hollier, Johnson, Victory, Brinks, Chang, Ananich, Outman, MacDonald, Irwin, VanderWall, Schmidt, Bayer, and Bizon. 

The resolution starts by explaining the tribes’ long-standing history and involvement in the state of Pennsylvania, with treaties dating back to 1795. The resolution also outlines the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians’ strong relationship with the surrounding community reflected in their active roles in social and political activities. Most notably, the Senate expresses the importance of this federal decision: 

“Without federal recognition, members are denied their rights to healthcare, housing, and education assistance, among others, through resources that are provided only to federally recognized tribes; now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate, that we urge the United States Department of Interior to approve the petition of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians for federal acknowledgment.”

What This Means for Pennsylvania Gambling Industry

If the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians gain federal approval as a tribe, they can apply for a gaming compact under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. They will be able to open a casino on their tribal lands, which will most likely lead to them starting an online casino and sportsbook as well. If this were to take effect, it would mark the 16th casino and sportsbook in the state.

The Little River Bands of Ottawa Indians will directly feel the effects of this decision, as last month, Gov. Whitmer denied their request to build a $200 million casino on the land. Whitmer expressed frustration with the process stating, “this has placed me in an impossible position . . . once DOI has acted on the Grand River Bands’ acknowledgment petition, I would welcome the opportunity to revisit this question and ask that you find a way for me to do so.”

While only time will tell on the final federal decision, The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians can celebrate having Pennsylvania Senators on their side. Chairman of the Grand River Bands Ron Yob states, “We are grateful to the Pennsylvania Senate for approving this important resolution, and we continue to urge federal officials to approve our petition as soon as possible.” 

Mac Daniel is a South Carolina-based freelance writer for PlayOnlineCasino and PlayOnlineSportsBetting. He has experience writing about a wide variety of topics, including healthcare, tourism, non-profit organizations, and most recently casino and sportsbetting news. To check out more of his work, visit: