Supporters of the proposed $180-million casino project in close proximity to Muskegon still hope there is a chance to get the Governor’s approval of their plans. However, that is unlikely to happen for at least another six months.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s official approval is necessary for the casino proposed by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. In 2022, she refused to give the green light to the project even though she indicated she would reconsider her decision pending the outcome of another tribe seeking federal recognition.
However, the US Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has issued a proposed decision rejecting the required the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians’ federal recognition as the tribe had claimed the land that would host the proposed Muskegon casino property as their homeland. The final decision on federal recognition is set to be delayed by a 180-day comment period scheduled to end in late August 2023. For now, the Grand River Bands remain confident that they would manage to change federal authorities’ minds about the legitimacy of their community and their homeland.
While they do so, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is still waiting – something that it has been doing for almost 14 years while developing plans for the aforementioned casino in the Fruitport Township of Muskegon County.
Proposed Muskegon Casino Location Part of Other Tribe’s Alleged Reservation Lands
As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, the location of the proposed casino establishment has been the main reason for the uncertain future of the casino. The site is not part of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ reservation lands. That basically means that the tribe needs both state and federal approvals to establish a casino on the site.
The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians received federal approval for the project in December 2020.
However, the claims that the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians has had on the land and its pending application to become a federally-recognized tribe were cited by Governor Whitmer in June 2022 as the reason why she refused to give her approval to the proposed casino project. If the Grand River Bands gets federally recognized by the competent authorities, it would probably be willing to open its own casino venue near that land and would have the right to do so, as the site would be part of its reservation lands.
As mentioned above, at the time when she refused to give the green light to the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ casino project, she noted that she would revisit the question at a later stage, when the federal authorities make a decision on the federal recognition application of the other tribe.
Larry Romanelli, the chief of the Little River Band, noted that it was unlikely for the DIA’s Bureau of Indian Affairs to reverse a decision that has already been proposed. Having that in mind, the tribe has attempted to have Governor Whitmer respond to her previous promise to approve the casino in case the proposed denial of federal recognition stands. That would allow the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians to resubmit its application for the casino and start the whole state and federal approval process all over again.
Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians Formed Recently, BIA Finds
According to official information provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Department of Interior, the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians did not manage to meet one of seven mandatory criteria that it was supposed to in order to become federally recognized.
Federal authorities require Indian tribes to prove they have a distinct community that has existed as such through time to give them recognition. The investigation held by the Bureau, however, found that the tribe was recently formed by the merging of a number of different groups that had previously acted independently, each with its own activities, membership, and leadership.
The preliminary finding of the federal authorities is subject to a six-month period for comments that is scheduled to end on August 28th. After that period’s ending, the findings can be considered final.
Now, the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians is providing the Bureau of Indian Affairs with additional information with the help of professional historians in order to prove that it has been standing as a native sovereign nation as required by federal laws.