Federal government once again pushes back deadline for recognition of West Michigan tribe
The federal government has once again delayed a decision whether to recognize a West Michigan Indian tribe.
The Department of Interior’s Office of Federal Acknowledgment had told the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians it would make a decision on recognition by this Thursday. It’s now pushed the decision back another two weeks.
“Our petition initially went in 28 years ago,” said tribal chairman Ron Yob. “So two weeks ain’t nothing.”
“ It should be a cut and dry thing. But it doesn’t seem to be.”Ron Yob, tribal chairman of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians, on the federal recognition process.
The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians submitted its petition for legal recognition in November of 1994. Since then, Yob says he’s received dozens of letters delaying the decision on whether to recognize the tribe.
“It should be a cut and dry thing,” Yob said. “But it doesn’t seem to be.”
Indian tribes in the United States hold a unique legal status, and are eligible for certain rights and benefits guaranteed to them through the treaties signed by the federal government. Tribes have their own “government to government” relationship with the U.S. federal government, separate from states. But in order to be treated as a tribe, and for members to access the federal benefits afforded to tribal members, a tribe must first be recognized by the federal government. In essence, tribes have to prove they exist.
There are currently 12 federally recognized tribes in Michigan. The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians has submitted its documentation to become the thirteenth.
“We’re definitely well-documented,” Yob said.
He said the tribe currently has about 500 members, and recognition, when and if it finally comes, could benefit them all.
“It gives us our status back, of who we are,” Yob says. “Anything from COVID-relief to health care issues to repatriation of our ancestors to educational benefits. The list goes on and on.”
The new deadline for a decision on the status of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians is February 23.