GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new year, but the same response for the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians. The tribe was notified Tuesday that the Department of the Interior’s Office of Federal Acknowledgement had extended its deadline for another two weeks to issue a ruling on their petition for federal recognition.
The Grand River Bands is recognized as a tribe by the State of Michigan but not by the DOI. Federal recognition by the DOI comes with wide-ranging benefits, including access to federal programs and declarations for sovereign treaty rights.
The tribe first applied for federal recognition in October 1994. After 11 years of review, the OFA notified the tribe of issues with several parts of the petition. Ron Yob, chairman of the Grand River Bands, told News 8 last year that those problems were corrected, but the tribe’s petition has been stuck in limbo ever since.
“The case is presented. We have to allow it to play out. We have to continue to be patient,” Yob said in 2022.
In a statement following Tuesday’s announcement, Yob said he’s encouraged to see only a two-week delay instead of the typical four-month delay the OFA has issued in the past.
“The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians have been advocating for our federal recognition for nearly 30 years, and while we have to wait a little bit longer for the Proposed Findings of our petition for federal recognition, we remain confident we will achieve our federal recognition,” Yob stated. “We are heartened by the outpouring of support we received as the U.S. Department of the Interior undergoes its final steps in reviewing our petition. We are also encouraged by the growing number of lawmakers, community organizations and business groups, as well as West Michigan residents who have advocated for recognition alongside us. We are eager to receive our recognition and move forward, providing Grand River Bands members with the resources that are afforded to federally recognized tribes.”
Whether the new Feb. 23 deadline is extended again, Yob says the tribe will continue its fight.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Yob told News 8 in 2022. “We have been here thousands of years. We are the tribe of record. We are treatied here. Our documentation shows us to be from this Grand River valley. We’re the only tribe here. And for the sake of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and future descendants, we have to push this through for them.”