SCIA to Hold Hearing on Burt Lake Band Reaffirmation Bill

From Indianz:

The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on July 15 to consider federal recognition bills.

The agenda includes:

H.R.2678 – Duwamish Tribal Recognition Act
H.R.1358 – Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Reaffirmation Act
H.R.2576 – Chinook Nation Restoration Act
H.R.3120 – Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Restoration Act

Since the start of the 111th Congress, the committee has considered bills to recognize the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and six Virginia tribes. Both bills were passed by the full House.

The committee also held a hearing on a bill to extend the policy of self-determination to Native Hawaiians.

Get the Story:

Burt Lake Legislative Backers View Casino as a Long Shot

From the radio (?!?!), via Pechanga:

State Rep. Matt Lori reports that – after looking into the possibility of changing state gaming laws to allow the Burt Lake Band to establish an Indian casino in Sturgis – believes the chances are slim.

The Burt Lake Band has tried and failed to receive federal recognition as a tribe four times.  Without federal recognition, they are unable to establish a casino under state gaming laws.

At the request of local developers hoping to bring a casino and the jobs that come with it to the area, Lori agreed to investigate whether it is possible for the tribe to gain official recognition from the state, and modify current Michigan gaming laws to allow the project to move forward.  However, after consulting with legislative legal advisors and leaders in both the House and Senate, Lori said he did not believe it is a feasible option.

“I recognized the potential economic impact in terms of jobs and increased tourism a casino would bring to the area which is why I was willing to look into this issue, but it doesn’t seem possible at the current time,” said Lori, of Constantine.  “The legal hurdles combined with the dynamic in the Legislature are too much to overcome.”

Senator Cameron Brown previously said he believed it would not be possible to gain recognition from the state and modify gaming laws, and Lori’s investigation confirms that position.

“From my point of view it would be fruitless to continue pursuing legislation that has very little hope of succeeding at this time.  Rather than give people false hope, I think we need to move on to find another solution,” Lori said.

Lori said he is willing to meet with developers and city officials on how to best proceed.

Commentary on Possible Burt Lake Band Casino Development

Yesterday’s interesting statement by a lawyer for the Burt Lake Band suggesting that all the Band would need to commence gaming is simple legislation from the State Legislature deserves a spot of commentary. I guess their lawyer is reading this provision of the Michigan Constitution, added by state referendum in 2004, for support:

The legislature may authorize lotteries and permit the sale of lottery tickets in the manner provided by law. No law enacted after January 1, 2004, that authorizes any form of gambling shall be effective, nor after January 1, 2004, shall any new state lottery games utilizing table games or player operated mechanical or electronic devices be established, without the approval of a majority of electors voting in a statewide general election and a majority of electors voting in the township or city where gambling will take place. This section shall not apply to gambling in up to three casinos in the City of Detroit or to Indian tribal gaming. [Mich. Const. sec. 41, emphasis added]

Since Burt Lake Band is not a federally recognized tribe, they would not be subject the requirements of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, nor would the Department of Interior take land into trust for the Band under 25 U.S.C. 465. So the lawyer’s statement (“A bill will have to be introduced, passed by a simple majority in the House and Senate, has to be signed by Gov. Granholm, and we can rock and roll from there”) that the Band isn’t subject to all these difficult regulatory hurdles is correct, perhaps, but only if the Band would be considered eligible for “Indian tribal gaming” under Section 41.

Leaving aside for the moment the very real political problem the Band would face getting the Michigan Legislature to pass a special statute for them, I think there might be a significant legal problem facing the Band. Literally read, Section 41 applies to all Indian tribes. Burt Lake Band is an Indian tribe, as are the 12 federally recognized tribes. And so are the other non-federally recognized tribes as the Mackinaw Band, the Black River and Swan Creek Band, and Grand River Band. However, I strongly suspect the intent of the provision was to protect the federally recognized tribes of Michigan.

In short, I doubt the “Indian tribal gaming” language was intended to include tribes like the Burt Lake Band. It is my understanding (I was living in Grand Forks, N.D. when the voters adopted this referendum) that the key sponsors of the language were the federally recognized tribes. If there is any legislative history on this Section, I’d like to see it. Moreover, the State of Michigan has cut deals with all 12 federally recognized tribes to conduct gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, so it makes additional sense to limit the “Indian tribal gaming” language.

I think there are also some sound public policy reasons for limiting the application of that language. The key one for me is that, if Burt Lake Band gets special legislation, Michigan will be innundated by Johnny-come-lately “Indian tribes” from all over looking for the same backdoor to a casino.

I’m a very strong supporter of Burt Lake’s petition for federal recognition, and any efforts to convince Congress to recognize the Band. But I surely hope their lawyer is doing more than just blowing smoke. There isn’t going to be much “rock and roll” from here.

Burt Lake Band May Pursue Casino under State Law Without Federal Recognition

From Indianz:

The Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians doesn’t need federal recognition to open a casino in Michigan, a lawyer for the tribe said.

The tribe can pursue state approval for a casino in Sturgis, said John Dresser, of Dresser, Dresser, Haas and Caywood. “A bill will have to be introduced, passed by a simple majority in the House and Senate, has to be signed by Gov. Granholm, and we can rock and roll from there,” Dresser told Business Review Western Michigan. The process would take much longer if the tribe was recognized, according to Dresser. He said new regulations would limit where the tribe could pursue a casino.

Get the Story:
Truck stop with casino seen as a quick economic fix for Sturgis (Business Review Western Michigan 2/17)

Written Testimony in SCIA Hearing on Burt Lake etc. Federal Recognition Bills

From SCIA:


Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Richmond, VA

United States Senate, Washington, DC

United States Congressman

Panel 1
Director, Office of Federal Acknowledgment, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC

Chairwoman, Muscogee Nation of Florida, Bruce, FL

President, Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, Great Falls, MT

Chairman, Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians, Grand Rapids, MI

Professor Emeritus, Old Dominion University, Hampton, VA

Burt Lake Recognition Bill Passes House Resources Committee

The House Resources Committee last week approved H.R. 1575 (Stupak): To reaffirm and clarify the Federal relationship of the Burt Band as a distinct federally recognized Indian Tribe, and for other purposes. “Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Reaffirmation Act.”

More Federal Recognition: The Burt Lake Band Case

The Burt Lake Band of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians is petitioning for federal recognition. The BIA has proposed to deny their recognition. Last year, the BIA finalized that proposal to deny, but these documents are not online yet.

Documents here:

Notice of Proposed Finding Against — dated April 15, 2004

Documents in Support of the Proposed Finding — dated March 25, 2004

A copy of the bill to recognize the Burt Lake Band via Act of Congress is here.

The Burt Lake Band are the descendants of the people subjected to the “Burt Lake Burnout” near the turn of the century. We’re written about this disaster here.