A particularly significant aspect of the decision of the DOI to refuse the Grand River Bands federal tribal recognition has been the length of application. The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians submitted its first application to the DOI in 1994. However, the Department protracted the matter by seeking multiple extensions for its investigations. Since 2017, the DOI was said to have postponed giving a formal decision nine times.
Eventually, the DOI officially denied the tribe’s federal status on the grounds that it did not meet the definition of an Indian tribe under federal law. This condition is one of seven important requirements that the DOI considers before making a decision.
In a document containing its findings, the DOI noted thus:
“The evidence submitted by Petitioner #146 (Grand River Bands), and evidence Department staff obtained through its verification and evaluation research, is insufficient to demonstrate that Petitioner #146 meets criterion § 83.7(b). Criterion § 83.7(b) requires that ‘[a] predominant portion of the petitioning group comprises a distinct community and has existed as a community from historical times until the present. In accordance with the regulations, the failure to meet all seven criteria requires a determination that the petitioning group is not an Indian tribe within the meaning of Federal law. Therefore, the Department proposes to decline to acknowledge Petitioner #146 as an Indian tribe.”
Had the request been successful, the tribe of approximately 500 members would have had access to special housing, education and healthcare programs.