HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 22Issue 33Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians Seeking to Clarify Reservation Land in Petoskey Area

In August of 2015, the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians (“LTBB”) filed suit against the state of Michigan in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, claiming that treaties from 1836 and 1855 grant them sovereignty over 337 square miles of land and 103 miles of shoreline located in most of Emmett County and Charlevoix County, Michigan. 

The Tribe currently operates the Odawa Casino Resort in Petoskey and a Class II gaming facility in Mackinaw City, which opened in May of this year. Under the Tribe’s Tribal-State Gaming Compact, the Tribe may build a gaming facility on land holdings in Emmet or Charlevoix Counties. The facility, however, must first receive the approval of the local unit of government affected by the development.

Judge Maloney, of the Western District of Michigan, has split the case into two different phases. The first phase seeks to determine whether the reservation claimed by the LTBB exists and will include expert analysis and reports, due June 30, 2017. Disclosure of rebuttal reports will be due September 18, 2017 and completion of discovery is scheduled for April 23, 2018. If it is found that past treaties do establish a reservation, phase two would involve sorting out the subsequent jurisdictional uncertainty.

The Emmet County Lakeshore Association (“ECLA”) and Protection of Rights Alliance are being represented by Lance Boldrey of the law firm Dykema. Both groups were granted the right to intervene in the lawsuit, along with Emmet and Charlevoix Counties, the cities of Harbor Springs and Charlevoix, and the eleven affected townships. Boldrey also noted that the tribe could allow Class II casino gaming on any member-owned property.

As reported by Mlive.com, much of the local concern stems from the fact that tribal sovereignty would trump state and local laws within the reservation.


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