On Monday, July 24, 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior (“DOI”) issued a letter to the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (“Tribe”) denying the Tribe’s trust land applications related to property in Lansing and Wayne County’s Huron Township.

Monday’s letter follows a letter from the DOI dated January 19, 2017 (“DAS-PED Letter”) that informed the Tribe that the two land-into-trust acquisitions could not be approved because “the applications lack sufficient evidence to demonstrate that acquisition of the parcels would ‘consolidate or enhance’ tribal lands, as required by the MILCSA [Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act].” Specifically the DAS-PED Letter requested that the Tribe demonstrate two distinct things:

  1. That the lands were “acquired using amounts from interest or other income of the, ‘Self-Sufficiency Fund,’” and
  2. That the expenditures from the Tribe’s Self-Sufficiency Fund were in accordance with one or more of the limitations provided in Section 108(c) of the MILCSA, which states that funds must be used (1) as an addition to the principal of the Fund, (2) as a dividend to tribal members, (3) as a per capita payment to some group or category of tribal members designated by the board of directors, (4) for educational, social welfare, health, cultural, or charitable purposes which benefit the members of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe, or (5) for consolidation or enhancement of tribal lands.

The July 24 letter notes that “[i]n the 6 months since the DAS-PED Letter, the Tribe has submitted no new evidence to demonstrate that acquisition of the Parcels would effect a consolidation or enhancement of tribal lands … to trigger MILCSA’s mandatory trust provisions.”

In a statement, Aaron Payment, chairperson of the Tribe said in part, “[w]e have no intention of giving up, and we will soon determine which option — legal, administrative or legislative — we will pursue to continue our fight for our legal rights.

The Tribe filed applications in June of 2014, to take 2.7 acres of land in downtown Lansing and 71 acres in Huron Township into trust. The Tribe is hoping that each parcel will serve as a gaming location.

To access the July 24, 2017 DOI letter, please click here.


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