Little River Band of Ottawa Indians

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Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
Flag of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.PNG
Flag of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.
Total population
Enrolled members: 4,232 in July 2015[1]
Regions with significant populations
 United States ( Michigan)
English, Ojibwe (Ottawa dialect)
Related ethnic groups
Potawatomi, Ojibwe

Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is a federally recognized Native American tribe of the Odawa people in the United States. It is based in Manistee and Mason counties in northwest Michigan. It was recognized on September 21, 1994.

It is one of three federally recognized tribes of Odawa people in Michigan. The others are the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Other bands with federal status include the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma and several First Nations in Ontario, Canada. They historically spoke the Odawa language, a dialect of Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe), but use of this language has declined.


This area around the Manistee River was long occupied by bands of Ottawa and Chippewa (Ojibwe) before European colonization. French fur traders visited the villages during the historic period.

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is one of 567 federally recognized tribes of Native Americans in the United States.[2][3] On September 21, 1994, the tribal status of the Little River Band (along with that of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians) was reaffirmed by the federal government when President Bill Clinton signed Senate Bill 1357 into law.[4]

All contemporary members of the Band are descendants of the nine Villages or Bands (related to the original 19 Grand River Bands) that inhabited Manistee and Mason counties of Michigan after the 1855 Treaty of Detroit, the Band's last treaty with the U.S. government. In 1836 the Ottawa band was assigned a reservation along the Manistee River under treaty with the United States government. Its people had long cultivated corn in the floodplain and flats of the river.[5]

This band of Ottawa Indians is headquartered on its 1836 Manistee Indian Reservation in Manistee County, with additional tribal lands in Custer and Eden townships in Mason County. The reservation in Manistee County is "six miles in width and twenty-two east and west, including the valley of the Manistee, on both sides of the river as far east as Section 4, of Range 13 west."[5]

Since January 1994 the Little River Band has published a monthly newspaper, Currents. All editions are available on the official tribal website.

Tribal government[edit]

The Band is the successor apparent to nine of the 19 historical Grand River Bands of Ottawa peoples who lived along the Thornapple, Grand, White, Pere Marquette, Manistee and its tributary Little Manistee rivers. The Little River Band operates its own constitutional government; it has three parts: executive, legislative and judicial.[6] The Band holds regular elections for a nine-member legislative council and an Ogimaa (Chief). There is a separate but equal elected judicial branch.[7] The government has 28 different departments dealing with various programs and processes necessary to running a modern government.


The Tribal Council has set the membership rules, based on descent from historic bands of the region. Persons are eligible if 1/4 Native American, with at least 1/8 from Grand River Ottawa or Michigan Ottawa; and direct descent from a Native American of Manistee, Mason, Wexford or Lake Counties in the State of Michigan, who was listed on the schedule of Grand River Ottawa in the "Durant Roll of 1908;" or is a lineal descendant of individuals listed on the "1870 Annuity Payrolls of Chippewas and Ottawas of Michigan," listed under certain Ottawa chiefs; and is not enrolled in another tribe. The Tribe also accepts: "Any child who is less than 18 years of age, who meets the membership criteria in Section 1, shall be eligible for membership, notwithstanding such adoption."[8]


The Little River Band's original language Anishinaabemowin, an Algonquian language, is designated as "critically endangered" by the 2010 Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).[9] Few elders and other members can still speak the full language. The Band is spread out far beyond their reservation, living in areas among the majority English-speaking culture, and the language is not commonly used.

Little River Casino Resort[edit]

On December 3, 1998, Governor John Engler signed a compact between the Little River Band and the State of Michigan allowing gaming on reservation property. In 1999 the Band opened the Little River Casino Resort on its Manistee Reservation. Since its opening the resort has expanded in multiple stages to more than 23,000 square feet of space. Its complex includes a 292-room luxury hotel, a 1,700-seat event center, and an expanding collection of slots and table games. The tribe has invested revenues from its gaming operations for economic development and to support the well-being of its people

See also[edit]



Further reading[edit]

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