U.P. tribe sues for recognition by feds

ESCANABA – A lawsuit by the Mackinac Tribal Nation seeking federal recognition has been filed against the Secretary of the Interior in Washington, D.C.

The Mackinac Tribal Nation is seeking tribal jurisdiction and federal recognition for land claims, hunting and fishing rights, the protection of religious freedom and other treaty obligations under the Indian Reorganization Act.

According to a press release issued by the group, the lawsuit, which was filed March 20, “comes after decades of harmful neglect by the Bureau of Indian Affairs…and after land claims cessions failed to recognize the Mackinac.”

Mackinac Tribal Nation member Darrin Ranguette said the pursuit for federal recognition has been on-going through the efforts of several members in the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula.

The Mackinac Tribal Nation is made up of thousands of members in the eastern U.P., Lower Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, he said.

The lawsuit claims that in 2011, the various Mackinac organizations agreed to request the federal Secretary of the Interior to conduct a federal election to reorganize all Mackinac descendants under federal statute. However, the lawsuit claims the Secretary of the Interior never responded. Reorganizing under federal statute would extend federal recognition to the Mackinac.

Now, the coalition tribal government has presented their draft Constitution and bylaws for the tribe with a request that the Secretary of the Interior call for an election to adopt them.

The lawsuit is made by the Mackinac Tribe of Odawa and Ojibwa Indians and the Mackinac Band of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians, “who together constitute all legitimate successor entities to the Mackinac Bands signatory to the Treaty with the Ottawa and Chippewa concluded at the City of Detroit, Michigan on July 31, 1855,” according to the press release. The new entity will be referred by “The Mackinac Tribe Nation.”

Ranguette said following the filing on March 20, the Secretary of the Interior has 21 days to respond to the lawsuit.

He said the Mackinac Tribal Nation is choosing not to release any additional details on the lawsuit at this time, but that more information will be forthcoming once the Secretary of the Interior gets back to them.