Consider all sides in tribal lawsuit, not just one

The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians is seeking a court order affirming its reservation boundaries in northwest Michigan in a legal battle that is likely to last years before it’s resolved.

The case, filed against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in 2015 in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, will determine whether borders of the Odawa tribe’s reservation set by an 1855 treaty are still considered valid.

We are not legal experts, nor are we historians and we offer no opinion on the merits of the case here. What’s worrisome, though, are claims being made by some about the tribe’s intention and the potential ramifications of the court siding with the tribe in this case. Many of them are alarmist statements not based in fact.

The tribe’s roots in this region run very deep. Evidence of its history in Northern Michigan is all around us and fascinating to learn about. They are our neighbors and we are theirs.

Be careful about believing everything you hear on this case. As with most everything else, consider the source and do your own research to seek further information. The News-Review has published at least four articles in recent months, which are accessible on our website, www.petoskeynews.com.

Though the lawsuit names the state as the lone defendant, several groups have entered the case as intervenors, which allows them to be involved if a settlement of the case is reached.

Participants in these groups include Emmet and Charlevoix counties, city and township governments in the area affected by the treaty ruling and two nonprofit groups, the Emmet County Lakeshore Association and Protection of Rights Alliance.

Some attorneys representing these groups — in particular the two nonprofits — are speaking publicly, but remember they are representing their clients’ interests and are not necessarily offering both sides of the story, or an entirely accurate picture of the other side’s argument.

Tribal officials have long kept their public comments to a minimum and in this instance it is working very much against them to remain so silent. But that is no reason to conclude they are the enemy, or coming after your land, as some have expressed concern about.

This case is interesting and the end ruling will undoubtedly have impact on the area, but we should be approaching the discussion with respect for the tribe’s history and its members’ long-standing status in this community.

We all share this land here together.

We are not adversaries here and therefore should not be speaking or treating anyone as such.

— The Petoskey News-Review