Published on December 30, 2012 by Amy
The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBBOI) is a federally recognized Native American tribe of Odawa Indians. A large percentage of the more than 4000 tribal members continue to reside within the tribe’s traditional homelands on the northwestern shores of the state of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The historically delineated reservation area, located at 45°21′12″N 84°58′41″W, encompasses approximately 336 square miles (870 km2) of land in Charlevoix and Emmet counties. The largest communities within the reservation boundaries are Harbor Springs, where the tribal offices are located, Petoskey, where the Tribe operates the Odawa Casino Resort, and Charlevoix.
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The name Odawa, or Ottawa, allegedly derives either from the Anishnaabe term “trader” or a truncated version of an Odawa phrase meaning “people of the bulrush”. Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa tribal members are descendants of, and political successors to, the Ottawa of L’abre Croche who were signatory parties to the Treaty of Washington and one of the three 1855 Treaties of Detroit. The treaties ratified the cession of approximately 37% of Michigan’s current land area in exchange for monies, reservations, and other benefits. Many of the provisions the federal government promised did not materialize, so the tribes began to organize to sue the federal government to recover negotiated-for entitlements.
Three main groups organized political efforts in order to make the federal government aware of its treaty obligations to the Odawa. They were the Michigan Indian Defense Association, the Michigan Indian Foundation, and the Northern Michigan Ottawa Association (NMOA). Prior to 1982, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa was known as the NMOA, Unit 1. The latter of these groups began to file for fishing rights, but the federal courts refused to recognize NMOA Unit 1 as a tribe because they were an organization.
In 1982, the tribe reorganized and took the name Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, but a federal court denied the tribe its rights because it was not federally recognized. The tribe began to pursue legislative reaffirmation on the basis of treaty relations with the federal government. On September 21, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law a bill that reaffirmed the United States’ political relationship with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.
While Odawa, a dialect of the Ojibwe language, is the dominant language of some tribal members, the majority primarily speak English. As part of language revitalization efforts, the Tribe sponsors summer language camps, language classes are offered at the local college in Petoskey, and free classes can easily be found in the area. Additionally, students at Harbor Springs High School can elect Anishnaabomiwen courses as part of their high school curriculum.
Prior to 2005, all governmental authority was vested in a seven-member Tribal Council. In 2005, the LTBBOI amended its tribal constitution to adopt a separation of powers model that divides governmental authority among legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Under this system, the Tribal Council exercises the legislative powers; the Chairman, Vice Chairman and appointed Boards exercise the executive powers; and a tribal court system exercises the judicial powers.