Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa

An emaciated deer stands near a fence.
Terry Kreeger / Wyoming Game and Fish Department/CWD Alliance

To help combat chronic wasting disease, Michigan is banning deer baiting and feeding across big parts of the state. It’s highly unpopular with some hunters and lawmakers.

But, banning bait will only slow CWD from spreading to new areas, and more aggressive approaches that might actually stop it could be just as unpopular.


Kevin Donner

This week on Points North, tribes try to bring sturgeon back to Michigan’s waters. Plus one man realizes his dream of running a curling league. 

Sturgeon are a prehistoric fish that can live up to 100 years old, but overfishing and habitat destruction has decimated their population across the state.

Baby sturgeon were released last weekend as part of a joint effort between the state, tribes and conservation groups to restore populations of this ancient fish. 

A map of the northwestern Lower Peninsula of Michigan with a large area highlighted.
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians

A federal judge has ruled against the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in a lawsuit to affirm its reservation boundaries.

Petoskey Public Schools

The Petoskey school district has stepped into the debate over Native-American logos in sports.

When you step off the dock onto Mackinac Island, you’re setting foot on a land with a long, and sometimes troubled, history for Michigan’s first people.

There are new efforts underway to get visitors to look past the fudge shops and the quaint homes, to appreciate the Native American history on this island they call “Great Turtle.”

A treaty signed in the 1800's could dramatically change the political, environmental, and cultural landscape in northern Michigan.

The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians have gone to federal court and are suing the state of Michigan.

The tribes claim a treaty signed in 1855 declared a reservation for them on what is today 337 square miles of land and 103 miles of lake shore. That land includes the cities of Harbor Springs, Petoskey, Good Hart, part of Charlevoix, as well as two islands in Lake Michigan.

It’s not clear whether the Obama Administration thinks a small Indian-run casino in Vanderbilt is legal, but the U.S. Solicitor General is clear that a case should not be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. That puts the federal government’s position at odds with the State of Michigan in the case.

At issue is whether the federal courts have jurisdiction to decide whether the casino has been built on “Indian lands.”

Same-Sex Couple Marries In Harbor Springs

Mar 18, 2013

Two men from Boyne City were the first same sex couple in Michigan to be legally married. The ceremony took place Friday, only minutes after the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians signed a statue to legalize gay marriage within the tribe.

The two men have been together 30 years. Newlywed Tim LaCroix is a member of the Odawa tribe. His spouse, Gene Barfield is not. Under their tribal marriage, Barfield will now get spousal benefits from the tribe.

A northern Michigan Indian tribe will recognize marriages among gay and lesbian couples. The chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Dexter McNamara, says he will sign a new marriage statute into law next Friday at his office in Harbor Springs.

“This is about people being happy,” McNamara said in the email announcement. He says denying same-sex marriage rights is discriminatory under an equal-protection clause found in the tribe’s constitution.

The tribe’s legislative body passed the marriage statute earlier this week in a split vote: five to four.

Harbor Springs Tribe Takes Step Toward Same-Sex Marriage

Mar 6, 2013

An Indian tribe in Harbor Springs could become the third tribe in the nation to recognize gay marriage. The governing council of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians approved the proposal this week.

Even though Michigan's constitution bans same-sex marriage, native tribes have their own sovereign authority. 

Annette VanDeCar says tribal leaders are recognizing a long native tradition of honoring "two spirit people."

The U.S. Supreme Court made a move Monday that may indicate it’s interested in deciding the fate of a northern Michigan casino.

The Vanderbilt Casino was opened quietly by the Bay Mills Indian Community in 2010, and it was shuttered temporarily the next year by a federal court order.

The Upper Peninsula tribe maintains it has the right to open and run the off-reservation casino without permission from the state and in September the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the tribe.

A three-judge federal appeals court panel is not convinced the Vanderbilt Casino is legal. It's not a final ruling on the legality of the Bay Mills Indian Community's operation.

It does mean the casino, north of Gaylord, will remain closed while the issue works its way through the courts.

Both the State of Michigan and a tribe with a competing casino in Petoskey want the casino closed permanently.

This ruling upholds another federal court ruling that shut down the facility back in March.

The Upper Peninsula Indian tribe that owns a small casino in Vanderbilt has filed an appeal in federal court. Leaders of the Bay Mills Indian Community say their casino, north of Gaylord, is legal and on Indian land. They argue a federal judge was wrong to shut the casino down earlier this week.

The preliminary injunction issued Tuesday shutters the casino, while the courts determine whether or not it's legal. Judge Paul Maloney opined Bay Mills has little chance of winning the case. But the tribe contends Maloney's reasoning is flawed.

A small casino in Vanderbilt was ordered closed Tuesday. A federal judge says the casino, north of Gaylord, is probably not legal. He says keeping it open while the courts decide for sure would do irreparable harm to a competing casino in Petoskey.

Winners & Losers
With most every court battle, there are winners and losers. Today, Vanderbilt Village President Ed Posgate feels like his town of about 500 people is on the losing end.

Vanderbilt Casino Ordered Closed

Mar 29, 2011

The Vanderbilt Casino has been ordered closed immediately. The casino is north of Gaylord, and it's owned by the Bay Mills Indian Community.

At about 9:30 this morning, Federal Judge Paul Maloney ordered the casino closed by noon. Maloney says there's a good chance the casino is not legal.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette says gamblers at a small casino in Vanderbilt may be breaking the law.

In a court filing this week, the A.G. said, if the Vanderbilt casino is not legal, its customers are also violating state and federal anti-gambling laws.

The state contends the Bay Mills Indian Community's Vanderbilt casino is illegal. Bay Mills leaders disagree.

The state's brief was filed in support of a Harbor Springs tribe's attempt to have the Vanderbilt casino shuttered immediately.

Vanderbilt Casino Expansion Opens Saturday

Jan 18, 2011

A small but embattled Indian-run casino in Vanderbilt closes temporarily this week to prepare for its expansion.

The Gaylord Herald Times reports the casino will close Thursday and Friday and reopen Saturday - doubled in size.

Meanwhile, two federal lawsuits seek to have the Bay Mills Indian Community casino shuttered permanently.

Area government officials say they anticipate soon receiving their first revenue-sharing payments from the casino.

Bay Mills Responds To Lawsuit

Dec 23, 2010

A dispute over a casino opened in November by the Bay Mills Indian Community is getting more heated. In a statement today, the chair of the Upper Peninsula tribe lashed out the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

This week there were two lawsuits filed against the tribe in federal court. One is from the Little Traverse Bay Bands in Harbor Springs, the other from the state Attorney General.

Both sued to close Bay Mills' small casino in Vanderbilt.

State Files Suit To Close Vanderbilt Casino

Dec 21, 2010

The state Attorney General filed suit today in federal court to permanently close a small casino in the northern Michigan town of Vanderbilt.

Already last week, the state ordered the casino closed, but it remains open and now the state goes to court to demand it shuttered.

Lawsuit Coming Over Vanderbilt Casino

Dec 21, 2010

An Indian tribe in Harbor Springs plans to file a lawsuit tomorrow to try to shut down a small casino in Vanderbilt.

The Bay Mills casino has been open, despite an order to close that came late last week from the state Attorney General.

"We'll be asking for a temporary injunction to close the Bay Mills Indian Community casino in Vanderbilt down because we feel it's illegal," says Chairman Ken Harrington, of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

State Orders Vanderbilt Casino Closed

Dec 16, 2010

The state Attorney General has ordered the Bay Mills Indian Community to immediately close its small casino in Vanderbilt, north of Gaylord.

Bay Mills just opened the casino last month, and the Upper Peninsula tribe has faced a swarm of criticism in the move. It didn't go through the normal state and federal approval process to open.

Critics, including five other gaming tribes, call the move unfair competition.

Now the Attorney General also says the casino is illegal.

A small casino that just opened last month in Vanderbilt is already growing. The Gaylord Herald Times reports leaders of the Bay Mills Indian Community are building on to the small facility, even as questions abound over its legality.

Several other Indian nations say it is not legal and that Vanderbilt is not place Bay Mills has any historic claim to. That's a traditional litmus test with off-reservation gaming.

The state has yet to decide whether the casino is legal.

Port Huron Paper Applauds Bay Mills

Nov 30, 2010

A newspaper in Port Huron is applauding an Upper Peninsula tribe for opening a casino other tribes call "illegal."

The Bay Mills Indian Community quietly launched a small casino in Vanderbilt, north of Gaylord. It's been widely speculated that the northern Michigan casino is a test case and that the tribe really has its eye on the state's "Thumb."

Editors of The Herald Times in Port Huron say a casino would be a welcome boon to that a city with a 25 percent jobless rate, and they hope Bay Mills is victorious.

Vanderbilt Casino Controversy

Nov 15, 2010

There's a new Indian-run casino in Vanderbilt north of Gaylord along I-75. It's a small facility with just a few dozen slot machines.

Its opening came as a shock to the state, and to several Indian nations in northern Michigan who contend it's illegal.

Quiet Open
The new casino opened so quietly early this month that its nearest competitor knew nothing of it.