An article in the U.S. State News reported a press release from Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro announcing that the state has moved to dismiss the land claims of the Ottawa Tribe. The Tribe claims that it is entitled to all of North Bass Island in Lake Erie, as well as unlimited hunting and fishing rights in the state. The press release states that the Tribe’s claims are unsupported by the relevant treaties, that the Tribe has already received compensation for any claims they may have from the Indiana Claims Commission, that the lawsuit is being filed too late under the statute of limitations, and that it would be inequitable for a court to grant the claim.
According to the Toledo Blade, the Tribe had originally sought only the Northern half of the island, but has recently expanded its claim to encompass the Southern parts, as well. The change is the result of research conducted by a Kent State University geography professor, Ute Dymon, who contends that the island was on the Canadian side of the U.S./Canada border when control was relinquished to the United States by the tribe in the early 1800’s. The tribe urges that if the island was actually subject to British control at the time, the treaty between the Tribe and the United States is ineffective.
Morton O’Kelly, chairman of the department of geography at Ohio State University disagrees with Dymon’s study. O’Kelly claims that the island was never divided by the international border, and that it has always been considered part of the United States.
Petro has maintained that the land claim is a veiled attempt to force the state into negotiations over allowing casino gaming in the state, though Dick Rogavin, the Tribe’s local counsel, denies that assertion.