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Published: Friday, 6/3/2005

Ottawa tribe's claim to North Bass Island is rejected by Petro

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - The Oklahoma-based Ottawa tribe has no legal territorial claim to North Bass Island, Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, armed with studies by university history and geography professors, has told the tribe's lawyer.

Mr. Petro's letter is not legally binding, but it means he will not recommend that Gov. Bob Taft's administration negotiate with the tribe to resolve territorial and monetary claims related to Ohio's northernmost Lake Erie island.

The tribe has maintained the northern portion of the island was part of Canada at the time the Ottawa ceded territory to the United States in the early 1800s.

The tribe claims 350 acres of the island, most of which is owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Richard Rogovin, a Columbus attorney representing the tribe, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Although the tribe is one of at least three seeking to site Native American casinos in Ohio, it has indicated it wants North Bass as a base for a fishing fleet.

Both Mr. Petro and Mr. Taft oppose casino gambling.

UT professor Alfred A. Cave, in a letter to Mr. Petro, disputed the tribe's claims that various treaties demonstrate Ottawa dominance of the island.

"In fact, none of those treaties mention North Bass, or for that matter any of the islands of Lake Erie, as Ottawa territory," he wrote.

"The land cession treaties and the removal treaties explicitly and precisely delineated the areas of continuing Ottawa occupancy. The Bass Islands are not among the areas recognized as Ottawa in those treaties."

Ohio State University geography professor Morton E. O'Kelly submitted a report indicating that 18th and 19th-century maps also fail to support the tribe's claims.

"I conclude and it is my opinion, that the island referred to as North Bass Island was not at any time divided by the international boundary, and has always been considered part of the United States," he wrote.



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