Michigan Native American tribe to study building own power utility

The tribe sees operating a power utility as a way to exercise its independence

Mar 3, 2023 at 10:59 am
click to enlarge A wind farm in Michigan. - Shutterstock
A wind farm in Michigan.

A Michigan Indian tribe has been awarded a $100,000 federal grant to study the possibility of creating its own power utility.

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians will use Tribal Energy Capacity Grant funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to perform a Tribal Utility Authority feasibility study.

Eugene Manguson, executive director of the tribe’s economic development arm, Little River Holdings, said the tribe sees operating a power utility as a way to exercise its independence, diversify its holdings, control its energy future, and reduce costs.

“Energy sovereignty, I think, is the next arena that tribes are starting to look at,” Manguson noted. “One of the ways is going through solar, wind and all those technologies that are available for tribes to get into.”

There are currently more than 30 Tribal Utility Authorities across the country, including the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan. The Little River Band was among 18 tribal entities funded during the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ January round of grant awards.

The tribe is located in Manistee County in the northwestern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula. The tribe’s main income enterprise is the Little River Casino Resort north of the reservation.

Magnuson pointed out electricity to operate a casino can be costly.

“The Tribal Utility Entity was created to actually peel power off the grid,” Magnuson explained. “Because of the tribal sovereignty, we could procure the electricity off of the grid at wholesale.”

Magnuson added tribal leaders have not set a deadline to complete the study.

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