Indian Law

LogoFor four decades Olson, Bzdok & Howard attorneys have been at the forefront of the critical legal issues by which Michigan's Indian Tribes reestablished their preeminence, including: confirmation of and jurisdiction over exercise of Treaty-reserved fishing and hunting rights; control of historic lands and sovereignty over members within those lands; bingo and casino gaming within tribal lands free from state regulation; and protection of treaty-reserved resources in situations where state regulations have failed to protect the environment. An example of the latter is our representation of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in challenging a proposed coal-fired power plant in Manistee that had been approved by state regulators. We assisted the Tribe and local citizens in preparing expert testimony for the Manistee Planning Commission demonstrating environmental harm / adverse impact upon the Tribe's property rights. Then when the developer sued the City, we successfully represented the Tribe as intervenor in the federal court litigation defending the City's denial of a special use permit notwithstanding state authorization.

In 1974 Jim Olson was retained to defend Art Duhamel in a criminal prosecution alleging illegal fishing under state law that eventually led to the restoration of his Indian Tribe's federal acknowledgment and the federal court's subsequent 1979 declaration that the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians retains Great Lakes fishing rights under the Treaty of Washington executed March 28, 1836. In 1976 Bill Rastetter assisted Michigan Indian Legal Services in that program's first federal court litigation challenging the violation of an individual Indian's constitutional rights. As United States Attorney during 1994-2000, Mike Dettmer instituted the federal government's long-neglected obligation to implement criminal justice within Indian country in Michigan.

In 1980 Bill Rastetter began representing the Grand Traverse Band in the landmark United States, et al. v. Michigan, et al. litigation involving rights reserved under the 1836 Treaty by the signatory Indian Tribes; and in the past three decades he has successfully represented the Grand Traverse Band in disputes involving federal, state and local governments (see cases listed with his profile). Now that the Grand Traverse Band has staff attorneys handling much of that Tribe's legal matters, Bill is available to represent other Indian Tribes in situations that don't conflict with the interests of the Grand Traverse Band.


Kate Redman Discusses Crowd-Funding Rules in TC's Record-Eagle

“Investment crowdfunding has been leading the industry globally, but we should see a really startling growth in the U.S. once these new rules are effective,” said Kate Redman, attorney with Olson, Bzdok & Howard PC in Traverse City. Redman will offer training “labs” starting in May for businesses and nonprofits interested in investment crowdfunding. Contact her at for more information.

Traverse City Record-Eagle (01-24-16) 

The Traverse City law firms, Olson, Bzdok & Howard, P.C. and Sondee, Racine & Doren, PLC, are pleased to announce our formal affiliation as of January 1, 2016. Our firms will be working together closely to represent clients as a team, and provide our clients with a greater variety and depth of legal services.

Each firm will retain its own identity, but Sondee, Racine & Doren will be “of counsel” to Olson Bzdok & Howard. This means that all of our attorneys will have a close, continuous and regular professional relationship and that we all will work together for you.

Each firm will be maintaining its own office and staff, and all attorney contact information will remain the same.


Public Trust Framework Recommended for Great Lakes

The International Joint Commission (IJC) of the United States & Canada has issued a report recommending the application of a bi-national Public Trust framework to help fill regulatory gaps and guide decision-making that will ensure the protection of the long-term ecological integrity, economic stability, and the many public and private uses of the Great Lakes.

Firm founder Jim Olson has advocated for the active implementation of Public Trust principles in Great Lakes decision-making for decades, so this recommendation is both a welcome development, and a tremendous accomplishment. Congratulations Jim!

Full Report (pdf): Protection of the Waters of the Great Lakes 

Kate Redman is one of TC's 40 under 40!

Kate Redman, Community Enterprise Attorney and Partner at Olson, Bzdok & Howard, has been selected as one of Traverse City's Most Influential Professionals under 40 for 2015. This is the second year in a row Kate has been selected by the TC Business News as part of TC's "40 under 40." Congrats Kate!

Sept. 1, 2015 

Partnership Announcement

Olson, Bzdok & Howard is pleased to announce that Ross A. Hammersley and Kate E. Redman became shareholders with the firm. Please take a look at their attorney profiles to learn more about these young legal trailblazers.

March 20, 2015