KRTV: U.S. Senate committee approves bill granting Little Shell Tribe federal recognition

GREAT FALLS – On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved a bill granting federal recognition to Montana’s Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced ‘The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Restoration Act of 2017’ into committee on Sunday. 

The act grants the tribe the ability to exercise self-governance and the eligibility to receive federal grants.

The tribe was recognized by the state of Montana in 2000, but has been fighting a decades-long battle for federal recognition.

The bill also requires the U.S. Department of Interior to provide 200 acres for a tribal government center or land base for the Little Shell’s members.

The tribe has been without a homeland since the late 1800’s and are currently without a reservation or land base of their own.

The Little Shell tribe is headquartered in Great Falls; some of its more than 5,000 members live in Havre, Lewistown, Helena, Butte, Chinook, Wolf Point, and Billings, as well as other communities across the state.

Gerald Gray, the chairman of the Little Shell Tribe, said in a press release, “The tribe is very excited that Senator Daines is continuing this fight and keeping this at the forefront for us.” 

“The federal government can’t fulfill its trust responsibility to Montana’s Little Shell Tribe until it recognizes their sovereignty,” Tester said.  “These folks have been waiting long enough for what they deserve, and we won’t stop fighting until we get this bill across the finish line.”  

“The Little Shell Tribe has waited far too long and jumped through too many bureaucratic hoops to secure federal recognition,” said Daines. “It’s time this injustice is corrected. It’s time to do what is right and give the Little Shell Tribe the recognition they greatly deserve.”