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Montana's Little Shell Tribe One Step Closer To Federal Recognition

Little Shell Chippewa Tribe

A proposal to federally recognize Montana’s Little Shell Tribe advanced a step in the U.S. Senate Wednesday.

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee unanimously approved the measure, which would also give the tribe 200-acres to use as a land base. Montana Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines sit on that committee.

Tester, a Democrat, says the Little Shell "have been bounced around a bit by the bureaucracy. And that is a gross understatement. The lineage is there, there’s little doubt about that. It’s just a matter of giving them the recognition that they so much deserve. I’d appreciate your support on that and want to thank Senator Daines for cosponsoring that measure."

"I’m glad we’re passing this legislation early in this Congress, and remain committed to its enactment into law," Daines says.

The effort to federally recognize the Little Shell was closer than ever to becoming law last year. But congress adjourned before that could happen.

Little Shell chairman, Gerald Gray, says the tribe now has several potential pathways to federal recognition. But Gray says one of them is the tribe’s ace in the hole:

"Which we’re really keeping our fingers crossed and very hopeful for - Ryan Zinke being selected for the secretary of Interior. He could recognize us on his own," Gray says.

Zinke, a Republican and Montana’s lone congressional representative, is widely believed to be facing an easy confirmation vote in the full U.S. Senate. He's actively supported the Little Shell’s fight for federal recognition.

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