The chairman of a Montana Indian tribe says he thinks the federal government may formally recognize his tribe by the end of this year.
Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ Gerald Gray made that prediction one day after Montana's U.S senators introduced a bill to federally recognize the Great Falls-area tribe. The senators say Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke intends to introduce similar legislation in the U.S House.
Gray says federal recognition would be critically important to the Little Shell people who number about 6,500 members.
"It's going to bring what the government promised to American Indians: (access to) healthcare, housing, education; that type of stuff."
Gray says he's optimistic that between the renewed congressional push and a separate federal administrative process, recognition for the Little Shell could be achieved within 12 months.