Montana Public Radio

Little Shell Chippewa Tribe

The Montana Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians has sought federal recognition for almost 4 decades and tribal officials say they’re now the closest they’ve ever been to that elusive goal.

The House Natural Resources Committee yesterday passed legislation that includes federal recognition of the Little Shell tribe.

That’s the first time it’s ever made it out of a House committee.

U.S. Capitol
flickr user Tim Evanson (CC-BY-SA-2)

A bill that Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke is pushing to lift the Obama Administration's suspension on coal leases on federal lands made progress in the House Thursday.

There are 566 federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States. Gerald Gray hopes Montana's Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians gets to be the 567th.

”Because we’re always under the assumption and have been told that Congress can recognize tribes.”

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.