Little Shell Chippewa recognition bill introduced
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) introduced S.1936, a bill to recognize the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe of Montana on Tuesday.

Baucus and Tester said they were disappointed that the Bureau of Indian Affairs rejected the tribe's recognition petition. Both said the tribe deserved federal status, after waiting more than 100 years.

Earlier this year, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Montana) introduced H.R.3120, the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Restoration Act of 2009. The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the bill on July 15 but has not yet approved it for a vote on the House floor.

"It's going to be a lot harder. We're going to have to fight in the House and Senate," Chairman John Sinclair told The Great Falls Tribune of going through Congress.

The Clinton administration issued a proposed finding in favor of the tribe in May 2000 but warned of potential holes in the petition. The Bush administration kept delaying a final determination on the matter.

George Skibine, the acting principal deputy assistant secretary at the BIA, issued the final determination yesterday. He said the tribe failed to show that it has been identified as an Indian entity on a continuous basis since 1900, failed to show that is has compromised distinct community since historical times and failed to show that it has maintained political influence over its members.

The tribe can respond to the final decision in hopes of reversing course. That has happened only once so far in BIA history -- with the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut.

The state recognized the tribe nine years ago. The Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council supports the tribe.

Assistant Secretary Larry EchoHawk is recused on Little Shell because the tribe has been represented by the Native American Rights Fund, an organization run by his brother, John.

Get the Story:
Interior rejects Little Shell recognition bid (The Great Falls Tribune 10/28)
Indian Affairs won't recognize Little Shell Tribe (AP 10/27)

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