Little Shell Tribe still waiting for decision on federal recognition

Chief Little Shell was a leader of the Little Shell Tribe in the late 1800s. Photo from Turtle Mountain Chippewa Heritage Center

The Little Shell Chippewa Tribe of Montana is still waiting for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to make a decision on its federal recognition petition.

After filing a letter of intent 37 years ago, the tribe thought its struggle was over when the Clinton administration issued a favorable finding in 2000. But the Obama administration changed course and issued a final determination against the tribe in 2009, the first time in the BIA's history that a proposed finding went from positive to negative.

The tribe has since secured a reconsideration but a new decision hasn't been issued. Meanwhile, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have embraced the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Restoration Act, a bill that would outright recognize the tribe.

“Just to know that finally, after all these years, that we’re really here, that we’re respectable,” council member Donald Davis told High Country News of the significance of gaining federal status. “I’ve been waiting for that forever.”

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved S.35 at a business meeting in March but it has not come up for consideration on the Senate floor. The House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs. held a favorable hearing on H.R.286 in September but has not scheduled a markup on the measure.

Get the Story:
Will the Little Shell tribe finally be recognized? (High Country News 12/7)

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