Little Shell finding a departure
Facebook Twitter Email
AUGUST 16, 2000

Kevin Gover has come under fire in recent months for his decision to extend federal recognition to two Pequot tribes in Connecticut despite recommendations to the contrary, but its not the only example of the Assistant Secretary coming to such a determination.

As pointed out by Bureau of Indian Affairs researcher George Roth last week, Gover also issued a positive finding for the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe of Montana even though the Bureau did not have sufficient evidence that the tribe satisfied some recognition criteria for all time periods in question.

"This proposed finding departs from practice in previous acknowledgment decisions in certain respects, principally in giving different amounts of weight to various types of evidence than had been done in prior determinations," wrote Gover in July.

The published Little Shell finding differs from prior findings regarding four out of the seven mandatory criteria. Specifically, the BIA found no evidence the tribe was identified as an Indian entity between 1900 and 1935.

They also found lack of evidence for continuous tribal existence from historical times up until the 1930s, when the tribe began campaigning to receive recognition through the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. But being landless since 1892, the tribe had difficulty obtaining status.

In that year, Chief Little Shell refused to sign a treaty with the United States giving the tribe just 10 cents an acre for 10 million acres of land. The government forced band members off what is now the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota.

As part of the recognition process, the BIA is encouraging the tribe to submit additional evidence to fill in the gaps. Pat Maki, Little Shell enrollment officer, said the tribal council is meeting on Friday in order to discuss the issue.

"We know that there was a lot of information given to the BIA and we still have more if necessary," said Maki. "But we certainly did not feel that they had done anything extraordinary to give [the tribe] a positive finding."

"If we do need to beef it up, we can get that information," Maki added.

The other issue brought up by the BIA is descent from the historical tribe. The Bureau is encouraging the tribe to submit more genealogical evidence showing that the current membership descends from the historical Pembina Band of Chippewa.

About 62 percent of the membership descends from the Pembina, according to BIA calculations. Previous petitioners have demonstrated at least 80 percent of current membership descends from the historical tribe.

Today, Pembina descendants can also be found in the Turtle Mountain Band and Rocky Boy Band of Chippewa.

Get the Proposed Finding:
Proposed Finding for Federal Acknowledgment of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana (BIA July 2000)

Relevant Links:
The Bureau of Indian Affairs -

Related Stories:
Little Shell celebrate (Tribal Law 06/26)
Little Shell begin work (Tribal Law 06/21)
Little Shell get recognized (Tribal Law 05/30)