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Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Restoration Act fails in U.S. Senate

In September, the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe celebrated the United States House of Representatives passing an act that would provide them federal recognition.

Now, the Little Shell Tribe is back to square one as they learned the United States Senate did not pass the Little Shell Restoration Act by one vote.

The Act would give the Tribe a few things such as allow the Tribe the opportunity to buy 200 acres of land and be eligible for federal resources for economic development, health, and education.

The Act has gained the support of neighboring tribes, but also Montana leaders such as Representative Greg Gianforte, Senator Steve Daines, and Senator Jon Tester.

Chairman Gerald Gray said the Tribe has fought for this right for decades and it is disheartening that a lone senator objected to the Act.

“This is just another step that’s a learning process. We now know that this is the route we have to take and we’re never going to stop fighting until this is a done deal,” Gray said. “We’re not just going to go away. We’ve been a tribe, we are a tribe, and we’re always going to be a tribe. We lost the battle, but not the war.”

Chairman Gray added they will fight for the tribe again during the next legislative year.

(September 12, 2018) The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday that will provide federal recognition to the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte’s bill will restore recognition, allowing the tribe to purchase 200 acres of land to serve as its reservation. The legislation would make the Little Shell Tribe eligible for federal resources for economic development, healthcare, and education.

The bill summary states:

This bill extends federal recognition to the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana. The tribe and its members become eligible for services and benefits provided by the United States to federally recognized tribes and their members, without regard to the existence of a reservation or the location of the residence of any member.

The service area of the tribe is considered to be the area comprised of Blaine, Cascade, Glacier, and Hill Counties, Montana.

The tribe, as a condition of receiving recognition, services, and benefits, must submit to the Department of the Interior, and maintain, a membership roll.

Interior must take into trust for the benefit of the tribe 200 acres of land within the tribe’s service area to be used for a tribal land base.

This is not the first time the tribe has pushed for recognition. Dating back to the 1930s and 1940s, the tribe petitioned the federal government for a formal reservation and to be allowed to organize under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.

Gianforte introduced the bill in September of 2017.

In a press release, Gianforte said, “Today marks an important milestone for the Tribe, and I am proud that I could help move their efforts forward. It’s time to get this bill through the Senate and to President Trump.”

He continued, “The Little Shell Tribe has had to wait too long for the federal government to act toward its well-deserved recognition. I appreciate the hard work, dedication, and determination of Chairman Gray and the Little Shell people.”

The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) said in a press release: “Today is a strong step toward recognizing the Little Shell, but time is ticking away and the tribe deserves a vote in the Senate now, with no political shenanigans, secret holds or strings attached.  Federal recognition is long-overdue and I won’t stop banging on doors in Washington until this bill is on the President’s desk.”

To become a law, the bill must be passed by the Senate and sent to the President for consideration.

-Reported by Elizabeth Transue/MTN News

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