Little Shell bill clears hurdle in House
The U.S. House of Representatives passed Rep. Greg Gianforte’s bill on Wednesday to give federal recognition to the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians, marking the first time ever such a bill has passed the House or Senate, the congressman’s staff said.
“The Little Shell Tribe has had to wait too long for the federal government to act toward its well-deserved recognition,” Gianforte, R-Mont., said.
Gianforte introduced the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Restoration Act, House Resolution 3764, in September 2017. The bill passed the House Committee on Natural Resources in July.
To be enacted into law, the Senate must pass the legislation and send it to the president for consideration.
Gianforte’s bill would restore the federal recognition of the Little Shell Tribe and allow the Tribe to buy 200 acres to serve as its reservation. It would make the Little Shell Tribe’s nearly 6,000 members eligible for federal resources for economic development, health and education.
The main area of the tribe is considered to be in Blaine, Cascade, Glacier and Hill counties.
The Little Shell Tribe chair praised Gianforte’s efforts.
“Today he accomplished something that never has been accomplished before – passage of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Restoration Act,” Tribal Chair Gerald Gray said.
Gray said the bill will help restore the dignity of his tribe "and force the federal government to stop ignoring us."
"The tribe has made history today, and we are now one step closer to becoming federally recognized as our House bill passed out of the chamber first time ever," he posted to tribal members on Facebook.
The tribe petitioned the federal government in the 1930s and 1940s for a formal reservation and to be allowed to organize under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, Gianforte said.
The tribe has been without a recognized homeland since the late 1800s, when Chief Little Shell and his followers in North Dakota broke off treaty negotiations with the U.S. government, according to the Associated Press.
Tribal members later settled in Montana and Canada and are now scattered across the U.S. Northern Plains states and central Canada. Most live in Montana.
The Interior Department gave preliminary approval to recognizing the Little Shell in 2000 but rescinded the move in 2009. The agency denied recognition for the Little Shell again in 2013, according to AP.
The state of Montana recognized the tribe in 2000. Montana is home to seven Indian reservations and the state-recognized Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
Gianforte said he appreciated the hard work of the Little Shell people.
"Today marks an important milestone for the Tribe, and I am proud that I could help move their efforts forward," he said. "It’s time to get this bill through the Senate and to President Trump.”