GREAT FALLS – The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians is one step closer to achieving federal recognition.
The United States Senate, with support from Montana’s U.S. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester, passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that federally recognizes the tribe.
The Little Shell Tribe has fought for decades to receive recognition and be eligible for federal resources for economic development, health, and education.
In a statement Thursday, Chairman Gerald Gray called the passage “a huge step” and thanked Montana’s congressional delegation for their support and advocacy.
“The bill will need to be reconciled with the House of Representatives’ version of the NDAA, which is expected to pass after the July 4th recess. Our bill will need to survive that reconciliation process in order to become law. The timing of final passage will depend on how long that process takes but will likely be late July or after the August recess,” Chairman Gray wrote in a Facebook post.
Daines and Tester both acknowledged the legislation as a milestone.
“This is a big day: after more than 12 years, our legislation to federally recognize the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians has finally passed the United States Senate,” Tester, a Democrat, said. “This bill will help correct a historical injustice perpetrated against the Little Shell Tribe, who have fought for generations to be recognized.”
Daines called the passage a historic day for Montana’s Little Shell Tribe.
“For the first time in history, our bill to federally recognize the Tribe passed the Senate,” the Republican stated.
The journey to federal recognition for the Little Shell Tribe has been difficult, with several roadblocks. Despite being passed by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee four times, the bill has never been brought up for a full vote on the Senate floor, according to Tester’s Office.
The bill was set to pass the Senate in the closing days of the 115th Congress, but Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) blocked the bill from receiving a vote.
Tester and Daines reintroduced the legislation during this Congress on the same day U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte of Montana introduced the bill in the U.S. House. Gianforte’s bill passed the House in March 2019.
“After successfully guiding the bill through the House last September, and again in March, I am pleased the Senate has moved the bill forward,” Gianforte, a Republican, said in a statement to MTN News.
“There is still more work to be done,” he added.
-Natalie McAlpine reporting for MTN News