Little Shell Federal Recognition Bill One Step Closer to Becoming Law after Push by Tester & Daines
Senators successfully include legislation in Senate’s must-pass annual defense bill
(U.S. Senate) - Federal recognition for the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians has advanced further than ever before after a push by U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines to successfully include their bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act-the Senate's must-pass annual defense legislation.
The Little Shell Tribe has sought federal recognition for nearly four decades, and has been recognized by the State of Montana since 2000.
"This is the very first bill I introduced when I got to the Senate, and I've fought ever since for us to do right by the Little Shell Tribe and pass it into law," said Tester. "That day is now closer than ever for the Tribe-long-overdue recognition of their rightful history and tribal sovereignty."
"Great news today for Montana's Little Shell Tribe," Daines said. "After decades of fighting for the federal recognition they deserved, we're one step closer to making it a reality. I'm honored to have worked to get this included in the must-pass NDAA, and will continue to work until it's signed into law."
Montana's U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte introduced the Little Shell recognition bill in the U.S. House earlier this Congress. Gianforte's bill passed the House in March 2019 thanks to his leadership.
"This is another important step for the Little Shell Tribe in their quest for federal recognition. After successfully guiding the bill through the House last September, and again in March, I am thankful the Senate is taking up their worthy cause. I appreciate the dedication and determination of Chairman Gray and the Little Shell people throughout this process, and I will continue to push for the recognition they deserve," said Gianforte.
A bill recognizing the Little Shell was set to pass the Senate in the closing days of the 115th Congress, until Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) blocked the bill from receiving a Senate vote. Despite Lee's opposition, Daines and Tester both pushed forward. Gianforte had already secured passage in the House.
Native American Tribes must be recognized as sovereign nations by the federal government to exercise full self-governance. Under this nation-to-nation relationship, Tribes can access critical resources for economic development, health care and education resources, and regulate affairs on tribal lands on terms socially and culturally appropriate.
Federal recognition can be granted via Congressional legislation, a U.S. Court decision, or an administrative process through the U.S. Interior Department. Tester first introduced legislation to federally recognize the Little Shell Tribe in 2007. It was the first bill he introduced as a United States Senator.
The Little Shell Tribe is headquartered in Great Falls and has more than 5,400 members across Montana.