Tester presses Interior Secretary on Little Shell recognition

Havre Daily News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen Jon Tester wants to know why it's taking the federal government so long to formally recognize Montana's Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians.

During Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's first hearing in front of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Friday, Tester said the federal government's system for formally recognizing Indian tribes is "broken."

The Little Shell Tribe is made up of approximately 4,300 mem¬bers, most of whom live in the Great Falls area. The State of Montana recognized the tribe in 2003.

Originally passed in 1978, Congress created a law that allows the U.S. Department of Interior to evaluate applications for federal tribal recognition based on history, culture and science. However, Congress can also recognize tribes. The Little Shell Tribe has sought recognition for over 30 years without a decision. In 2007, Tester introduced legisla¬tion — his fast as a U.S. senator — that would have granted the tribe the recognition.

Today, Salazar  agreed 31 years is "too long" and said the process needs to be streamlined

"It's time to fulfill a long-overdue promise to the thousands of  Montanans who belong to the Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians," Tester void "It's time for the system to get fixed so the tribe can finally be recognized. And I'm confident Secretary Salazar will get the job done.:

Sen. Max Baucus has also sponsored legislation to recognize the Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians.