Great Falls Tribune: Little Shell chair to attend president's State of the Union

by Phil Drake

Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Chairman Gerald Gray will be Sen. Jon Tester’s guest of honor at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Feb. 4.

Gerald Gray, chairman of the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe
“I’ve worked with many leaders in the Little Shell Tribe over the past 20 years, and Chairman Gray is right up there at the top,” Tester, D-Mont., said Thursday in a news release. “He is a relentless advocate for his people who built strong coalitions but wasn’t shy about putting the screws to me and the rest of the delegation when he needed to.

“Because of his leadership, federal recognition is a battle the next generation won’t have to fight, and I’m honored that he’ll be my guest at this year’s State of the Union address.”

Gray said he was “grateful” to be invited and that Tester “was so instrumental in the restoration of my Tribe’s federal recognition.”

After more than 100 years of efforts by the Tribe, federal recognition was signed into law by Trump on Dec. 20 as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Montana’s congressional delegation, which includes Republican Sen. Steve Daines and GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte, made a focused bipartisan effort on getting the approval.

The Little Shell Tribe is based in Great Falls and has nearly 5,400 members. They were recognized by the state in 2000 but have sought federal recognition for more than a century.

Each lawmaker is allowed one guest.

Gianforte is taking his wife of 31 years, Susan, his staff said.

Daines said he will bring his spouse, as well.

“Excited to bring my sweet wife Cindy of 33 years to the State of the Union,” he said.