Representative Rehberg, Senators Baucus and Tester Introduce Bill to Bring National Recognition to Montana's Little Shell Tribe

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg and Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today introduced legislation that will bring national recognition to Montana's Little Shell Chippewa Tribe, which will enable the Tribe to qualify for existing government services that will enhance their quality of life. The Little Shell Tribe has been recognized by the State of Montana and all seven other tribal nations in the state, and has been pursuing federal recognition for more than 100 years.

"The Little Shell have spent over a century tirelessly trying to gain federal recognition and this bill will help them get it," said Rehberg, who introduced similar legislation last congress. "This recognition is critical for the Tribe to gain better access to increased education and healthcare funding. I thank Max and Jon for taking the lead on this legislation in the Senate."

"This bill fulfills a long overdue promise owed to the 4,500 Montanans who belong to the Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians," Tester said. "Not only does this bill provide tribal land, it formally sets up a government-to-government relationship between the tribe and the United States-something all tribal nations deserve. This bill also cuts to the chase by requiring action now, rather than funding another red-tape study of the issue."

"Montana's Little Shell Chippewa Tribe is long overdue for getting the federal recognition it deserves," Baucus said. "That's why I'm working together with Jon and Denny to pass legislation so Tribal members can get the federal recognition and the benefits they deserve. I'm committed to getting this legislation passed."

"I'm really appreciative of what the delegation has done for the Little Shell Tribe," said John Sinclair, Chairman of the Little Shell Tribe. "Many of our tribal members are in need of healthcare and this legislation would help them get it. It's important that we get this legislation passed and achieve recognition as soon as possible."

The Little Shell Tribe is made up of approximately 4,300 members, mostly in the Great Falls area. In 2000, the same year the Tribe was recognized by the state of Montana, the Department of Interior issued a positive finding for the Tribe making them eligible for recognition. Since then, little progress has been made due to bureaucratic obstacles. The entire Montana delegation said they intend to work with Senate and House colleagues to gain passage of the bill and move it to the President's desk as soon as possible.