BREAKING: Senate Approves Federal Recognition of Little Shell Tribe After Years-Long Push by Tester & Daines

Tester has introduced recognition legislation every year since 2007, Daines has co-sponsored in both the House & Senate

(U.S. Senate) – The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians is one step closer to achieving federal recognition today, thanks to a legislative push by U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines. The Senators’ legislation passed today as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act-the Senate’s must-pass annual defense bill.

“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 said. “This bill will help correct a historical injustice perpetrated against the Little Shell Tribe, who have fought for generations to be recognized. It was the very first bill I introduced when I got to the Senate in 2007 and it’s time the federal government acknowledge what the tribes of Montana, the state of Montana, and most importantly, the Little Shell members themselves know to be true.”

“Today is a historic day for Montana’s Little Shell Tribe,” Daines said. “For the first time in history, our bill to federally recognize the Tribe passed the Senate. This is a major milestone for the Little Shell Tribe, and I’ll continue pushing until we get this done once and for all.”

The Little Shell Tribe has sought federal recognition for more than a century, and has been recognized by the State of Montana since 2000. Tester first introduced legislation to federally recognize the Little Shell Tribe in 2007-his first bill introduction as a U.S. Senator. Tester has introduced it every Congress since, and Daines has been a consistent supporter and co-sponsor of the legislation since he joined the Senate in 2015.

“This is a big step forward for the Little Shell Tribe and we are closer to federal recognition than ever before,” said Chairman Gerald Gray. “I want to thank Senator Tester for his tireless work over the past 12 years and Senator Daines for helping secure Senate passage of this landmark legislation.”

Despite being passed by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee four times-including during Tester’s tenure as Chairman of the Committee-the bill has never been brought up for a full vote on the Senate floor. It was set to pass the Senate in the closing days of the 115th Congress, until Senator Mike Lee blocked the bill from receiving a vote. Tester and Daines quickly reintroduced the legislation this Congress, the same day that U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte introduced the bill in the U.S. House. Gianforte’s bill passed the House in March 2019 thanks to his leadership.

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. Federal recognition can be granted via Congressional legislation, a U.S. Court decision, or an administrative process through the U.S. Interior Department.

The Little Shell Tribe is headquartered in Great Falls and has more than 5,400 members across Montana.