President Signs Little Shell Recognition Into Law After Tester, Daines, Gianforte Efforts

The Little Shell Tribe fought for federal recognition for more than 100 years; Tester has introduced recognition legislation every congressional session since 2007, Daines has co-sponsored in House & Senate, Gianforte shepherded bill to House passage

Following more than a century of efforts by Tribal members and dedicated efforts by U.S. Senators Jon Tester, Steve Daines, and Congressman Greg Gianforte, federal recognition of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians officially became law today after President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“More than 100 years of tireless advocacy by generations of Little Shell members has led to this long-overdue moment—and now, finally, the Tribe has been recognized by the United States as a sovereign nation,” said Tester. “Little Shell recognition was the first bill I introduced in the United States Senate, and I’ve been honored to fight alongside them for the last 12 years to get this done. This is truly a historic day for the Little Shell Tribe, for the state of Montana, and for our country.”

“Today will forever be remembered by the Little Shell Tribe and all of Montana. After more than a century of perseverance, the Little Shell Tribe is finally federally recognized,” Daines said. “Congratulations to Chairman Gray who has fought this fight with grace and patience. It’s been an honor to work with him over the years to get this done. I thank President Trump for signing this into law, and I look forward to celebrating with the Tribe in Montana.”

“With President Trump signing this bill into law, today marks a historic day for the Little Shell Tribe who have worked tirelessly for more than a century to receive the federal recognition they deserve. It’s been an honor to work alongside my friend, Chairman Gray, and the Little Shell people to get their bill through the House and to make their long overdue federal recognition a reality,” Gianforte said. “I look forward to celebrating with them soon.”

Tester’s first bill introduction as a U.S. Senator in 2007 sought federal recognition for the Little Shell Tribe, and he has reintroduced the same legislation every Congress since. Daines signed on to the legislation when he got to Congress and both Senators successfully pushed to include the bill as an amendment to the NDAA, a must-pass defense bill, which the Senate passed in June.

In September 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congressman Greg Gianforte’s bill providing federal recognition to the Little Shell Tribe, marking the first time ever such a bill passed either the House or Senate. Tester kept the pressure on with a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees requesting that they include recognition language in any final version of the NDAA. Last week, the House unveiled final text of NDAA, which included the Little Shell provision, and passed the bill.

The Little Shell Tribe is headquartered in Great Falls and has more than 5,400 members across Montana. They were recognized by the State of Montana in 2000 but have sought federal recognition for more than a century.

Native American Tribes must be recognized as sovereign nations by the federal government to exercise full self-governance. This nation-to-nation relationship allows them to access critical resources for economic development, health care, education, and regulate affairs on tribal lands on terms that are socially and culturally appropriate.