Senators respond to Little Shell decision with new effort to recognize tribe

Baucus, Tester introduce bill to override ‘broken’ recognition process

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Moments after learning of a decision not to recognize the Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians as a federal Indian tribe, Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today launched a new effort to get the Montana tribe the federal recognition it deserves.

Today, after decades of delays, the U.S. Interior Department announced the Little Shell Tribe did not meet the agency’s criteria for federal recognition.

Both Baucus and Tester strongly disagree with the decision.

Immediately after learning the news, they introduced the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Restoration Act of 2009.  If signed into law, the legislation would override the Interior Department’s decision by making recognition of the tribe federal law.

“The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians have patiently waited for formal recognition from the federal government for more than a century,” said Baucus.  “I do not agree with today’s decision from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but this is not the end to the Little Shell’s fight.  I am proud to co-sponsor a bill to give the Little Shell Tribe the recognition that they deserve.  As Montanans and Americans, we recognize their history and heritage in our state and I support them.”

Tester, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, has called the federal government’s recognition process “broken.”

“Today’s decision was wrong for a tribe that’s been a part of Montana for many years,” Tester said.  “The Little Shell Tribe has worked hard to be recognized by the federal government.  I’m disappointed by this decision, and Max and I will keep pushing hard to get the tribe the recognition it deserves.”

Both Baucus and Tester have long fought for federal recognition of the Little Shell Tribe.

The Little Shell Tribe is made up of approximately 4,300 members, most of whom live in the Great Falls area.  The State of Montana recognized the tribe in 2000.