Tribe’s Decades-long Recognition Bid Goes Before US Congress

Committee will also vote on bill that gives the Little Shell 200 acres to use as a land base

By Molly Priddy

BILLINGS — Congress is taking up the decades-long fight for federal recognition by Montana’s Little Shell Tribe, which would make its 6,000 members eligible for U.S. government benefits from education to health care.

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a recognition bill that also gives the Little Shell 200 acres to use as a land base. It’s sponsored by Montana Democrat Sen. Jon Tester.

Tribal Chairman Gerald Gray told The Associated Press he’s cautiously optimistic his people’s hopes finally will be realized.

They’ve been without a recognized homeland since the late 1800s, when Chief Little Shell and his followers in North Dakota broke off treaty negotiations with the U.S. government, later settling in Montana and southern Canada.

They were recognized by the state of Montana in 2000.