"In the U.S. Senate, there is an entire committee devoted to deciding issues having to do with Indian affairs. It's aptly called the Indian Affairs Committee, and Montana's Sen. Jon Tester is a member.
But over in the U.S. House, there's no such committee. Rather, the Office of Indian Affairs in that part of Congress falls under the purview of the Natural Resources Committee, which states on its Web site that, “In an effort to ensure these issues are given the prominent focus they deserve, matters pertaining to Indian affairs are considered at the full Committee level.”
Or at least, it might if it ever found the time for them. Unfortunately, the committee must have too much on its plate, because it has yet to address several issues of importance to Montana tribes. Rep. Denny Rehberg has a list of them, starting with the fact that the Little Shell tribe still have not been granted federal recognition, despite having lobbied for such recognition for 100 years.
That's right, 100 years. Yet the Little Shell Band of the Chippewa, which counts more than 4,000 members living in the Great Falls area and was granted preliminary recognition in 2000, has not even been able to get a hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee.
“The committee continues to ignore the importance of the issue,” Rehberg told the Missoulian's editorial board this week. And that's why he sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week calling for the creation of a Committee on Indian Affairs.
“This would be a dramatic step toward improving the livelihood of all Native Americans,” the letter says. “California and Montana have many of the same issues facing Native Americans such as Impact Aid, the Cobell lawsuit and tribal recognition. Unfortunately, these issues and many others are still outstanding.”"
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Editorial: Indian committee needed in House
(The MIssoulian 1/8)