National | Federal Recognition

Little Shell Chippewa Tribe welcomes federal recognition reform

The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana is welcoming reforms to the federal recognition process.

Chairman Gerald Gray said the tribe could benefit from a rule change at the Bureau of Indian Affairs that requires petitioners to demonstrate their history back to 1934. Currently, groups seeking recognition have to document their existence to the 1800s and sometimes even earlier.

“For a lot of the Plains tribes, and Indians in the country as a whole, there’s oral history but not a lot of written history,” Gray told the Associated Press. “But we can prove our existence as a tribal entity and having a tribal government back to (1934).”

The tribe submitted its petition in 1978. The BIA denied the application in October 2009 but Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has ordered a reconsideration so the tribe could choose to be evaluated under the new regulation, which is being sent to the Federal Register for publication.

“The proposed rule to fix the broken process for tribal recognition is a step in the right direction," Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said in a press release. Nations like Montana’s Little Shell have waited decades for federal recognition with no end in sight. I will keep working with Secretary Jewell until we give these tribes a fair shot at recognition.”

The rule won't become final after another round of public comment and tribal consultation. So it could take several more months before the tribe's petition is evaluated under the new standards.

In the meantime, Tester continues to push for passage of S.161, a bill to extend federal recognition to the tribe. His committee approved the bill in April and it's been placed on the Senate calendar, a step before a possible vote.

The Obama administration supports the bill.

Get the Story:
US proposes changes to tribal recognition rules (AP 5/22)

Relevant Documents:
Proposed Rule | Press Release | Comparison Chart (comparing current rule to proposed rule) | Response to Comments on June 2013 Discussion Draft | Frequently Asked Questions

Related Stories:
BIA announces regulation to reform federal recognition process (5/22)
Little Shell Chippewa Tribe still hopeful for federal recognition (05/12)

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