Little Shell Tribe receives documents to bolster federal recognition

Chief Little Shell was a leader of the Little Shell Tribe in the late 1800s. Photo from Turtle Mountain Chippewa Heritage Center

The Little Shell Chippewa Tribe of Montana hopes a new set of documents bolsters its bid for federal recognition.

The evidence comes from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, The Great Falls Tribune reported. Chief Bill Sitting Chief, a hereditary leader of the North Dakota-based tribe, brought the baptismal records, letters and other documents that show the Little Shell existed as a tribal community.

"This is about justice,” Sitting Chief said at the Little Shell Tribe's offices in Montana, the Tribune reported. “It’s about the right thing to do.”

The documents cover a period of time in which Bureau of Indian Affairs said evidence was lacking to provide the Little Shell Tribe's existence. It's possible it could be used as the agency reconsiders the tribe's petition, which has gone through ups and downs through the last three administrations.

The Clinton administration issued a favorable finding in 2000. But the Obama administration changed course and issued a final determination against the tribe in 2009, the first time in the BIA's history that a proposed finding went from positive to negative.

Separately, the tribe has seen strong support in Congress for legislative recognition. But S.35 and H.R.286 have yet to see floor movement in the 114th Congress.

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Turtle Mountain documents could aid Little Shell Tribe (The Great Falls Tribune 3/9)

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