Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Little Shell Restoration Act Passes Both House & Senate – Bill will be Sent to President for Signature

By Native News Online Staff - December 18, 2019 at 10:53PM

Published December 19, 2019

WASHINGTON  After 70 years to gain federal recognition, the Montana Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians is poised to be the 574th federally recognized American Indian tribe. S. 51, the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Restoration Act of 2019, which provides federal recognition to the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana. has passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature.

The bill passed the House of Representatives last week and  the Senate on Tuesday.

“This has been a long journey for our people and I am proud that it is finally over. We have worked tirelessly in this fight and the United States has finally reaffirmed our existence. This fight has always been about the dignity, identity, and culture of our people. The Little Shelll Tribe and its people have, and will always, persist and thrive,” commented Little Shell Tribe Chairman Gerald Gray after the Senate voted in favor on Tuesday.

The tribe is based in Great Falls, Montana.

The Little Shell Tribe has waged a two-front war to obtain recognition—one front in Congress and one in the administrative process.  For decades, the Native American Relief Fund (NARF) has represented the Tribe in the administrative process and gathered crucial information used in the Congressional effort, which was led by Josh Clause (Clause Law P.L.L.C.). The two efforts complemented each other, and we are thrilled that we were able to support the Tribe’s ultimate success.

In 1978, the Department of the Interior established regulations governing the federal recognition of Indian tribes. The Little Shell Tribe sent a letter in 1978 indicating an intent to proceed under the regulations. The process required extensive historical, genealogical, and anthropological evidence of a tribe’s continuous existence as a governing body over time. Little Shell submitted over 60,000 pages of documentation in support of its recognition. NARF represented the tribe throughout these years’ of effort. Thousands of attorney hours were invested in fulfilling the regulations and  experts were hired to collect and confirm the required anthropological evidence.

With the collected evidence in-hand, the Tribe received a favorable preliminary finding in support of its federal recognition. However, subsequently, that finding was reversed—even though no adverse evidence had been presented. To accommodate a convoluted and broken administrative process, extensive revisions were made to the recognition regulations. The tribe has been working to resubmit under the new regulations.

Given the recent Congressional action, that effort is no longer necessary.




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