May 12 2014
Helena, MT – Leaders of an American Indian tribe in Montana awaiting federal recognition say they are closer than ever to that goal.
The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Council Chairman Gerald Gray spoke with Gov. Steve Bullock last week. Gray says recently proposed rule changes for recognizing American Indian tribes would put a nod from the U.S. government within their reach.
Federal officials say the proposed rule changes are in the midst of a months-long finalization process.
The landless tribe has been recognized by the state of Montana since 2000. With about 4,500 members loosely centered in Great Falls, federal recognition could bring the tribe land, along with housing and education assistance.
Gray, Bullock and others met as part of the annual Tribal Leaders Summit at the State Capitol in Helena.
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The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana lost a decision in its quest to gain federal recognition.
During the Clinton administration, the Bureau of Indian Affairs proposed to recognize the tribe in 2000. The Obama administration, nine years later, reversed course and issued a final determination against the tribe. The tribe asked the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, an administrative review body, to look into the matter. The board, however, said it lacked jurisdiction to order the BIA to reconsider the petition.
“Petitioner’s Exhibits 1 and 2 include allegations that are within the board’s jurisdiction, but we conclude that that petitioner has not met its burden to establish that reconsideration is warranted, and thus we affirm the final determination,” the June 12 decision stated.
But the decision gave some hope to the tribe. The board referred several issues to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who was asked about the issue at a hearing last month, for further review.
Interior Board of Indian Appeals Decision:
In Re Federal Acknowledgment of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana (June 12, 2013)
Secretary Jewell mum on Little Shell Tribe recognition bid (05/16)