HDN Staff and Wire report BILLINGS
The president of the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe has asked a U.S. House Committee to move forward on a bill to give federal recognition to the Montana tribe after decades of delay. The tribe has no reservation. Its approximately 4,300 members are scattered across Montana and surrounding states. Little Shell President John Sinclair said the campaign for recognition dates to 1892, when Chief Little Shell and his followers were cut out of a treaty signed with Chippewa leaders. A 1978 petition filed by the tribe with the Department of Interior is still pending. The bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., would circumvent that process and grant the tribe recognition. Rehberg joined Sinclair to speak in favor of the measure during a Wednesday hearing by the House Committee on Natural Resources. "A state as diverse as Montana rarely provides a homogenous point of view on almost any issue, the question of recognition for the Little Shell Tribe near Great Falls is not a controversial one," Rehberg told the committee, reported in a press release from his office. "In fact, nine years ago the State of Montana formally recognized the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and I’ve worked across the aisle with Montana’s democratic senaTors to extend that recognition to the federal government. For us, this federal recognition is about rising above politics, and bureaucratic red tape to do the right thing. "In the grand scheme of what we do here, it’s a small thing for Congress to provide a spark of federal recognition for the Li t t le Shel l Tribe of Chippewa Indians," concluded Rehberg in his testimony. "The benefit for those who receive that spark can be life changing and permanent. Folks in my neck of the woods understand the power a single spark can have. “The federal government has horded its fire for too long. Let’s work together to light a fire for the Li t t le Shel l Tribe in Montana," Rehberg said.