Little Shell council to meet Saturday
The John Gilbert-chaired council of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians is meeting Saturday in Great Falls to discuss several issues, including the federal settlement for a class-action lawsuit and resolving the dispute over the legitimate Tribal council.
The U. S. Senate in November approved paying $3.4 billion in the settlement of a lawsuit filed by Blackfeet Tribal member Elouise Cobell. Cobell said the government for decades had failed to pay tribal landowners around the country royalties due to them.
The council issue stems from a second council for the Little Shell being elected after members of the tribe said a previous election had been illegally delayed.
John Sinclair, the chair of the first council, has said that the delay was legal and required, and that the council he chairs is the legal leadership of the tribe.
Gilbert's council continues to maintain that that body is the legal government.
The two groups said last fall that they may proceed to settle the dispute in tribal court, possibly with the help of the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council.
The Gilbert council also is seeking support for legislation that would grant the tribe federal recognition. Although the tribe was recognized by the Montana government in 2000, attempts to gain federal recognition have yet to see success.
A 30-year-old petition — the latest in decades of Little Shell attempts — to be given federal recognition was denied by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2009.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has sponsored legislation that would grant the tribe federal recognition.
Tester and Montana's U. S. Sen Max Baucus and Rep. Denny Rehberg have all proposed bills to grant the tribe federal recognition in previous sessions.
Other topics at Saturday's meeting will include enrollments in the tribe and upcoming tribal events.
The meeting is scheduled to run from 1-3 p. m. Saturday in Conference Room 7 at the Westgate Mall in Great Falls, 1807 3rd St. Northwest.