Just weeks after it was blocked in the Senate, Montana Representative Greg Gianforte reintroduces legislation that would start the process to federally recognize the Little Shell Tribe.
If passed H.R. 297 would all the Tribe to purchase 200 acres of land to serve as it's reservation. That area would be determined by the Secretary of Interior and the Tribe and could be placed somewhere in Cascade, Blaine, Hill or Glacier county.
It would also make the Tribe eligible for federal resources for economic development, health and education.
We take up their worthy cause again today as I reintroduce the bill,” Gianforte said. “I call on this body to consider and pass this bill again. This Congress should provide the Little Shell Tribe with the federal recognition it deserves, particularly after its eight decades of dedicated efforts.”
Gerald Gray, Chairman of the Little Shell Tribe had this to say after Gianforte's announcement, "I appreciate Congressman Gianforte’s steadfast determination to see justice served for the Little Shell Tribe. He is a true friend to my people. I am confident that his persistence will result in the long-awaited passage and enactment into law of the Little Shell Restoration Act.”
Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., reintroduced the same legislation in the Senate on Tuesday.
In a press release sent to KFBB Tester said, "The Little Shell deserve to have their sovereignty recognized. It’s time for the federal government to do right by the Little Shell. After years of fighting, I’m hopeful we can get it done this Congress.”
This is not the first time Montana's Congressman have tried to get the Tribe the recognition they believe they deserve however, it was quickly squashed in December.
Senator Daines called for a vote and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah was the single vote that struck the bill down.
Sen. Lee he has not returned our phone calls to KFBB but in a Montana Public Radio report he pointed to the Bureau of Indian Affairs 2009 denial of the Little Shell’s petition for federal recognition.
"I'm aware of no legal analysis indicating that the conclusion of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2009 was inadequate or flawed. For that reason, I object,” Lee said.
Federal recognition for the Little Tribe has been proposed several times dating back to the 1930s.
The closest it ever came to fruition was this past December in the Senate.
The Tribe is comprised of about 5,400 enrolled members. It's been recognized in the state of Montana since 2000 but has not had a recognized homeland since the late 1800s.