Decision on tribe’s recognition could come by January

Great Falls, Montana (AP) 8-08

A decision on whether the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe should be federally recognized could be made by January.

R. Lee Fleming, director of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Federal Acknowledgment, said in a letter to Little Shell chairman John Sinclair that his office has received a 180-day deadline extension to decide.

The landless, state-recognized tribe has about 4,300 members, mostly in the Great Falls area. They argue that recognition would provide access to federal health care, affordable housing and education grants. 


Sinclair said July 30 he believes the decision was delayed because of political pressure to hold off until President Bush leaves office.

“It is frustrating because we know we should be recognized,” Sinclair said. “But this just pushes everything back.”

The forefathers of the Little Shell were a band of the Chippewa that migrated to the Northern Plains in the 1700s.

After ending up in North Dakota in the late 1800s, the tribe was approached by federal agents seeking to buy land for white homesteaders for 10 cents an acre.

Chief Little Shell refused to sign what he considered an unfair deal. His people were taken off the Chippewa tribal roll and became a “landless tribe.”

Federal authorities relocated about 600 to the Canadian border. Most walked south into Montana and ended up on other reservations and on frontier outposts, where they intermarried with French-Canadian trappers.

The tribe has been trying to gain federal recognition for more than a century.