Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa receives federal recognition


Last updated 4/8/2020 at 4:10pm

Great Falls, Mont.-After 80-plus years of seeking federal recognition the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa has become the 574th federally recognized tribe in the United States. Federal recognition will give tribe members access to health care and social services.

Located in Montana, the tribe celebrated their victory by remembering those who have, over the years, pursued the recognition-including 93-year-old Theresa Juraskovich, the oldest tribal member, who told High Country News, "I felt like, without recognition, I wasn't somebody. Today, I feel like I'm valued."

The fight for recognition has highlighted the challenge of the federal government and non-Indigenous policymakers deciding who is, and who isn't, considered Native American.

"We had to go through a system that the federal government put in place," said Little Shell Tribal Chairman Gerald Gray told High Country News. "The same government that tried to get rid of Indians. I don't like it, but it's the system we were forced to operate under-and we did it. They get to tell me I'm Indian now."

Without federal recognition, tribe members have not had a reservation or land base for 100 years, but are spread throughout Montana and into other states. Federal recognition will bring many tribe changes during the next decade, tribal leaders say. Currently, about 5,400 people are members of the Little Shell tribe. The tribe's office is in Great Falls, Montana.


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