Current Cases & Projects  |  Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana

Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana
Attorney: Kim Gottschalk

Case Update

In February 1997, the Branch of Acknowledgment and Research (BAR) placed the Tribe's federal recognition petition on active review status. In July 2000 the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs (AS-IA) published a Preliminary Determination in favor of recognition. In October 2000 a technical assistance meeting was held with the Office of Federal Acknowledgment (OFA) to outline a program of action to strengthen the petition prior to the final determination. Substantial work was done to strengthen the Tribe's petition and the final submissions were made in February 2005. Active consideration of the Tribe's new material began in August 2007, and OFA conducted a three week site visit in October 2007. OFA had previously indicated it would reach a final determination by the end of calendar 2007. This deadline was not met; the date was moved to the end of July 2008. Before that date arrived, the AS-IA granted OFA new deadlines of January 28, 2009 and then July 27, 2009. OFA granted itself an extension of time to September 25, 2009, and then a further extension to October 26, 2009. On October 27, 2009 the Acting AS-IA issued a Final Determination against recognition of the Tribe, overruling the decision in the Preliminary Determination. The stated rationale for Final Determination was the unwillingness to go along with the "departures from precedent" which the previous AS-IA found to be justified by historical circumstances. In February 2010, the Tribe filed a Request for Reconsideration with the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA). The IBIA allowed interested parties, if any, to file opposition briefs by July 23, 2010. No one filed an opposition brief.

On June 12, 2013, the IBIA affirmed the negative Final Determination. However, it referred five legal questions to the Secretary of the Interior (SOI). We had 30 days to comment on the questions which we did on July 11, 2013.

In an important development after the IBIA decision, and before our July 11, 2013 comments, on June 21, 2013 the AS-IA made an announcement of "Consideration of Revision to Acknowledgment Regulations" along with preliminary discussion draft regulations which propose major changes in the regulations. In light of this announcement, we urged the SOI to request the AS-IA to suspend consideration of the Final Determination pending completion of the revision process as the proposed amendments are very significant. We submitted extensive comments on the draft regulations on September 24, 2013.

On September 16, 2013, the Secretary of the Interior ruled on the legal issues which we had raised in the IBIA and which had been referred to the Secretary. The Secretary referred all five questions back to the assistant Secretary, stating, "The allegations in these grounds suggest that further review by your office would ensure that the Department's final decision in this matter benefits from a full analysis and comports with notions of a full and fair evaluation of the Little Shell petition." The Secretary requested the Assistant Secretary to consider this request as well. The Tribe continues to pursue legislative recognition

K Jerome Gottschalk Testimony on Recognition (July 12, 2012)
U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs – Oversight Hearing


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