Below is the letter Tester wrote to Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs George Skibine, in which he charts the long history of delays and strongly suggests that a decision be announced no later than Sept. 25. And, he invites the secretary to Montana to meet Little Shell people face to face.
Mr. George Skibine
Acting Principal Deputy
Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs
Department of the Interior
Office of the Secretary
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Mr. Skibine:
I am greatly concerned about your agency’s letter this week to the Little Shell Tribe of Montana postponing your decision to grant the tribe federal recognition.
I know how difficult and important these decisions are, but another delay for the Little Shell people is a major setback for them. As you know, the 4,300 members of the Little Shell Tribe have been waiting for many years for federal recognition, and all they’ve gotten is setback after setback.
George, members of unrecognized Indian tribes are suffering every day. Time is not on our side. And considering the timeline of events over the past 31 years, the Little Shell people deserve a decision – not another delay.
1978: BIA creates the Office of Federal Acknowledgement (OFA)
4/28/78: Little Shell submits its Letter of Intent to Petition for acknowledgement.
2000: State of Montana formally recognizes Little Shell Tribe
7/21/00: OFA issues its proposed favorable finding
3/12/01: Montana Legislature passes a resolution urging the Department of Interior to recognize the tribe.
8/1/07: OFA begins active consideration on Final Determination
7/24/08: OFA asks for, and receives an extension
1/15/08: OFA asks for, and receives another extension
7/27/09: OFA asks for, and receives yet another extension
As a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I eagerly await your decision by no later than September 25. Please contact me immediately if the Little Shell Tribe cannot expect a decision by then.
As always, you’re welcome to visit Montana to see firsthand the issues the Little Shell people face, and to meet its members. I’d be happy to host you on a visit to the Big Sky State.
United States Senator