The chairman of Montana’s Little Shell tribe is not fazed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s remarks to a U.S. Senate committee earlier this week.
Zinke, Montana’s former congressman, told the U.S Senate Indian Affairs Committee that while he fully supports the tribe’s bid for federal recognition:
"Now, as the secretary, I have to make sure that process is fair, transparent and not unduly influence that process."
Zinke says he hopes Congress takes up the tribe’s bid for federal recognition. Little Shell Chairman Gerald Gray says Zinke could bypass Congress and the all political baggage that comes with it, by unilaterally approving the tribe’s federal status. Gray says that’s still possible, but it will take time.
"We didn’t expect it to happen overnight once he got confirmed," says Gray. "I’m sure he’s got to have his attorneys look at the rules and regulations and then say, ‘Oh yeah, you can do this' or 'here’s how to do it' or whatever."
The Little Shell Tribe has spent nearly four decades fighting for federal recognition. The Senate Indian Affairs committee passed a bill to do just that in February.