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Tribal Affairs

Two Montana Tribes Settle Historic Compensation Case

A bison stands over a field of yellow. An arm wearing a blue sleeve adorned with features holds a hoop over the bison's head. A glad with a gold fleur de lis over red, and a green shamrock waves over his rump.
Seal of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana

The Little Shell Chippewa and Chippewa Cree along with two other tribes have settled a case decades in the making about how much compensation the descendants of the Pembina Chippewa are entitled to.

When the U.S. government took the land now known as North Dakota, the tribes were not adequately compensated. Now, the 39,000 individual beneficiaries and the tribal nations themselves will split the settlement.

The Little Shell Chippewa, Chippewa Cree along with the White Earth Tribe of Minnesota and the Turtle Mountain Tribe of North Dakota will split a $59 million settlement.

Gerald Gray is the chairman of the Little Shell Chippewa. He said that the settlement doesn't come close to covering the amount of energy revenue lost by the tribes.

“They probably get that in an hour. We seeded quite a bit of land to the US government for pennies. Not even dollars,” Gray said.

Chairman Gray also says that not every tribal member will receive a slice of the pie.

“It's only those who have received money before,” he said referring to the settlement cases both in 1964 and 1980.

This is the third and final settlement case for the descendants of the Pembina Chippewa who were taken advantage of by the U.S. government during the early 1800s.

Taylar Stagner is Yellowstone Public Radio's Indigenous Affairs reporter.