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The Little Shell tribe asked for federal recognition in North Dakota in the 1970s, but tribal representatives never completed the application process, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In 2006, the Florida Attorney General’s Office heard complaints about the tribe. But a spokeswoman for the attorney general said authorities were unable to find victims or substantiate the charges.

Mr. Watson said no legal authority has told him that selling memberships is illegal. As for those who say it’s a scam, he said: “If they want to pass judgment, I can’t help that.”