- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians is moving closer to the federal recognition it has sought for 35 years.

The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved legislation Wednesday that would recognize the tribe.

The bill sponsored by Montana Sen. Jon Tester and co-sponsored by Sen. John Walsh now goes to the full Senate.

Tester is the chairman of the Indian Affairs committee. He says Wednesday’s action is a big step in a difficult journey.

The landless tribe has about 4,500 members loosely centered in Great Falls. They have struggled to stay together for more than a century of poverty and dislocation.

The state of Montana officially recognized the tribe in 2000.

Federal recognition could bring the tribe land for a reservation, along with housing and education assistance.

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