Reported news features and sound portraits linked to federal recognition of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Produced by advanced audio students at the University of Montana School of Journalism as part of the Native News Honors Project. Generations of Little Shell, known as Montana's "landless tribe," fought for the federal recognition that finally happened via Congress and the president in December 2019. This project explores what that means and what's next for a tribe with more than 5,000 members. The recognition was national news, covered in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other outlets. When the excitement settled, these graduate and undergraduate journalists dug in, talking to people all over Montana, where the tribe has its headquarters. The combined stories explore deeply who this tribe is, how it thinks about its identity and what's changed with long-sought recognition.
Reporter Kylie Mohr digs into the where of Montana's "landless tribe." Although more than 3,000 people in a tribe that has more than 5,000 members live in Montana, they're also spread out to almost every state in the country. That's part of what makes the Little Shell unique. History shows how and why the tribe adopted a nomadic culture. That's also seen through the family of one man in Columbia Falls. His relatives moved around to follow the work, including building the railroad and the Fort Peck dam. His grandmother was the glue that held together people in different places; she fought for recognition of the tribe, but died before that bill became law in 2019. Recognition won't change how the tribe has settled in many places, but it could help members feel a connection to a more important home base.
Reporter Kylie Mohr talks with Celina Gray, a grad student at the University of Montana and a mom of three who's struggled to find her place, both geographically and with her tribal affiliations. Gray discusses her identity and her family's history, including memories of father, who had his own radio show in Great Falls, Montana, and helped start the Native American Studies program at her university.