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02-Mar-2015 22:04

(Submitted photo)Members of the tribe will gather Saturday for a ceremony led by traditional leaders of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota.

The Thunder Pipe and Thirsty Dance Song ceremony – in preparation for the band’s anticipated official recognition – is scheduled at a state park near Ulm, Mont., because the Little Shell tribe has no reservation of its own.“This is huge,” Gerald Gray Jr., chairman of the Little Shell tribe, said of the ceremony.

“It’s revitalizing the traditions for the Little Shell people.”Growing hopes for recognition are based on new standards for federal recognition for Indian tribes, which the Little Shell tribe meets in current draft form.Legislation to grant recognition also is pending before Congress.La Fromboise is a spiritual leader called a pipe carrier and will conduct the ceremony. government in 1892, when the government purchased a large portion of northern North Dakota from area tribes.William Vrooman, Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa historian / Special to The Forum Chief Little Shell III was the tribal leader of the Little Shell Pembina Band of North Dakota in the late 1800s. Members of the Little Shell Band believed then - and still contend today - the deal was done fraudulently, since they never agreed to sell their land.

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The agreement followed the significant reduction of the Turtle Mountain reservation to accommodate the influx of settlers, dispossessing the Little Shell followers of a land base.

The Little Shell followers scattered, but most ended up in Montana, where they now are recognized as a tribe by the state government.“This is North Dakota history actually being played out in Montana,” said Nicholas Vrooman, a historian who has chronicled the Little Shell tribe’s history.