GREAT FALLS — Peaceful protesters gathered at the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe office on Central Avenue West in Great Falls on Saturday, December 30, 2023, to argue that the current people in charge should lose their positions.
The protesters included tribal and non-tribal members carrying signs and playing traditional drums to fight for the removal of the current council.
“People who are from the original families that settled here should be on that council,” said Sarah LeDeau Schmasow, one of the protesters, “Not people who are so far removed from any of the families and are so out of touch of who we are or any of the practices.”
The protesters claim to have two valid recalls to remove Chairman Gerald Gray and other tribe members off the council.
According to a news release from the Little Shell Chippewa tribe, the “tribe is not aware of, nor have we received, any legally valid recall petition as provided for under the Little Shell tribal election code.”
“That council’s not the tribe,” LeDeau Schmasow said, “We are the tribe. We are the tribal people.”
The protesters believe that chairman Gerald Gray has too much control over the tribe’s people, silencing those who disagree with him and ignoring the recall. They also feel that the tribe’s money is going to places that aren’t directly beneficial to Little Shell members
“They lock us out. They disqualify us for voting,” LeDeau Schmasow said, “They disqualify us to even be candidates to maintain their power.”
Although the program office building was empty due to the holidays, the protesters invited the council members to the event. In their press release, the tribe said that they are disappointed in the allegations being made by the protesters.
“Their lack of concern of not even showing up when we invited them is a demonstration for their lack of respect for the original families of Great Falls,” LeDeau Schmasow said.
The protesters marched around the building and across Central Avenue West, with drivers honking their horns to show support as they passed. The protesters say they will not stop until the recalls are honored.
The Little Shell Tribe, headquartered in Great Falls, includes more than 5,000 enrolled members around the state. The tribe has a long history, dating back to followers of Chief Little Shell, who were left without recognition or a land base after disputes over a federal treaty in 1892. The tribe received federal recognition in 2019.