“The Day That Finally Came”—Little Shell Tribe Program

The Yellowstone Gateway Museum’s “People and Place” virtual speaker series begins on Wednesday, April 7, 7:00pm with award-winning writer and Chris LaTray, speakerstoryteller Chris La Tray and “The Day That Finally Came,” a program about the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe. Participants can register for any or all of the Zoom programs here: https://yellowstonegatewaymuseum.org/webinars-programs/people-place/. Programs are uploaded to museum’s YouTube channel after the live virtual event.

La Tray stated, “The program exists to shine a brighter light on some of these stories and help people better understand who the Little Shell are, and how large a part they have played in the history of North America.”

Montana’s Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians recently became the 574th Indian tribe to be recognized by the United States government, after nearly 150 years of trying. Headquartered in Great Falls with more than 5,300 enrolled members, the Little Shell Tribe is connected to all area Anishinaabe tribes, including the Chippewa, Cree, and Assiniboine people, and, particularly, the Métis, or mixed-race. La Tray draws stories from historians like the late Nicholas Vrooman and Verne Dusenberry to reveal the larger reality behind the “Little Shell” name, including how conflict with the US government led to the fracture and spreading out of what were once tight, family-based bands, their members often finding refuge on other reservations and marrying into other Montana tribes, like the Blackfeet and Salish people. 

Chris La Tray is a regular contributor to the Missoulian, Montana Quarterly, and university journals including Camas Magazine, Cutbank Online, and Talking River. His first book, One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays From the World At Large (2018, Riverfeet Press) won the 2018 Montana Book Award and a 2019 High Plains Book Award. His next book, Becoming Little Shell, will be published by Milkweed Editions in Spring 2021. This book is the story of La Tray’s mixed-race, Métis heritage and is also a history of the state’s Métis people, their largely unrecognized cultural presence on the High Plains of the U.S., and finally of the Little Shell tribe and their struggle for federal recognition.

La Tray is Chippewa-Cree Métis, and is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. He is a director on the board of the Big Sky Country National Heritage Area, serving as the official representative of the Little Shell Tribe. Born and raised in Montana, La Tray grew up near Frenchtown.

The series continues Wednesday evenings throughout April with “Montana Women: Making Do and Making a Difference” with Karen Reinhart on Wednesday, April 14, 7:00pm, following the Friends of the Yellowstone Gateway Museum Annual Meeting, which begins at 6:30 pm; “A Brief History of Cooke City” with Kelly Hartman on Wednesday, April 21, 7:00pm; and "Livingston and Park County: The Early Years" on Wednesday, April 28, 7:00 pm with Paul Shea. Participants can register for any or all of the Zoom programs here: https://yellowstonegatewaymuseum.org/webinars-programs/people-place/. Programs are uploaded to museum’s YouTube channel after the live virtual event.

Visit Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for program updates or contact Karen Reinhart, 222-4184 or kreinhart@parkcounty.org.