2023 Introduction

Native News 2023


The LandBack movement stretches from the physical return of Indigenous homelands to the strengthening of tribal sovereignty. It’s a movement that has been ramping up for a long time — some say since 1492. Yet, the gears are turning, and LandBack is gaining momentum.
With the appointment of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, as and the first Indigenous person to run the government’s 420 million acres of federal lands, LandBack is on the agenda for many tribes.
The Native News Honors Project traveled to Montana’s seven reservations and 12 tribes to see what new progress they have made in the LandBack movement. While some tribes are acquiring new land, others harness the movement through sovereignty.
The Aaniiih and Nakoda of Fort Belknap are the closest they have ever been to a water settlement, which should alleviate the reservation’s aging water systems and return hundreds of acres to the tribes.
The Aamsskáápipikani tribe has teamed up with the National Park Service to pilot a co-management program on the eastern side of Glacier National Park — the first of its kind — which will allow for the return of bison into the Crown of the Continent.
The Little Shell Chippewa Tribe, which received federal recognition in 2019, has launched new housing and food sovereignty programs to bolster the tribe’s basic needs. The Chippewa Cree tribe graduated its first class of Cree speakers amid a decline in fluency.
Officials at the Salish and Kootenai housing department hope to solve high interest rates for first time homeowners on the Flathead reservation — which has become a boom town for out-of-state residents.
Since Tsis tsis’tas owns 99% of its internal reservation lands, one of its newest projects is to build solar arrays that will lower the power bill for some members. For the Assiniboine and Sioux on Fort Peck, one historic preservation officer is leading the charge to museums and universities across the country to retrieve lost and stolen possessions, including their ancestral remains.
All of Montana’s tribes are engaging in some part of the LandBack movement, exercising sovereignty and regaining ground in more ways than one.


Editor Griffen Smith
and the Montana Native News
Honors Project Staff


The Native News Honor Project is reported, photographed, edited and designed by students at the University of Montana School of Journalism. This is the 32nd annual edition. The team appreciates the advice and counsel for the project received from Kate Schimel, news and investigations editor at High Country News; Anna V. Smith, associate editor for the High Country News Indigenous affairs desk; and Kalen Goodluck, photographer and investigative journalist. We also appreciate the assistance of the students in Dennis Swibold’s News Editing class.
Funding support for the 2023 publication came from the University of Montana School of Journalism and the Greater Montana Foundation, encouraging communication on issues, trends and values of importance to Montanans.
If you have comments about the project, email christine.trudeau@umontana.edu, jason.begay@umontana.edu, or jeremy.lurgio@umontana.edu or write to Native News, School of Journalism, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812.

The Long Return

The Assiniboine and Sioux fight to reclaim sacred items and remains

An Empowered Future

The Tsis tsis’tas look to the sky for renewable energy

Barriers to Buying

Salish and Kootenai envision homeownership for their middle class

With Land Comes Water

After establishing the basis for tribal water rights more than a century ago, the Aaniiih and Nakoda tribes close in on a $1.2 billion settlement

Land is Language

The Chippewa Cree work to revitalize the languages through a newly formed immersion program 

Breaking Old Ground

Little Shell Chippewa Tribe develop land with federal funds

Guardians of Ninnahstako 

The Aamsskáápipikani implement first U.S. co-management conservation program between a tribe and the National Park Service

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2023 Staff

Meet the 32nd annual Native News Montana staff.