GREAT FALLS — Less than two years after gaining long sought-after federal recognition, the Little Shell Tribe has marked another milestone, as a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Friday for its new clinic in Great Falls.
The event featured a ceremonial color guard, as well as remarks from city, county, and congressional leaders and their representatives. The Acting Deputy Director of Indian Health Services also attended.
In the spring of 2020, the tribe purchased the building on Smelter Avenue that was previously home to Best Friends Animal Hospital.
The renovated facility will provide medical, dental, behavioral, traditional, and healthcare support services to tribal members in one location.
“With healthcare, good healthcare, any healthcare, it's good for the health of a whole nation,” said Little Shell Tribal Chairman Gerald Gray. “If people get primary care, preventative care, you’re going to be healthy, you’re going to be more productive and lead a better life.”
Gray says the clinic is the newest tribal health care unit in the United States.
Money for the clinic and the $2.5 million renovation came as a result of federal CARES Act funding. Staffing will be coordinated by Indian Health Services.
“If we didn’t buy this with the money that we were allocated, we would not have had a service unit for 40 years,” said Gray. “That’s how backlogged the IHS funding is. So we basically said we’ll build it, hopefully they’ll come, and they did."
This isn’t the only new facility for the Little Shell Tribe. They purchased the former U.S. Bank building on Central Avenue West and also recently renovated a building at 6th Street and Central Avenue West to house tribal offices.