A century-old mistake has kept the Northern Cheyenne Tribe from access to 117 million tons of coal laying beneath the tribe's southeastern Montana reservation.

Now, Montana Senator John Walsh and U.S. Representative Steve Daines, along with State Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen are working to pass legislation to restore the mineral rights that were denied to the tribe in 1890.

Spokesperson for Lindeen's office, Jennifer McKee, said the tribe fought their way off a reservation in Oklahoma and eventually made their way back to their ancestral home in Montana in 1878. In 1894, President Chaster A. Arthur established the present Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

"Then, in 1900, the boundary was extended under President McKinley," McKee said. "But, when the boundary was extended, they didn't secure the mineral rights to the tribe. So, today, there are 117 million tons of coal underneath that reservation that don't belong to the tribe."

Two nearly identical bills being presented to the House by Congressman Daines, and to the Senate by John Walsh, will set up a three-way swap involving the U.S. government, Great Northern Properties of Houston, Texas and the tribe.

"The federal government will hand over 112 million tons of coal to Great Northern Properties, and Great Northern in turn, would give 117 million tons of coal that they have to the tribe, and so, that's how it would all work out."

McKee said similar bills have been proposed in the past, but have failed.

Spokesperson for State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen, Jennifer McKee