U.S. Federal Government recognition of an Indian tribe may arise from a treaty, from a
statute, from an executive order, from an administrative order, or from the course of
dealing with a tribe as a political entity. Procedures for establishing federal recognition are
set forth in federal statute at 25 C.F.R. Part 83. To be recognized, an Indian people must
have maintained a substantially continuous, autonomous tribal existence throughout
history and up to the present. This may be a tall order given efforts that various authorities
have undertaken to assimilate Indians and pressure or force them into abandoning their
Native cultures. See termination policies and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
A history of U.S. Government dealings with an Indian people, historical records, scholarly
opinion, and a showing that an Indian people constitute a distinct political entity are
examples of evidence that would help support an effort to secure federal recognition. See
this article for more on this issue.
Among the benefits that a tribe of people may obtain from federal recognition, a state of
the United States may not tax the beneficial owners of lands held by the Federal
Government in trust for a tribe that it recognizes, and federal recognition entitles a tribe’s
members to receive federal services administered through the Department of the Interior.
Tribes that are not federally recognized may still enjoy sovereign immunity from suit if
they meet certain common law requirements. See Montoya v. United States, 180 U.S.
261, 266 (1901). They also enjoy any vested treaty rights they may have as long as they
distinct communities that can be identified as the group named in the treaty. .
|These contents are for general education
and are not to be construed as legal advice.