It’s called the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994 and one of the things it does is mandate the Bureau of Indian Affairs to publish a list of federally acknowledged tribes each year.
Accordingly, the BIA published a notice January 29 in the Federal Register announcing this year’s updated list. The list is maintained, updated and published by the BIA’s Office of Indian Services, Division of Tribal Government Services. It’s a bit ahead of schedule – the last list was published in May 2013.
“The Bureau of Indian Affairs notice in the Federal Register of Indian entities recognized and eligible to receive services from the BIA is the official listing of all federally recognized tribes in the United States,” Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn said. “The publication of this list is vital to the United States for its government-to-government relationship with the federally recognized tribes, to Indian Affairs and other agencies who work with them, and to inform the general public of who they are. The BIA works diligently with all of the listed tribal entities to ensure each name is accurate and complies with the tribes’ governing documents.”
The list includes the 566 American Indian and Alaska Native tribal entities – nations, tribes, bands, communities, Pueblos, and villages – that are acknowledged to have:
— The immunities and privileges available to federally recognized tribes by virtue of their government-to-government relationship with the United States,
— The responsibilities, powers, limitations and obligations of such tribes, and
— Are recognized and eligible for funding and services from the BIA by virtue of their status as Indian tribes.
The tribal entities list is organized in two sections: those in the 48 contiguous states and those in Alaska. Alaska Native tribal entities are listed separately solely for the purpose of facilitating their identification given the large number of complex names. All of the entities are listed in alphabetical order within each section.
If a tribe has changed its name, the former name is shown in parenthesis after the correct current name. Changes to this list are included after the BIA has verified such changes with the Indian entity.
The Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994 doesn’t only require the BIA to publish a list of federally acknowledged tribes each year. It also reiterates that the termination era of the 1950s and 1960s is long gone: “Congress has expressly repudiated the policy of terminating recognized Indian tribes, and has actively sought to restore recognition to tribes that previously have been terminated,” it says.
And it describes three ways that tribes can become federally acknowledged: by an act of Congress, by the BIA’s federal acknowledgment procedures, or by a decision of a United States court.”
But according to the Office of Federal Acknowledgment, Congress hasn’t recognized a tribe since 2000 when the Loyal Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma was acknowledged.
And as for recognition by a federal court, the last time – and actually only – time that happened was in 2005 when a federal judge bypassed the BIA recognition process and ruled that the state-recognized Shinnecock Indians are indeed a federal tribe.
But the Interior Department refused to recognize the judge’s ruling despite the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994. The Nation sued Interior, but had to wait another five years for the BIA’s final determination recognizing the Shinnecocks as an American Indian tribe,