American Indian law: an overview
In U.S. law the term "Indians" refers generally to the indigenous peoples of the continent at the time of European colonization. "Alaska Natives" and "Native Hawaiians" refer to peoples indigenous to the areas occupied by those named states. The terms "tribe" or "band" designate a group of Indians of the same or similar heritage united in a community under one leadership or government and inhabiting a particular territory. Because Indians have increasingly preferred "nation" or "people," the term "tribe" has become controversial. The terms used may vary from statute to statute and case to case as well.