25 CFR § 83.11 - What are the criteria for acknowledgment as a federally recognized Indian tribe?
The criteria for acknowledgment as a federally recognized Indian tribe are delineated in paragraphs (a) through (g) of this section.
(a) Indian entity identification. The petitioner has been identified as an American Indian entity on a substantially continuous basis since 1900. Evidence that the group's character as an Indian entity has from time to time been denied will not be considered to be conclusive evidence that this criterion has not been met. Evidence to be relied upon in determining a group's Indian identity may include one or a combination of the following, as well as other evidence of identification.
(1) Identification as an Indian entity by Federal authorities.
(2) Relationships with State governments based on identification of the group as Indian.
(3) Dealings with a county, parish, or other local government in a relationship based on the group's Indian identity.
(4) Identification as an Indian entity by anthropologists, historians, and/or other scholars.
(5) Identification as an Indian entity in newspapers and books.
(6) Identification as an Indian entity in relationships with Indian tribes or with national, regional, or state Indian organizations.
(7) Identification as an Indian entity by the petitioner itself.
(b) Community. The petitioner comprises a distinct community and demonstrates that it existed as a community from 1900 until the present. Distinct community means an entity with consistent interactions and significant social relationships within its membership and whose members are differentiated from and distinct from nonmembers. Distinct community must be understood flexibly in the context of the history, geography, culture, and social organization of the entity. The petitioner may demonstrate that it meets this criterion by providing evidence for known adult members or by providing evidence of relationships of a reliable, statistically significant sample of known adult members.
(1) The petitioner may demonstrate that it meets this criterion at a given point in time by some combination of two or more of the following forms of evidence or by other evidence to show that a significant and meaningful portion of the petitioner's members constituted a distinct community at a given point in time:
(i) Rates or patterns of known marriages within the entity, or, as may be culturally required, known patterned out-marriages;
(ii) Social relationships connecting individual members;
(iii) Rates or patterns of informal social interaction that exist broadly among the members of the entity;
(iv) Shared or cooperative labor or other economic activity among members;
(v) Strong patterns of discrimination or other social distinctions by non-members;
(vi) Shared sacred or secular ritual activity;
(vii) Cultural patterns shared among a portion of the entity that are different from those of the non-Indian populations with whom it interacts. These patterns must function as more than a symbolic identification of the group as Indian. They may include, but are not limited to, language, kinship organization or system, religious beliefs or practices, and ceremonies;
(viii) The persistence of a collective identity continuously over a period of more than 50 years, notwithstanding any absence of or changes in name;
(x) Children of members from a geographic area were placed in Indian boarding schools or other Indian educational institutions, to the extent that supporting evidence documents the community claimed; or
(xi) A demonstration of political influence under the criterion in § 83.11(c)(1) will be evidence for demonstrating distinct community for that same time period.
(2) The petitioner will be considered to have provided more than sufficient evidence to demonstrate distinct community and political authority under § 83.11(c) at a given point in time if the evidence demonstrates any one of the following:
(i) More than 50 percent of the members reside in a geographical area exclusively or almost exclusively composed of members of the entity, and the balance of the entity maintains consistent interaction with some members residing in that area;
(ii) At least 50 percent of the members of the entity were married to other members of the entity;
(iii) At least 50 percent of the entity members maintain distinct cultural patterns such as, but not limited to, language, kinship system, religious beliefs and practices, or ceremonies;
(iv) There are distinct community social institutions encompassing at least 50 percent of the members, such as kinship organizations, formal or informal economic cooperation, or religious organizations; or
(c) Political influence or authority. The petitioner has maintained political influence or authority over its members as an autonomous entity from 1900 until the present. Political influence or authority means the entity uses a council, leadership, internal process, or other mechanism as a means of influencing or controlling the behavior of its members in significant respects, making decisions for the entity which substantially affect its members, and/or representing the entity in dealing with outsiders in matters of consequence. This process is to be understood flexibly in the context of the history, culture, and social organization of the entity.
(1) The petitioner may demonstrate that it meets this criterion by some combination of two or more of the following forms of evidence or by other evidence that the petitioner had political influence or authority over its members as an autonomous entity:
(i) The entity is able to mobilize significant numbers of members and significant resources from its members for entity purposes.
(ii) Many of the membership consider issues acted upon or actions taken by entity leaders or governing bodies to be of importance.
(iii) There is widespread knowledge, communication, or involvement in political processes by many of the entity's members.
(v) There are internal conflicts that show controversy over valued entity goals, properties, policies, processes, or decisions.
(viii) There is a continuous line of entity leaders and a means of selection or acquiescence by a significant number of the entity's members.
(2) The petitioner will be considered to have provided sufficient evidence of political influence or authority at a given point in time if the evidence demonstrates any one of the following:
(i) Entity leaders or other internal mechanisms exist or existed that:
(A) Allocate entity resources such as land, residence rights, and the like on a consistent basis;
(B) Settle disputes between members or subgroups by mediation or other means on a regular basis;
(C) Exert strong influence on the behavior of individual members, such as the establishment or maintenance of norms or the enforcement of sanctions to direct or control behavior; or
(D) Organize or influence economic subsistence activities among the members, including shared or cooperative labor.
(d) Governing document. The petitioner must provide:
(1) A copy of the entity's present governing document, including its membership criteria; or
(2) In the absence of a governing document, a written statement describing in full its membership criteria and current governing procedures.
(e) Descent. The petitioner's membership consists of individuals who descend from a historical Indian tribe (or from historical Indian tribes that combined and functioned as a single autonomous political entity).
(1) The petitioner satisfies this criterion by demonstrating that the petitioner's members descend from a tribal roll directed by Congress or prepared by the Secretary on a descendancy basis for purposes of distributing claims money, providing allotments, providing a tribal census, or other purposes, unless significant countervailing evidence establishes that the tribal roll is substantively inaccurate; or
(2) If no tribal roll was directed by Congress or prepared by the Secretary, the petitioner satisfies this criterion by demonstrating descent from a historical Indian tribe (or from historical Indian tribes that combined and functioned as a single autonomous political entity) with sufficient evidence including, but not limited to, one or a combination of the following identifying present members or ancestors of present members as being descendants of a historical Indian tribe (or of historical Indian tribes that combined and functioned as a single autonomous political entity):
(i) Federal, State, or other official records or evidence;
(ii) Church, school, or other similar enrollment records;
(iii) Records created by historians and anthropologists in historical times;
(iv) Affidavits of recognition by tribal elders, leaders, or the tribal governing body with personal knowledge; and
(v) Other records or evidence.
(f) Unique membership. The petitioner's membership is composed principally of persons who are not members of any federally recognized Indian tribe. However, a petitioner may be acknowledged even if its membership is composed principally of persons whose names have appeared on rolls of, or who have been otherwise associated with, a federally recognized Indian tribe, if the petitioner demonstrates that:
(1) It has functioned as a separate politically autonomous community by satisfying criteria in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section; and
(2) Its members have provided written confirmation of their membership in the petitioner.
(g) Congressional termination. Neither the petitioner nor its members are the subject of congressional legislation that has expressly terminated or forbidden the Federal relationship. The Department must determine whether the petitioner meets this criterion, and the petitioner is not required to submit evidence to meet it.