State recognized tribes in the United States

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Yellow - states with federally recognized tribal entities
Red - states with state recognized tribal entities
Orange - states with both federal and state recognized tribal entities
White - the legal status of tribal recognition in Tennessee is uncertain as of this writing

State recognized tribes are Native American Indian Tribes, Nations and Heritage Groups that have been recognized by a process established under assorted state laws for varying purposes. With increasing activism by tribal nations since the mid-20th century to obtain federal recognition, many states have passed legislation to recognize some tribes and acknowledge the self-determination and continuity of historic ethnic groups.

In many cases, they have recognized tribes that were landless; that is, did not have an Indian reservation or communal land holdings. In addition, such states have often established commissions or other administrative bodies to deal with Native American affairs within the state. It has resulted from the process of increasing self-determination and preservation of cultural identity within some Native American communities, including descendants who remained in states east of the Mississippi River when many tribes were removed during the 19th century.

State recognition confers limited benefits under federal law. It is not the same as federal recognition, which is the federal government's acknowledgment of a tribe as a dependent sovereign nation. Some states have provided laws related to state recognition that provide some protection of autonomy for tribes not recognized by the federal government. For example, in Connecticut, state law recognizing certain tribes also protects reservations and limited self-government rights for state-recognized tribes.

Such state recognition has at times been opposed by federally recognized tribes. For instance, the Cherokee Nation opposes state-recognized tribes claiming Cherokee identity, as well as many non-recognized groups that also claim to be Cherokee.[1]

Numerous other groups assert that they are Indian tribes. Many are listed in List of unrecognized tribes in the United States.


The United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, gives ultimate authority with regard to matters affecting the Indian tribes to the United States. Under federal law and regulations, an Indian tribe is a group of Native Americans with self-government authority.[2] This defines those tribes recognized by the federal government.

By late 2007, about 16 states had recognized 62 tribes. Five other states—Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Oklahoma— had less developed processes of recognition.[3] Typically, the state legislature or state agencies involved in cultural or Native American affairs make the formal recognition by criteria they establish, often with Native American representatives, and sometimes based on federal criteria.[4] Members of a state-recognized tribe are still subject to state law and government, and the tribe does not have sovereign control over its affairs. Some state-recognized tribes have petitioned unsuccessfully for federal recognition.

Under the United States Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990,[5] members of state-recognized tribes are authorized to exhibit as identified Native American artists, as are members of federally recognized tribes.

Koenig and Stein have recommended the processes of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, all established by laws passed by the state legislatures, as models worthy of other states to use as the basis for legislation related to recognition of Native American tribes. Statutes that clearly identify criteria for recognition or that explicitly recognize certain tribes remove ambiguity from their status.[3]

List of state-recognized tribes[edit]

By 2008 a total of 62 Native American tribes had been recognized by states; 500 had been recognized by the federal government, often as a result of the process of treaties setting up reservations in the 19th century.

The following is a list of tribes recognized by various states, but not by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Tribes originally recognized by states that have since gained federal recognition have been deleted from the list below. The list identifies tribes that have petitioned for federal recognition and been denied. Many continue to work to gain such recognition.


By the Davis-Strong Act of 1984, the state established the Alabama Indian Affairs Commission to acknowledge and represent Native American citizens in the state. At that time, it recognized seven tribes that did not have federal recognition. The commission members, representatives of the tribes, have created rules for tribal recognition, which were last updated in 2003, under which two more tribes have been recognized.[6]





In 1988, the Florida Governor's Council on Indian Affairs adopted a policy recommending that the state refrain from recognizing any group that does not have federal recognition. If the state government wished to proceed with recognition, it recommended:

So far, Florida has recognized no tribes.


In 2007, the state legislature formally recognized as American Indian tribes of Georgia the following:[25]

Unrecognized tribes with the same name as Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokees, Inc. (II) and (III) exist.[9][16]




On January 9, 2012, for the first time the state recognized two American Indian tribes under a process developed by the General Assembly; these were both Piscataway groups,[36] historically part of the large Algonquian languages family along the Atlantic Coast. The Governor announced it to the Assembly by executive order.[36][37]


In addition Wampanoags unaffiliated with the Mashpee or Aquinnah and tribal members from Maine tribes [formerly under Massachusetts jurisdiction till statehood in 1820] are represented by the State Commission on Indian Affairs[39]



New Jersey[edit]

In addition, New Jersey recognizes the Inter-Tribal American Indians of New Jersey, an organization created circa 1980 to meet the needs of American Indians from across North and South America who are now living in New Jersey. The organization provides social activities and support to those Indians living in New Jersey and is dedicated to educating the public about American Indian culture and history.

New Mexico[edit]

In New Mexico, the State Constitution authorizes the State to recognize tribes other than those with federal recognition.[18]

New York[edit]

North Carolina[edit]


South Carolina[edit]

In 2003 the state legislature passed Section 1 31 40(A)(10), South Carolina Code of Laws (Annotated), which established criteria for state recognition of Native American tribes, further providing that “The South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs shall promulgate regulations as may be necessary regarding State Recognition of Native American Indian entities in the State of South Carolina.” These rules and regulations shall be applicable to all entities seeking Native American Indian State Recognition as a: A. Native American Indian Tribe;[54] B. Native American Indian Group;[55] C. Native American Special Interest Organization.[56]

State-recognized Tribes:

State-recognized Tribal Groups:

State-recognized tribal Special Interest Organization:


At a time of increasing Native American activism, Governor Ray Blanton recognized by Proclamation on 25 May 1978 the 'Etowah Cherokee Nation' "as a nation of people." In 1991, the gubernatorial administration rejected the group's tribal recognition in a legal opinion noting that the governor's office lacked "statutory authority" to recognize certain Native Americans as a "nation of people."[60] The group ceased to exist in Tennessee by 1993.

Under laws passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, Tennessee Code authorized the seven-member Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs from 1983 to 2000 and from 2003 to 2010 to "establish appropriate procedures to provide for legal recognition by the state of presently unrecognized tribes, nations, groups, communities or individuals, and to provide for official state recognition by the commission of such."[61]

On 19 June 2010, 11 days prior to the Commission's termination because it had not been re-authorized by the legislature, six members of the 7-member Commission of Indian Affairs violated its administrative procedures by adopting a new standing rule recognition procedure. They approved state recognition of six Native American groups, none of which has public historical documentation. (Four of the six members of the Commission participated in these groups.)

The state Attorney General determined that by this action, the Commission committed six violations of the state's Open Meeting Act, Open Record Act and Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, and on 3 September 2010 declared the June recognition "void and of no effect".[62][63][64]

On 6 August 2010 the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, Larry Echo Hawk, issued a "proposed finding against Federal acknowledgment as an American Indian tribe in response to the petition the Department received from the group known as the Central Band of Cherokee (CBC) [aka 'Cherokee of Lawrence County' (one of the six culture clubs that requested and illegally obtained state recognition on 19 June 2010)], Petitioner #227, with its office located in Lawrenceburg, Lawrence County, Tennessee".[65] It supported the finding with a 45-page report noting that the group's documentation was insufficient on several grounds. Echo Hawk's statement said, "The Office of Federal Acknowledgment (OFA) evaluated the group’s petition under 83.10(e) of the acknowledgment regulations, which allows for issuing a proposed finding under criterion 83.7(e) only."[65] In addition,

"The petitioner claims its members are descendants of Cherokee Indians who had not given up their rights to 1806 treaty lands in Tennessee, or are descendants of Indians living in Tennessee who evaded removal or escaped when the Cherokee were removed from North Carolina in the late 1830s. None of the evidence demonstrates the validity of either claim."[65]

The determination was made final 23 March 2012; the BIA's statement at that time said that the Central Band of Cherokee of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee,

"did not demonstrate that its members descend from a historical Indian tribe or historical Indian tribes that combined. The evidence shows the petitioner, with 407 members on its 2007 membership list, is a voluntary association formed of individuals who claim but have not documented Indian ancestry."[66]



As of May 3, 2006, Vermont law 1 V.S.A §§ 851–853 recognizes Abenakis as Native American Indians, not the tribes or bands. However, on April 22, 2011, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed legislative bills officially recognizing two Abenaki Bands.

On May 7, 2012 Governor Shumlim signed legislative bills officially recognizing two more Abenaki Bands:


Shares a name with an unrecognized tribe Rappahannock Indian Tribe (II).


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What is a real Indian Nation? What is a fake tribe?". Cherokee Nation. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  2. ^ 25 CFR 290.2, "Definitions"
  3. ^ a b Alexa Koenig and Jonathan Stein, "Federalism and the State Recognition of Native American Tribes: A Survey of State-Recognized Tribes and State Recognition Processes across the United States", Santa Clara Law Review, Vol. 48, November 2007
  4. ^ Sheffield (1998) p63
  5. ^ The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, US Department of the Interior: Indian Arts and Crafts Board. (retrieved 23 May 2009)
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Alabama Indian Affairs Commission. "Tribes Recognized by the State of Alabama". Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x State Recognized Indian Tribes (2010-2011). National Congress of American Indians (Accessible as of February 9, 2011 here).
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn "List of Federal and State Recognized Tribes: State Recognized Tribes (2011)". National Conference of State Legislatures (Retrieved 5 Aug 2012). 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Cherokee Nation (Fraudulent Indian) Task Force: Fraudulent Group List (as of June 23, 2010) (Accessible as of June 28, 2010 here)
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as Troy Johnson. "U.S. Federally Non-Recognized Indian Tribes". 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw Wild Apache. "Wild Apache Native American Portal". 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i Karen M. Strom. "A Line in the Sand: Contact Information for the Tribes of the United States and Canada". Retrieved 2007-09-10. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al "Roster of State Recognized Tribes, 2006". Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h "A-Z Index of Tribal Governments, on". Retrieved 2010-09-12. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be LIST OF PETITIONERS BY STATE (as of July 31, 2012) (Accessible as of January 15, 2013 here)
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u "Petitions for Federal Recognition". Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z "Tribes & Nations: State Recognized Tribes". 
  18. ^ a b c Sheffield (1998) p64
  19. ^ a b c Connecticut Law on Indian Tribes (2007-R-0475). Christopher Reinhart, Senior Attorney, on behalf of State of Connecticut General Assembly (Accessible as of July 15, 2014 here).
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y "U.S. Federally Non-Recognized Tribes". 
  21. ^ a b c d Receipt of Petitions for Federal Acknowledgment of Existence as an Indian Tribe (68 FR 13724)
  22. ^ Sheffield (1998) p65
  23. ^ Sheffield (1998) p66
  24. ^ Sheffield (1998) p63-64
  25. ^ O.C.G.A. § 44-12-300 (2007) Title 44, Chapter 12, Article 7, Part 3 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, Georgia Legislature. Quote: The State of Georgia "officially recognizes as legitimate American Indian tribes of Georgia the following tribes, bands, groups, or communities" for state purposes
  26. ^ a b O.C.G.A. § 44-12-300 (2007)
  27. ^ a b Sheffield (1998) p67
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Nations, Tribes, Bands". Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  29. ^ Metts, Tara.The-Caring-Difference-Newsletter"National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) and its implications in Kentucky", Summer 2010, Vol. 9, No. 2, p. 4, Retrieved Sep 2013
  30. ^ Cooper, Sara. Indian Welfare Act Compliance Desk Aid May 2010, Retrieved Sep 2013
  31. ^ John Y. Brown: Governor. Commonwealth of Kentucky
  32. ^ "Cherokee Nation Proclamation", Ernie Fletcher: Governor, Commonwealth of Kentucky website
  33. ^
  34. ^ a b c d e f g "Louisiana Governor's Office of Indian Affairs" Retrieved on 4/8/2008.
  35. ^ "Four Winds Tribe website"
  36. ^ a b c d e f Witte, Brian. "Md. Formally Recognizes 2 American Indian Groups.", NBC Washington, 9 Jan 2011, Retrieved 10 Jan 2011
  37. ^ Executive Orders 01.01.2012.01 and 01.01.2012.02 "Recognition of tribes in the state", Governor's Office
  38. ^ a b c d e f Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness
  39. ^ Michael S. Dukakis. "EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 126 - Massachusetts Native Americans". 
  40. ^ a b c d e f Michigan Department of Civil Rights. "Michigan Indian Directory". 
  41. ^ Wyandot Nation of Kansas Website regarding members of the reaffirmed "Wendat Confederacy"
  42. ^ House Memorial 40 (HM40), "Genizaros, In Recognition" and Senate Memorial 59 (SM59), "Genizaros, In Recognition," 2007 New Mexico State Legislature, Regular Session.
  43. ^ See New Mexico Legislature: Glossary of Legislative Terms—General Legislative and Financial Terms
  44. ^ Cohen, Felix S. Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law. 2005 ed. Newark, NJ : LexisNexis, c2005. KF8205 .C6 2005, Sec. 3.02(9) at 171.
  45. ^ Alexa Koenig and Jonathan Stein, "Federalism and the State Recognition of Native American Tribes: A Survey of State-Recognized Tribes and State Recognition Processes Across the United States", University of Santa Clara Law Review, Vol. 48 (2008) pg. 107
  46. ^ a b c d e f g North Carolina Department of Administration (February 2007). "North Carolina American Indian Tribes and Organizations" (PDF). 
  47. ^ a b Sheffield (1998) p68-70
  48. ^ a b c d e f g "Virginia tribes take another step on road to federal recognition" in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 28 October 2009.
  49. ^ STDs in American Indians and Alaska Natives: OHIO, National Coalition of STD Directors
  50. ^ Office of the Governor, Ohio. June 20, 2013
  51. ^ signature book of attendees
  52. ^ 1805, 1809, 1813 Treaties, Keplers Book of Treaties)
  53. ^ "Current events page", Munsee Delaware Indian Nation-USA website
  54. ^ “Native American Indian Tribe” means an assembly of Indian people comprising numerous families, clans, or generations together with their descendents, who have a common character, interest, and behavior denoting a separate ethnic and cultural heritage, and who have existed as a separate community, on a substantially continuous basis throughout the past 100 years. In general, core members of the tribe are related to each other by blood. A tribal council and governmental authority unique to Native American Indians govern them.
  55. ^ “Native American Group” means a number of individuals assembled together, which have different characteristics, interests and behaviors that do not denote a separate ethnic and cultural heritage today, as they once did. The group is composed of both Native American Indians and other ethnic races. They are not all related to one another by blood. A tribal council and governmental authority unique to Native American Indians govern them.
  56. ^ “Native American Special Interest Organization” means an assembly of people who have united for the common purpose of promoting Native American culture and addressing socio-economic deprivation among people of Indian origin. The organization is made up of Native American Indians and other ethnic races. A tribal council or other form of governing body provides oversight and management. Membership is not required. They may be organized as a private nonprofit corporation under the laws of South Carolina.
  57. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs. "SC tribes and groups" (PDF). 
  58. ^ a b c d e f South Carolina Indian Affairs Commission. "Members". 
  59. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n South Carolina Indigenous Gallery. "Visitors Center". 
  60. ^ Chattanooga InterTribal Association. "TN Tribal Recognition - past example". 
  61. ^ T.C.A. 4-34-103(6)
  62. ^ Tennessee Attorney General Mark Greene v. Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs
  63. ^ Humphrey, Tom. "6 Indian groups lose state recognition: Court order says commission violated open meetings law." Knoxville News Sentinel. 3 Sep 2010 (retrieved 3 Sep 2010)
  64. ^ Tennessee Attorney General Court Order 7 Sep 2010
  65. ^ a b c BIA press release, 6 August 2010, accessed 26 October 2014
  66. ^ BIA determination and documentation (10 pdf documents), "ACKNOWLEDGMENT DECISION COMPILATION (ADC) FOR PETITIONER #227 (CENTRAL BAND OF CHEROKEE OF LAWRENCEBURG, TN) Updated July 30, 2012"
  67. ^
  68. ^ a b Vermonters Concerned on Native American Affairs. "Tribal Sites VT". Retrieved 2011-12-28. 
  69. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Virginia Council on Indians. "Virginia Tribes". 
  70. ^ Sheffield (1998) p71-73


External sources[edit]