Federal Recognition

The array of federal services and resources reserved for American Indians and Alaska Natives is contingent upon a tribe securing federal recognition. But the current federal acknowledgement process is badly broken, taking over 30 years to consider some applications. NCAI has advocated for a streamlined process for federal acknowledgment and has established the Federal Recognition Task Force to address the interests of all tribes, both federally and non-federally recognized, on any recommended changes in policies, procedures, or strategic plans in the tribal acknowledgement process.

Non-recognized tribes face the arduous task of submitting applications for federal acknowledgement that satisfy the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Part 83 Criteria. These criteria are extensive and are meant to ensure that recognized tribes are distinct autonomous communities, existing as such since historical times and recognized as such since prior to 1900.

In many instances, non-recognized tribes find it difficult and costly to compile the historical data expected to supplement applications for acknowledgement. However, tribes may also seek recognition through the less arduous process of Congressional legislation. While NCAI’s constitution limits  tribal membership to federal and state recognized tribes, we continue to support tribal communities by advocating that the acknowledgement process be streamlined and not overly burdensome.

Tribal governments have also made significant strides in developing emergency preparedness plans for their communities by using tribal resources, coupled with access to training programs developed by the Emergency Management Institute under the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency. DHS programs that directly fund tribes, such as the Tribal Homeland Security Grant Programs, require increased budgets that will assist tribes in meeting national emergency preparedness framework objectives and compliance requirements.

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