There are 63 state-recognized tribes in 11 states—Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia. Since 2010, at least 20 states have considered legislation that would adopt a formal process for recognizing tribes.
The North Carolina Commission on Indian Affairs provides education and technical assistance to tribes in the Tar Heel State. State statute authorizes the commission to legally recognize tribes and defines the procedures for doing so. Commission membership includes representatives from the eight state-recognized tribes, members of the General Assembly and the heads of various state agencies. Although the state doesn’t provide an appropriation to the tribes, the commission allows for key stakeholder engagement in areas such as education and housing.
Alabama code authorizes the Alabama Indian Affairs Commission to establish state recognition procedures in administrative rules. The state recognizes nine tribes. The commission consists of tribal and state representatives and is charged with effectively and fairly dealing with Indian affairs. The commission serves as a liaison to many state agencies.
Connecticut recognizes five tribes and establishes state tribal reservations. Vermont, the most recent state to establish a formal process through legislation in 2010, set forth criteria for state recognition and provided official recognition to four tribes. The Vermont Commission on Indian Affairs is responsible for recognizing tribes and providing resources to the tribal populations.
Some states without a formal process for recognition acknowledge the historical and cultural contribution of tribes. The Texas Legislature, for example, adopted resolutions to honor particular tribes that are not federally recognized. The Montana Legislature adopted resolutions supporting the federal recognition of the Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians and includes tribal eligibility for certain state grant programs in state statute. In California, the Native American Heritage Commission is required to keep a list of non-federally recognized tribes that meet certain criteria with whom city and county governments must consult when they amend a general plan.
There are currently 567 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes in 35 states. The process for federal recognition is long (it can take decades), complicated and requires specific historical and identity requirements. Federal recognition gives tribes legal status and requires the federal government to provide certain benefits. Federally recognized tribes have a government-to-government relationship with the United States. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, federally recognized tribes possess certain inherent rights of self-government (i.e., tribal sovereignty) and are entitled to receive selected federal benefits, services and protections because of their special relationship with the United States. In 2015, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe became the most recent tribe to receive federal recognition. It is also a state-recognized tribe in Virginia.