Association on American Indian Affairs

Federal Acknowledgement

Updates Pending

What is Federal Acknowledgement?

Federal acknowledgement is any procedure by which the United States establishes a government-to-government relationship with an historic tribe, band, group, or community of Indians. The traditional means of establishing that relationship include: Federal congressional legislation; recognition by judicial determination; or recognition by the Executive branch [formerly, by Executive Order, and now by determination of the Secretary of Interior under regulations found at 25 Code of Regulations Part 83 (25CFR 83)]. The Secretary of Interior may also "reaffirm" or otherwise "clarify" the status of a previously-and unambiguously-federally recognized tribe, generally through an expedited form of the 25 CFR Part 83 process, as long as Congress never has terminated the Federal government-to-government relationship with the subject tribe through special legislation.

Piro/Manso/Tiwa (PMT) Tribe
March 20, 2004
L-R: Larry Romero, 3rd War Captain; Andy Roybal, War Captain; Louis Roybal, former Governor; Victor Roybal, Jr., 4th War Captain; Ed Roybal, II, current Governor; Charles Madrid, Jr. (seated), Lamberto Trujillo, Jr.; Ed Roybal, Sr., Cacique.
Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico, March (Spring) Feast Day

Recent AAIA Activities

For the more than 15 years, AAIA has worked closely with the Piro/Manso/Tiwa (PMT) Tribe in Las Cruces, NM. AAIA has worked to prepare a comprehensive documented petition for the Tribe. The work has included interviews on history, social interaction and governmental activities, extensive archival research, preparation of genealogies, qualitative and quantitative analysis of data, and the drafting of the petition itself, including numerous exhibits to the petition. Active consideration of this petition by the Office of Federal Acknowledgment commenced in January 2010.  A decision is expected soon.  In addition to its work on the petition, AAIA has assisted the Tribe with its governmental infrastructure, long-range planning and protection of tribal cultural resources, such as cemeteries and excavated burials.

Over the years, AAIA has assisted a number of other tribes with recognition issues including the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, Ione Band of Miwok Indians, the Middletown petitioner in California, Sierra Miwok and Antelope Valley Paiutes.  AAIA has also worked with Congress as it has considered legislative reform of the federal acknowledgment process.

The administrative process, codified at 25 CFR Part 83 of the United States Code of federal regulations, provides the criteria for the administrative process for acknowledgement as an Indian tribe. While the process was meant to aid legitimate tribes, it has become a broken and burdensome obstacle to their recognition.

The documentary requirements are massive, delays in processing petitions “Dickensian”, and the decisions made often indefensible. For that reason, the AAIA Board has begun a project aimed at reforming this system to make it reasonable, fair and prompt. Through the organizing of a partnership inclusive of federal and non-federally recognized Indian tribes, non-profit organizations, academia, and current and former government officials, the AAIA proposes to implement the first phase of this project over a three (3) year period. The United States Congress, the Department of the Interior, Indian tribes, and others all agree that the administrative process for federal acknowledgement is broken. However, there is not currently a full-time national effort dedicated to fixing this process. The AAIA endeavors to fulfill this role to find a way to bring justice, equity and dignity back to the administrative recognition process.

See FAQ's about Federal Acknowledgement