Yellow: states with federally-recognized tribes Red: states with state-recognized tribes Orange: states with both federal- and state-recognized tribes  Grey: states with neither federal- nor state-recognized tribes
Yellow: states with federally-recognized tribes
Red: states with state-recognized tribes
Orange: states with both federal- and state-recognized tribes
Grey: states with neither federal- nor state-recognized tribes

In the United States, state-recognized tribes are Native American Indian tribes, Nations, or Heritage Groups that do not meet the criteria for federally recognized Indian tribes but have been recognized by a process established under assorted state government laws for varying purposes. They may or may not be continually-existing tribal entities, and state recognition does not dictate whether or not they are recognized as Tribal Nations by continually-existing Tribal Nations.

With increasing activism by tribal nations since the mid-20th century to obtain federal recognition of their tribal sovereignty, many states have passed legislation that recognizes some tribes and acknowledges the self-determination and continuity of historic ethnic groups. Most such groups are located in the Eastern United States, including the three largest state-recognized tribes in the US: the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, the Miami Nation of Indiana and the United Houma Nation of Louisiana, each of which has several thousand tribal members.

In many cases, US states have recognized tribes that became landless; they did not have an Indian reservation or communal land holdings at the time of application. In addition, such states have often established commissions or other administrative bodies to deal with Native American affairs within the state. In some cases, that has included descendants or those who claim to be descendants who remained in states east of the Mississippi River when 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 that are 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, which enrolls proven descendants, opposes state-recognized tribes, as well as Cherokee heritage groups and others with no documented descent who claim Cherokee identity.[1]

Numerous other groups assert that they are Indian tribes. Some require that applicants document Native ancestors, but others require only a statement of belief. Some of the heritage groups have attained the status of "state-recognized tribes," and others are listed in the 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. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 14 states recognize tribes at the state level.[5]

Under the United States Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990,[6] 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

By 2008 a total of 62 Native American tribes had been recognized by states. In 2021, 574 tribes 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 includes those state-recognized tribes that have petitioned for federal recognition and been denied.


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 three more tribes have been recognized.[7]




In 2007, the state legislature formally recognized as American Indian tribes of Georgia the following:[17]

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



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,[21] historically part of the large Algonquian languages family along the Atlantic Coast. The Governor announced it to the Assembly by executive order.[21][22]


The Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs was created by a legislative act of the General Court of Massachusetts in 1974, with the purpose of helping tribes recognized or that will be recognized receive access to and assistance with various local and state agencies.[23] Two former state-recognized tribes, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe,[24] have federal recognition as of 1987 and 2007, respectively.[25][26]


As of 2014, Michigan has four State-recognized tribes.

New Jersey

New York

The Tonawanda Band of Seneca and Tuscarora Nation are both recognized by the state of New York but also federally recognized.[5]

North Carolina

South Carolina

South Carolina recognizes three types of Native American entities; tribes, groups and special interest organizations. As of 2020 the state recognizes nine Native American tribes that are not recognized by the federal government.[34]

The South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs also recognizes "State Recognized Groups and Special Interest Organizations," but these are not the same as the state-recognized tribes. They are the American Indian Chamber of Commerce South Carolina; Chaloklowa Chickasaw Indian People; Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquois and United Tribes of South Carolina; Little Horse Creek American Indian Cultural Center; Natchez Tribe of South Carolina; Pee Dee Indian Nation of Beaver Creek; and Pine Hill Indian Community Development Initiative.[34]


In Texas, there are three Tribes that are recognized by both Federal and Texas governments. Texas recognizes two additional Tribes:


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. The four Abenaki state-recognized tribes are also known as the "Abenaki Alliance".

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



See also

United States


  1. ^ "What is a real Indian Nation? What is a fake tribe?". Cherokee Nation. Archived from the original on 12 November 2014. 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) p. 63
  5. ^ 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 "State Recognized Tribes". National Conference of State Legislatures. October 2016. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  6. ^ The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 Archived 2006-09-25 at the Wayback Machine, US Department of the Interior: Indian Arts and Crafts Board. (retrieved 23 May 2009)
  7. ^ a b Alabama Indian Affairs Commission. "Tribes Recognized by the State of Alabama". Retrieved 2015-03-28.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Tribal Directory: Southeast". National Congress of American Indians. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  9. ^ 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 LIST OF PETITIONERS BY STATE (as of July 31, 2012) (Accessible as of January 15, 2013 here)
  10. ^ a b Sheffield (1998) p64
  11. ^ a b 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).
  12. ^ Christopher Reinhart (2002-02-07). "Effect of State Recognition of an Indian Tribe". State of Connecticut. Retrieved 2010-08-06. Connecticut statutes recognize five tribes: (1) Golden Hill Paugussett, (2) Mashantucket Pequot, (3) Mohegan, (4) Eastern Pequot, and (5) Schaghticoke tribe.
  13. ^ "CGS § 47-59a Connecticut Indians; citizenship, civil rights, land rights". State of Connecticut. Retrieved 2015-07-02.
  14. ^ Bureau of Indian Affairs (2004-06-21). "Final Determination Against Federal Acknowledgement of the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe". Federal Register. United States. pp. 34388–34393. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
  15. ^ a b c d "Tribal Directory". National Congress of American Indians. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  16. ^ Sheffield (1998): 66
  17. ^ O.C.G.A. § 44-12-300 (2007) Title 44, Chapter 12, Article 7, Part 3 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated Archived 2004-09-19 at the Wayback Machine, 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
  18. ^ Sheffield (1998) p67
  19. ^ a b c d e f g "Louisiana Governor's Office of Indian Affairs" Retrieved on 4/8/2008 Archived 2008-10-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ Sheffield (1998): 67
  21. ^ a b c d Witte, Brian. "Md. Formally Recognizes 2 American Indian Groups.", NBC Washington, 9 Jan 2011, Retrieved 10 Jan 2011
  22. ^ Executive Orders 01.01.2012.01 and 01.01.2012.02 "Recognition of tribes in the state", Governor's Office
  23. ^ Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6A, § 8A.
  24. ^ "Northeast". Tribal Directory. National Congress of American Indians. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  25. ^ Swimmer, R. (1987). Final determination for federal acknowledgment of the Wampanoag Tribal Council of Gay Head, Inc., FR Doc. 87-2877. US. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C.
  26. ^ Carson, J. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs. (2004). Summary under the criteria of evidence for final determination of federal recognition of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council, Inc Archived 2012-09-21 at the Wayback Machine. (71 FR 17488). U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C.
  27. ^ "Final Determination Against Federal Acknowledgment of the Nipmuc Nation". Federal Register. Indian Affairs Bureau. 25 June 2004. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  28. ^ a b c d "Michigan Historic Tribes" (pdf). State of Michigan Community Services Block Grant. State Plan from Fiscal Years 2015–2016. Michigan Department of Human Services. 1 July 2014. p. 67. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
  29. ^ a b c Indian Country Today march 27,2019
  30. ^ "Tribal Directory: Northeast". National Congress of American Indians. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g North Carolina Department of Administration (February 2007). "North Carolina American Indian Tribes and Organizations" (PDF).
  32. ^ a b Sheffield (1998) p68-70
  33. ^ "Virginia tribes take another step on road to federal recognition" Archived 2009-10-26 at in '[Richmond Times-Dispatch, 28 October 2009.
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "South Carolina's Recognized Native American Indian Entities". South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs. 2020. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  35. ^ a b c d e f South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs. "SC tribes and groups" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-01-02.
  36. ^ a b South Carolina Indian Affairs Commission. "Members". Archived from the original on 2013-01-11.
  37. ^ a b c South Carolina Indigenous Gallery. "Visitors Center". Archived from the original on 2007-09-02.
  38. ^ "List of Petitioners by State (as of 11/12/2013)" (PDF).
  39. '^ 2018 ACPS Convention Information; webpage; "Indigenous Texas;" at My ACPA online; accessed October 2020
  40. ^ a b Vermonters Concerned on Native American Affairs. "Tribal Sites VT". Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  41. ^ Receipt of Petitions for Federal Acknowledgment of Existence as an Indian Tribe (68 FR 13724)
  42. ^ a b Virginia Council on Indians. "Virginia Tribes". Archived from the original on 2003-08-10.
  43. ^ "Chinook Indian Tribe". Tribal Directory. National Congress of American Indians. Retrieved 26 November 2021.


External sources