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Tribal Recognition - Contemporary Political History

In 1929, at a convention in Haines the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) passed a resolution to sue the United States government for the creation of the Tongass Nation Forest and the Glacier Bay National Park without the permission of the indigenous people of Southeast Alaska. The suit was filed in the Federal Court of Claims and the ANB was later advised that only federally recognized tribes can sue the United States over aboriginal land claims. The ANB then petitioned the United States Congress to recognize the aboriginal people of Southeast Alaska as a tribe and on June 19, 1935, an act of Congress was passed to recognize the Tlingit and Haida people as a single tribe.

Note: In 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) was passed to set a standard for the federal government to recognize tribes in the Lower 48. The Alaska Native Brotherhood petitioned Congress to amend the IRA to apply to Alaska, and in 1936 the revision was made.

In 1975, the Indian Self-determination Act (PL 93-638) was passed requiring federal agencies, primarily the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), to contract with federally recognized tribes to manage programs that are intended to benefit Native Americans. In Alaska, the BIA adopted an “Order of Precedence” for recognizing tribes for the purpose of contracting:

  • Indian Reorganization Act tribes;
  • Traditional tribes;
  • Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act village corporations; and
  • Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act regional corporations.

In 1993, the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior amended the list of federally recognized tribes that are posted in the Federal Register to include all tribes in Alaska. The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska was left off of the list and petitioned Congress to restore the tribe to the list. In 1994, the President of the United States signed into law an Act that not only restored Tlingit and Haida to the list but also required that the Department of the Interior must consult with Congress before removing any recognized tribe from the list published in the Federal Register.