ⓘ State-recognized tribes in the United States


ⓘ State-recognized tribes in the United States

In the United States, state-recognized tribes are Native American Indian tribes, Nations, and Heritage Groups that have been recognized by a process established under assorted state laws for varying purposes. With increasing activism by tribal nations since the mid-20th century to obtain federal recognition of their tribal sovereignty, many states have passed legislation to recognize some tribes and acknowledge the self-determination and continuity of historic ethnic groups. The majority of these groups are located in the Eastern US, including the three largest state-recognized tribes in the US, viz. 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, they have recognized tribes that were landless; that is, did not have an Indian reservation or communal land holdings. In addition, such states have often established commissions or other administrative bodies to deal with Native American affairs within the state. It has resulted from the process of increasing self-determination and preservation of cultural identity within some Native American communities, including descendants who remained in states east of the Mississippi River when many 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 governments 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 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 opposes state-recognized tribes claiming Cherokee identity, as well as many non-recognized groups that also claim to be Cherokee.

Numerous other groups assert that they are Indian tribes. Many are listed in list of unrecognized tribes in the United States.


1. Description

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. 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. 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. 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. While some state-recognized tribes have petitioned unsuccessfully for federal recognition only the Virginian Palmunky tribe has been successful. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 14 states recognize tribes at the state level.

Under the United States Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, 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.


2. List of state-recognized tribes

By 2008 a total of 62 Native American tribes had been recognized by states; by 2018, 573 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 identifies those state-recognized tribes that have petitioned for federal recognition and been denied. Many continue to work to gain such recognition.


2.1. List of state-recognized tribes Alabama

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.

  • MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians Letter of Intent to Petition 05/27/1983. Final Determination to Decline to Acknowledge published 12/24/1997 62FR247:67398-67400; petitioner requested reconsideration from BIA 3/23/1998, denied federal recognition; decision effective 11/26/1999.
  • Cher-O-Creek Intra Tribal Indians
  • Piqua Shawnee Tribe
  • Cherokee Tribe of Northeast Alabama formerly Cherokees of Jackson County, Alabama Letter of Intent to Petition 09/23/1981; certified letter returned "not known" 11/19/1997.
  • Ma-Chis Lower Creek Indian Tribe of Alabama Letter of Intent to Petition 06/27/1983. Declined to Acknowledge 08/18/1988 52 FR 34319, Denied federal recognition
  • Cherokees of Southeast Alabama Letter of Intent to Petition 05/27/1988; certified letter returned marked "deceased" 11/5/1997.
  • Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama
  • Star Clan of Muscogee Creeks
  • United Cherokee Ani-Yun-Wiya Nation formerly United Cherokee Intertribal. Letter of Intent to Petition 11/08/2001.


2.2. List of state-recognized tribes Delaware

  • Nanticoke Indian Association, Inc. Letter of Intent to Petition 08/08/1978; requested petition be placed on hold 3/25/1989 of limited applicability
  • Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware

2.3. List of state-recognized tribes Georgia

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

  • Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokees I. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/09/1979; last submission February 2002; ready for Acknowledge review.
  • Cherokee of Georgia Tribal Council
Unrecognized tribes with the same name as Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokees, Inc. II and III exist.
  • Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe Letter of Intent to Petition 02/02/1972; Declined to Acknowledge 12/21/1981 46 FR 51652. Denied federal recognition Also known as Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe East of the Mississippi, Inc.

2.4. List of state-recognized tribes Louisiana

  • Louisiana Choctaw Tribe.
  • Choctaw-Apache Tribe of Ebarb Recognized by the State of Louisiana in 1978. Letter of Intent to Petition 07/02/1978.
  • Pointe-au-Chien Tribe. Separated from United Houma Nation, Inc. Letter of Intent to Petition 7/22/1996. Recognized by the State of Louisiana in 2004.
  • Clifton-Choctaw Recognized by the State of Louisiana in 1978. Letter of Intent to Petition 03/22/1978. Also known as Clifton Choctaw Reservation Inc.
  • United Houma Nation Recognized by the State of Louisiana in 1972. Letter of Intent to Petition 07/10/1979; Proposed Finding 12/22/1994, 59 FR 6618. Denied federal recognition
  • Addai Caddo Tribe. Recognized by the State of Louisiana in 1993. Letter of Intent to Petition 09/13/1993. Also known as Adais Caddo Indians, Inc.
  • Biloxi-Chitimacha Confederation of Muskogee. Separated from United Houma Nation, Inc. Letter of Intent to Petition 10/24/1995. Recognized by the State of Louisiana in 2005.
  • Grand Caillou/Dulac Band
  • Four Winds Tribe, Louisiana Cherokee Confederacy Recognized by the State of Louisiana in 1997.
  • Isle de Jean Charles Band
  • Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana, Recognized by the State of Louisiana in 2017 Regular Session, HR227.


2.5. List of state-recognized tribes Maryland

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

  • Piscataway Conoy Tribe It includes the following two sub-groups
  • Piscataway Conoy Confederacy and Sub-Tribes
  • Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians
  • Piscatway Indian Nation

2.6. List of state-recognized tribes Massachusetts

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. Two former state-recognized tribes, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, have federal recognition as of 1987 and 2007, respectively.

  • Praying Indians of Natick Massachusett-Nipmuc
  • Massachusett-Ponkapoag Tribal Council
  • Massachusett
  • Nipmuc Nation Hassanamisco Nipmuc and some Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck Letter of Intent to Petition 04/22/1980; Proposed finding in progress. Declined to acknowledge on 6/25/2004, 69 FR 35667; Reconsideration request before IBIA not yet effective
  • Webster/Dudley Band of the Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck
  • Nipmuc/Nipmuck
  • Chappaquiddick Wampanoag Tribe
  • Pocasset Tribe of the Pokanoket Nation
  • Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe
  • Seaconke Wampanoag Tribe
  • Wampanoag Wopanaak
  • Assonet Wampanoag Tribe


2.7. List of state-recognized tribes Michigan

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

  • Swan Creek Black River Confederated Ojibwa Tribes of Michigan
  • Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians
  • Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians
  • Burt Lake Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians

2.8. List of state-recognized tribes Montana

  • Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Letter of Intent to Petition 4/28/1978; Proposed Finding 7/21/2000.

2.9. List of state-recognized tribes New Jersey

  • Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/03/1992.
  • Powhatan Renape Nation.
  • Ramapough Lenape Nation.

2.10. List of state-recognized tribes New York

  • Tonawanda Band of Seneca Also federally recognized
  • Unkechague Poosepatuck Tribe Unkechaug Nation
  • Tuscarora Nation Also federally recognized


2.11. List of state-recognized tribes North Carolina

  • Waccamaw-Siouan Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 06/27/1983; determined ineligible to petition SOL opinion of 10/23/1989. Letter of Intent to Petition 10/16/1992; determined eligible to petition SOL letter of 6/29/1995. Also known as Waccamaw Siouan Development Association.
  • Sappony formerly known as Indians of Person County, North Carolina.
  • Coharie Intra-tribal Council, Inc. Letter of Intent to Petition 3/13/1981.
  • Meherrin Nation. State-recognized 1987.
  • Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/06/1995.
  • Lumbee Tribe Lumbee Regional Development Association Inc., Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/07/1980; determined ineligible to petition SOL opinion of 10/23/1989. In 2009, Senate Indian Affairs Committee endorsed a bill that would grant federal recognition.
  • Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe Letter of Intent to Petition 1/27/1979. Notified of "obvious deficiencies" in federal recognition application


2.12. List of state-recognized tribes South Carolina

South Carolina recognizes three types of Native American entities; tribes, groups and special interest organizations. As of 2019 the state recognizes nine Native American tribes that are not recognized by the federal government.

  • Sumter Tribe of Cheraw Indians.
  • Wassamasaw Tribe of Varnertown Indians.
  • The Santee Indian Organization. Letter of Intent to Petition 06/04/1979. State-recognized tribe in 2006. Formerly White Oak Indian Community.
  • Edisto Natchez Kusso Tribe of South Carolina, state-recognized tribe in 2010. Also known as Edisto Natchez-Kusso Indians Four Holes Indian Organization
  • Piedmont American Indian Association.
  • Pee Dee Nation of Upper South Carolina. Letter of Intent to Petition 12/14/2005. State-recognized tribe in 2005.
  • Pee Dee Indian Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/30/1995. State recognized in 2006. Formerly Pee Dee Indian Tribe of South Carolina 2005. Formerly Pee Dee Indian Association 1978. Formerly, Pee Dee Lumbee Indian Association 1976.
  • Beaver Creek Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/26/1998. State-recognized tribe in 2006.
  • The Waccamaw Indian People.

2.13. List of state-recognized tribes Texas

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

  • Lipan Apache Tribe. On March 18, 2009, the State of Texas legislature passed joint resolutions HR 812 and SR 438 recognizing the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas. Then ten years later, on May 25, 2019, and June 4, 2019, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, respectively, signed companion bills adopted by State of Texas legislature, House Concurrent Resolution HCR 171 and Senate Concurrent Resolution SCR 61 that once again recognized the Lipan Apache Tribe. Also known as Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas.
  • Mount Tabor Indian Community, Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on May 10, 2017 recognizing the Mount Tabor Indian Community of Texas. Also known as Texas Cherokees and Associate Bands-Mount Tabor Indian Community.

2.14. List of state-recognized tribes Vermont

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."

  • Elnu Abenaki Tribe ; recognition signed into statute April 22, 2011.
  • Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation ; recognition signed into statute April 22, 2011.

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

  • Missisquoi Abenaki Tribe. Also known as Missisquoi St Francis Sokoki Abenaki Nations.
  • Koasek Abenaki Tribe. Also known as Traditional Koasek Abenaki Nation of the Koas

2.15. List of state-recognized tribes Virginia

  • Cheroenhaka Nottoway Letter of Intent to Petition 12/30/2002. Receipt of Petition 12/30/2002. State-recognized 2010; in Courtland, Southampton County. Letter of intent to file for federal recognition 2017. Currently a bill is being sponsored.
  • Patawomeck recognized 2010; in Stafford County.
  • Mattaponi a.k.a. Mattaponi Indian Reservation Letter of Intent to Petition 04/04/1995. State-recognized 1983; in Banks of the Mattaponi River, King William County. The Mattaponi and Pamunkey have reservations based in colonial-era treaties ratified by the Commonwealth in 1658. Pamunkey Tribes attorney told Congress in 1991 that the tribes state reservation originated in a treaty with the crown in the 17th century and has been occupied by Pamunkey since that time under strict requirements and following the treaty obligation to provide to the Crown a deer every year, and theyve done that replacing Crown with Governor of Commonwealth since Virginia became a Commonwealth

2.16. List of state-recognized tribes Washington

  • Chinook Indian Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 07/23/1979; Declined to acknowledge 07/12/2003 67 FR 46204. Also known as Chinook Indian Tribe of Oregon & Washington, Inc. and Chinook Nation.

3. External sources

  • BIA status summary of petitions for recognition as of 15 February 2007"
  • Miller, Mark Edwin. Forgotten Tribes: Unrecognized Indians and the Federal Acknowledgment Process. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. Discusses the state recognition process, the experiences of several state-recognized tribes the United Houma Nation of Louisiana, and the Tigua/Pueblo of Ysleta Del Sur and Alabama-Coushatta Tribes of Texas- the latter two are federally recognized, and the problems of non-federally acknowledged indigenous communities.
  • Bates, Denise. The Other Movement: Indian Rights and Civil Rights in the Deep South. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2011. Details state recognition and the functioning of state Indian commissions in Alabama and Louisiana.
  • Federalism and the State Recognition of Native American Tribes: A survey of State-Recognized Tribes and State Recognition Processes Across the United States
  • Joint resolution of the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opposing fabricated Cherokee "tribes" and "Indians" acknowledges the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians
  • "BIA list of petitioners for recognition by state as of 22 September 2008
  • U.S. GAO - Indian Issues: Federal Funding for Non-Federally Recognized Tribes Published April 12, 2012
  • Testimony of Leon Jones, Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Dan McCoy, Tribal Council Chairman, on the Indian Federal Recognition Administrative Procedures Act of 1999