Two Classes of Tribes: Unifying the State and Federal Recognition Systems

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Ama Lee, J.D. 2021, Harvard Law School; MAACT 2018; BSM 2018, Tulane University.

This paper seeks to analyze the historical and political outcomes of the federal recognition process within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and suggests that the BIA should eliminate the continuous existence requirement from that process. This paper also suggests that the BIA should consider ratifying state tribal recognition through an alternative criterion rather than the federal acknowledgment process. Without taking action, the current structure of recognition fails the United States’ duties to its Indigenous population and underscores its role in extinguishing the continuous existence of many Indian tribes.

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