The U.S. Government defines a Federally recognized tribe as an American Indian or Alaskan Native tribe that has a government-to-government relationship with the United States with responsibilities, powers, limitations, and obligations that are attached to that designation.

Federally recognized tribes are acknowledged as having natural rights to self-government (tribal sovereignty) and are entitled to receive some Federal benefits, services, and protections because of their special relationships with the U.S. Government. There are currently 567 Federally recognized American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes and villages.

From 1778 to 1871, The U.S. largely used treaties with the sovereign tribal nations to define the relationships between them. However, in 1871 Congress ended treaty-making, and since then, relations with the Federally recognized tribes have been officially created through Congressional Acts, Executive Orders, and Executive Agreements. Between 1778, when the U.S. made its first treaty with the Delawares, to 1871, Congress approved 370 treaties.

The U.S. considers these treaties “the supreme law of the land.” They are the foundation upon which our Nation bases Federal Indian law and our Federal Indian trust relationship.

Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution gives Congress the power to create alliances with the tribes. In that way, Federally recognized tribes are sewn into the constitutional fabric of our Nation.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2010 the estimated population of American Indians and Alaskan Natives, including those of more than one race, was 5.2 million, or 1.7 percent of the total U.S. population at the time.