Q: Who is an American Indian?
"Legally and politically, an American Indian is a member of a tribe.
Each tribe creates its own membership requirements to determine
whether an individual is eligible for enrollment. Membership
criteria varies from a certain degree of American Indian/tribal
blood quantum to community recognition as a tribal member. Each
Tribe should be contacted as to the specific enrollment
qualifications for that tribe (for more information on enrollment
issues, visit the Bureau of American Indian Affairs website at
http://www.doi.gov/bureau-indianaffairs.html). In order to be
politically and legally recognized as an American Indian, this
political connection between the tribe and the individual must
exist, as it is that connection that determines whether the
individual American Indian can access rights established by treaties
between the tribe and the U.S. Government. Additionally, a tribe
must be federally recognized for both the tribe and the individual
American Indian to access protections and services established by
individual may be full-blooded American Indian, with blood from many
different tribes, but without enough blood quantum of any specific
tribe to meet any tribe’s criteria for membership. Although this
person may be considered an American Indian racially, he or she
would not be considered an American Indian either politically or
legally and could not access those federal protections and services
established by treaties, nor take advantage of most tribal services.
A person who is identified politically or racially as an American
Indian is protected under both state laws and federal laws that
"The state cannot legally establish criteria of tribal membership
because that is a right solely reserved to each tribe. Utah’s
K-12 education system, therefore, allows parents to identify their
children as American Indian for the purposes of state educational
Q: Which term is more appropriate to use, American
Indian or Native American?
"When referring to the indigenous peoples of Alaska or the 48
contiguous states of the United States, it is appropriate to use the
terms “Alaska Natives” and “American Indians,” respectively. While
the term “Native Americans” came into usage in the 1960’s most of
the Natives would prefer to be called American Indians."
Q: Are American Indians citizens?
"Yes, American Indians are citizens of the tribal group of which they
are a member. American Indians became citizens of the U.S. in 1924
American Indian Citizenship Act and are also citizens of
the state in which they reside."
Indian and Alaska Native Census Data 2000)
Q: Do American Indians get a free college education?
"No, American Indians do not receive a free college education. Some
States have a fee waiver for American Indian students, but it is
based upon student financial need and only covers certain costs.
College bound American Indian students fill out financial aid forms
just like any other student, and in all cases, further funding is
dependent upon good academic standing."
Q: Do American Indians pay taxes?
"Yes, both tribes and individual American Indians pay taxes. American
Indians in Utah, like all other Utahns, are concerned about taxes
and how their tax dollars are spent. Individual American Indians pay
federal income taxes and other taxes such as tribal fuel and tribal
tobacco taxes. American Indians who work on a reservation do not pay
state income taxes because of the state’s inability to govern and
tax American Indians within the reservation boundaries, a right
reserved to tribes. However, American Indians who live and/or work
off of the reservation do pay state income taxes and all other
taxes. Tribal lands held in trust by the federal government are not
subject to property tax, just as federal forest services lands are
not, because states cannot tax federal lands. This lack of a
property tax base is made up by the federal government. K-12 public
schools located within reservation boundaries are provided Impact
Aid, which provides funds to local districts that have lost property
tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt federal property, or
that have experienced increased expenditures due to the enrollment
of federally connected children, including children living on
American Indian trust lands."
Q: Do American Indians get money for just being
"No, American Indians do not receive payments from the federal
government simply because they have American Indian blood. An
American Indian person may receive distribution funds based on
mineral or agricultural lease income on property that is held in
trust by the United States or may represent compensation for lands
taken in connection with governmental projects. Some tribes receive
benefits from the federal government in fulfillment of treaty
obligations or for the extraction of tribal natural resources, a
percentage of which may be distributed as per capita among the
Q: How are Tribes organized?
"Tribes have the inherent right to operate under their own system of
government. Tribal governments have diverse structures. Many have
adopted constitutions, while others operate under Articles of
Association or other bodies of law, and some still maintain
traditional systems of government. The chief executive of a tribe is
generally called the tribal chairperson, but may also be called
principal chief, governor, or president."
Q: What does the term “Federally Recognized Tribe”
“Federal Recognition” is a legal term meaning that the United States
recognizes a government-to-government relationship with a tribe and
that a tribe exists politically as a “domestic dependent nation.” A
federally recognized tribe is one that was in existence, or evolved
as a successor to a tribe, at the time of original contact with
"Federally recognized tribes possess certain inherent rights of
self-government and entitlement to certain federal benefits,
services, and protections because of treaties and the subsequent
federal trust duty. Tribes can also be “State Recognized.”
Q: What is the relationship between the United States
and the Tribes?
"The relationship between the tribes and the United States is one of
a sovereign government to another sovereign government. This
principle has shaped the entire history of dealings between the
federal government, the states, and the tribes. The United States
government entered into treaties with tribal governments that
exchanged tribal lands for federal protection and services. These
treaties still form the basis of much of the Tribal-Federal
relationship. This relationship is established in the Constitution
of the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court, through many cases,
has established the U.S. Constitution Commerce Clause, Article I,
Section 8, as the basis of the Tribal- Federal relationship. The
Commerce Clause states:
The Congress shall have the power To . . . regulate
with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the
American Indian Tribes[.]
is important to remember that tribes pre-date the U.S. Constitution
and, as such, tribes are not bound by its provisions. In 1968,
however, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Civil Rights Act, which
established most, but not all, of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of
Rights within Indian Country."
Q: What is the Federal Indian Trust Responsibility?
"The Federal Indian Trust Responsibility is a legal obligation under
which the United States has charged itself
with moral obligations of the highest responsibility and trust
toward American Indian tribes (Seminole
United States, 1942; Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 1831).
Over the years, the trust doctrine has been the center of numerous
other Supreme Court cases and it is one of the most important
principles in federal American Indian law."
"The federal Indian trust responsibility holds the United States
legally responsible for the protection of tribal lands, assets,
resources, and treaty rights. The Supreme Court suggests that the
Federal Indian Trust Responsibility entails legal duties, moral
obligations, and the fulfillment of understandings and expectations
that have arisen over the entire course of dealings between the U.S.
and the tribes."
"The federal Indian trust duty is the basis of a current longstanding
lawsuit brought by individual American Indian landholders against
the federal government. The individual American Indian landholders
assert that the federal government breached its trust duty to
protect their assets, provide an accounting of their assets, and
provide them the correct compensation for the leasing of their lands
for more information)."
Q: What is the relationship between tribes and the
"Given that the United States and tribes have a sovereign government
to sovereign government relationship, States do not have any power
over tribes within their territories, and vice-versa. The U.S.
Constitution vests authority over American Indian Affairs in the
federal government and therefore, tribes and states also operate
under a government-to-government relationship. In fact, in order to
become a part of the United States, most states had to disclaim any
and all rights to American Indian lands within its territory."
tribe and a state can agree, through compacts or other agreements,
that certain legal relationships exist. Additionally, the U.S.
Congress can establish certain laws that create a state-tribal
relationship on particular issues. Tribes retain the right to enact
and enforce stricter laws and regulations than those of the
neighboring state(s). Tribes possess both the right and the power to
regulate activities on their lands and over their citizens
independently from the neighboring state government."
Q: What are Treaty Rights?
"From 1777 to 1871, United States relations with individual American
Indian nations were conducted through treaty negotiations. These
contracts among nations created unique sets of rights for the
benefit of each of the treaty-making tribes and the U.S. government.
Those rights, like any other treaty obligations of the United
States, represent, according to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution,
the supreme law of the land. As such, the protection of
treaty rights is a critical part of the federal American Indian
trust relationship. Treaties exchanged tribal land for certain
protections and benefits. Those treaty rights often include, among
other things, hunting and fishing rights for tribal members that may
extend beyond reservation boundaries, education of tribal children,
protection from the state by the federal government, and first
priority to water rights."
Q: Historically, did all American Indians and Alaska
Natives speak a common language?
"No, American Indians and Alaska Natives speak many diverse
languages. At the end of the 15th century, more than 400 American
Indian and Alaska Native languages were spoken. Today, some 250
tribal languages are spoken and many are written. (American
Q: When is American Indian Heritage Day?
Utah celebrates the "Indigenous People Day" in November.
addition, November is nationally designated as “Native
American Heritage Month.”
Q: Where can I find information about American
Indians and American Indian related issues?
Please, visit our
Native American Resource Page
Q. How many
K-12 American Indian Students are in the Uintah and Duchesne County
USOE, Fall Enrollment Summary in 2004
- Uintah County School District: 620 Students (314 Males and
- Duchesne County School District: 335 Students (158 Males
and 177 Females)
Total Students: 955 Students. American Indians Students
represent the 10% of the total Students population 9,537.
Utah State Office of Education Data
Q. If I want to
learn more about Indian Education, where I should start?
Some reading suggestions:
History of Indian Education by NEA, 2002
Hearing on the Status of Indian Education, May 25, 2006
Indian Education Association Report, May 25, 2006
A Quiet Crisis, U.S. Commission on Civil
Rights, July 2003
American Indian/Alaska Native, An Overview
by Jon Reyhner, Northern Arizona University
Plans for Dropout Prevention and special
School Support Services for American Indian and Alaska Native
Students by Jon Reyhner, Northern Arizona University
A Specialized Knowledge Base for teaching
American Indian and Alaska Native Students by Jon Reyhner,
Northern Arizona University
Selected Resources in American
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