American Indians 101 - Frequently Asked Questions (subject to corrections)
Source: "Indian Education for All" Website, Montana OPI

Q: What is a Reservation?

A: "A reservation is a territory reserved by tribes as a permanent tribal homeland. Some reservations were created through treaties while others were created by statutes or executive orders." (Tribal Government Websites)

Q: Which American Indian tribes are located on what reservation in Utah?

A: Goshute Indian Reservation, Navajo Nation, Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians, Northwestern Band of Shoshoni Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe (Map), Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, and White Mesa Ute Council.

Q: Who is an American Indian?

A: "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 those treaties."

"An 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 protect minorities."

"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 programs." (BIA Information Link)

Q: Which term is more appropriate to use, American Indian or Native American?

A: "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?

A: "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 through the American Indian Citizenship Act and are also citizens of the state in which they reside." (American Indian and Alaska Native Census Data 2000)

Q: Do American Indians get a free college education?

A: "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?

A: "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 American Indian?

A: "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 tribes’ membership."

Q: How are Tribes organized?

A: "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” mean?

A: “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 whites."

"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?

A: "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 Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the American Indian Tribes[.]

It 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?

A: "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 Nation v. 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 (see www.indiantrust.com for more information)."

Q: What is the relationship between tribes and the states?

A: "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."

"A 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?

A: "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?

A: "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 Indian Languages)"

Q: When is American Indian Heritage Day?

A: Utah celebrates the "Indigenous People Day" in November. In addition, November is nationally designated as “Native American Heritage Month.”

Q: Where can I find information about American Indians and American Indian related issues?

A: Please, visit our Native American Resource Page

Q. How many K-12 American Indian Students are in the Uintah and Duchesne County School Districts?

A. USOE, Fall Enrollment Summary in 2004
- Uintah County School District: 620 Students (314 Males and 306 Females)
- 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.
Source: Utah State Office of Education Data

Q. If I want to learn more about Indian Education, where I should start?

A. Some reading suggestions:

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