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Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions with answers. If you have other questions we can answer, please use the Contact Us form.


How many federally recognized Indian tribes are there in Washington State?

What is a Federally recognized tribe?

"Federally recognized," means these tribes and groups have a special, legal relationship with the U.S. government.

This relationship is referred to as a government-to-government relationship. Members of Federally recognized Tribes who do not reside on their reservations have limited relations with the BIA and IHS, since BIA and IHS programs are primarily administered for members of Federally recognized tribes who live on or near reservations.

How does one trace Native American ancestry and become a member of a tribe?

Many people think that the BIA retrieves genealogical information from a massive national Indian registry or comprehensive computer database. This is not true. Most BIA offices, particularly the central (headquarters, Washington, DC) and area (field) offices do not keep individual Indian records and the BIA does not maintain a national registry.

The BIA does not conduct genealogical research for the public.If an individual does not wish to conduct their own research, researchers are available for a fee. Please write to the Board of Certification of Genealogists or the Association of Professional Genealogists and request their listings of genealogical researchers for hire. Their addresses are:

Board of Certification of Genealogists 
P.O. Box 14291 
Washington, D.C. 20044

The Association of Professional Genealogists 
P.O. Box 40393 
Denver, Colorado 80204

For further information please go to The Department of Interior/ Bureau of Indian Affairs Web site:

How does an Native American become a member of a Tribe?

A Tribe sets up its own membership criteria, although the U.S. Congress can also establish tribal membership criteria. Becoming a member of a particular Tribe requires meeting its membership rules, including adoption.

Except for adoption, the amount of blood quantum needed varies, with some Tribes requiring only proof of descent from an Native American ancestor, while others may require as much as one-half.

What benefits and services are available to federally recognized tribes?

The two main federal agencies which provide benefits and services to recognized Indian tribes are the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS). The BIA is a unit of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the IHS is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Major benefits and services provided by these agencies include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Medical and dental care
  • Grants and programs for education
  • Housing programs
  • Aid in developing tribal governments and courts
  • Resource management
  • Other services based upon tribal needs and interests

Where can I find census information on Native Americans/Alaska Natives?

You can access population information at the United States' Census Bureau’s website: U.S. Census Bureau - American Indian and Alaska Native