Indian Affairs | Division of Indian Self Determination
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Division of Indian Self-Determination

Office of Indian Services - Division of Self-Determination

In 1975, the United States Congress enacted the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (the Act), Pub. L. 93-638. The Act allowed for Indian tribes to have greater autonomy and to have the opportunity to assume the responsibility for programs and services administered to them on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior through contractual agreements.  The Act assured that Indian tribes had paramount involvement in the direction of services provided by the Federal government in an attempt to target the delivery of such services to the needs and desires of the local communities.  In the Act, Congress declared its commitment to maintaining the unique and continuing relationship with Indian tribes through the new policy of self-determination. The strengthening of this relationship provided a methodical evolution of federal dominance to an improved and effective Indian involvement in the development and management of programs.

The Division of Self-Determination Services within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Office of Indian Services (OIS) serves as the primary contact on policy affecting the unique contractual relationship between the Secretary of the Interior and Indian tribes or tribal entities. In addition to developing policy and providing program direction at a national level, the Division focuses its efforts on training and technical assistance to meet the increasing demand for modernization and professional growth by BIA employees and tribal contractors. 

The BIA provides services directly through contracts, grants or compacts to a services population of 1.6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who are members of 562 federal recognized Indian Tribes in the 48 contiguous United States and Alaska.  The role of the BIA has changed significantly in the last three decades in response to a greater emphasis on Indian self-determination.  Programs are funded and operated in a highly decentralized manner, with approximately 90 percent of all appropriations expended at the local level and 50 percent of the appropriations provided directly to tribes and tribal organization through grants, contracts, and compacts for tribes to operate government programs and schools.