Office of Federal Acknowledgment (OFA)
The Office of Federal Acknowledgment (OFA) within the Office of the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs of the Department of the Interior (Department) implements Part 83 of Title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations (25 CFR Part 83), Federal Acknowledgment of American Indian Tribes. The acknowledgment process is the Department’s administrative process by which petitioning groups that meet the criteria are given Federal "acknowledgment" as Indian tribes and by which they become eligible to receive services provided to members of Indian tribes.
Through the Department’s Office of the Solicitor, OFA makes recommendations to the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs (AS-IA). The AS-IA has the authority to make the decision whether to acknowledge tribal existence and establish a government-to-government relationship or to deny acknowledging a petitioning group as an Indian tribe.
By applying anthropological, genealogical, and historical research methods, OFA reviews, verifies, and evaluates groups’ petitions for Federal acknowledgment as Indian tribes. OFA makes recommendations for proposed findings and final determinations to the AS-IA, consults with petitioners and third parties, provides copies of 25 CFR Part 83 and its guidelines, prepares technical assistance review letters, maintains petitions and administrative correspondence files, and conducts special research projects for the Department. OFA also performs other administrative duties that include maintaining its web page and responding to appeals, litigation, and Freedom of Information Act requests.
NOTICE August 1, 2016: OFA has recently posted a DRAFT version of a document entitled "Documented Petition Description with a Suggested Outline for Concise Written Narrative." This document will help groups prepare a documented petition with a concise written narrative as described in section 83.21 of the acknowledgment regulations. Visit the Guidelines, Precedent Manual, and Sample Narrative page for further information.
25 CFR Part 83 ACKNOWLEDGMENT REGULATIONS as revised in 2015 (the current regulations):
- Abbreviated Form of 25 CFR Part 83 Criteria
- 25 CFR Part 83, "Federal Acknowledgment of American Indian Tribes"
- 25 CFR Part 83 Process Chart (2015 version coming soon)
Recent Acknowledgment Actions: This is a listing of some of the Department's latest actions regarding the 25 CFR Part 83 acknowledgment process.
Opportunities for Comment: In accordance with 25 CFR 83.22(b)(iv), the Department posts opportunities for individuals and entities to submit comments on documented petitions.
Petitions in Process: This is a listing of the petitions that the Department is now evaluating under the 25 CFR Part 83 acknowledgment process.
Decided Cases: This is a listing of the petitions that have resolved through the 25 CFR Part 83 acknowledgment process.
Register of Documented Petitions: This is a list of the petitioners who have submitted a documented petition as defined by 25 CFR Part 83 and are waiting for the evaluation process to begin.
Supplemental Administrative and Regulatory Documents: These are additional documents that may be of assistance in preparing petitions and in better understanding the Federal acknowledgment process. These documents include the previous revisions of the acknowledgment regulations (in 1978 and 1994); several guidance directives from the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs; general timelines for the 25 CFR 83 acknowledgment process; technical assistance (TA) guidelines; GAO reports; and other documents.
Guidelines, Precedent Manual, and Sample Petition Narrative: The documents include general guidelines intended for the petitioning group, as well as more specialized guidelines for researchers. Also included is a precedent manual that may better help petitioners understand how the Department has interpreted the regulations. A sample petition narrative provides an example of a narrative written by a member of a petitioning group, who volunteered for the project, along with the help of other group members.
Sample Formats for Petitioner Submissions: This is a collection of sample forms that might be helpful in corresponding with the Department during the acknowledgment process.
Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA) Documents: The IBIA is an appeals court within the Department of the Interior to which, under the 1994 revision of the acknowledgment regulations, petitioners or interested parties could appeal decisions by the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs.