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Does the United States still make treaties with Indian tribes?

Submitted by Aguilar, Fermin E on

FAQ Category

Why Tribes Exist Today in the United States

No.  Congress ended treaty-making with Indian tribes in 1871.  Since then, relations with Indian groups have been formalized and/or codified by Congressional acts, Executive Orders, and Executive Agreements.  Between 1778, when the first treaty was made with the Delawares, to 1871, when Congress ended the treaty-making period, the United States Senate ratified 370 treaties.  At least 45 others were negotiated with tribes but were never ratified by the Senate.
The treaties that were made often contain commitments that have either been fulfilled or subsequently superseded by Congressional legislation.

In addition, American Indians and Alaska Natives can access education, health, welfare, and other social service programs available to all citizens, if they are eligible.  Even if a tribe does not have a treaty with the United States, or has treaties that were negotiated but not ratified, its members may still receive services from the BIA or other federal programs, if eligible.

The specifics of particular treaties signed by government negotiators with Indian tribes are contained in one volume (Vol. II) of the publication, Indian Affairs, Laws and Treaties: 1778-1883, compiled, annotated, and edited by Charles J. Kappler.  Published by the United States Government Printing Office in 1904, it is now out of print, but can be found in most large law libraries and on the Internet at The treaty volume has also been published privately under the title, “Indian Treaties: 1778-1883.”

Originals of all the treaties are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration of the General Services Administration.  For more information on how to obtain copies or for more information about the treaties visit NARA’s website at .

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