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Indian Preference

Indian Affairs is unique among Federal employers in that it is authorized to utilize an Indian Preference policy in hiring.  Given the BIA’s long historical and significant presence in the communities it serves and Congress’s recognition of needing its workforce to reflect those communities, the Bureau was given the authority to use Indian Preference in its recruitment and hiring processes.  Today, that policy applies throughout the Indian Affairs organization.

What is the Indian Preference Policy?

The Indian Preference policy is a tool used by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and authorized by Congress, to encourage qualified American Indians and Alaska Natives to seek employment with the BIA and IHS.

How is the Indian Preference Policy Applied?

The Indian Preference policy applies when the BIA and IHS offer preferential treatment to qualified candidates of American Indian or Alaska Native heritage seeking employment with them.

Where is the Indian Preference Policy Applied?

The policy allows certain persons of American Indian or Alaska Native descent to receive preference when appointments are made to vacancies in positions within the BIA and IHS, as well as in any unit that has been transferred intact from the BIA to a Bureau or office within DOI or HHS and that continues to perform functions formerly performed as part of the BIA and IHS.

 Who is Eligible to Claim Indian Preference Status When Seeking Employment With the BIA or IHS?

You are eligible for preference if you (a) are a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe; (b) are a descendent of a member and were residing within the present boundaries of any Indian reservation on June 1, 1934; (c) are an Alaska Native; or (d) possess one-half degree Indian blood derived from tribes that are indigenous to the United States.

 What Must One Do To Claim Indian Preference Status When Seeking Employment With the BIA, BIE or IHS?

To claim Indian Preference status when applying for employment with the BIA or IHS, you must include in your application package a completed and signed Form BIA 4432, Verification of Indian Preference for Employment in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service.  The form also can be found on Indian Affairs Office of Human Capital Management web page.

Once you have received the signed Form BIA 4432, keep the original with your important papers and submit a photocopy of it (or scan it) with your employment application.

What is the difference between Indian Preference and Veterans Preference?

In an opinion by the Solicitor General to the Department of Interior dated June 4, 1954, it was determined that the appointments made under Indian Preference take precedence over the provision of Section 3 of the Veterans’ Preference Act of 1944. It is the policy of Indian Affairs, with respect to appointments in the excepted service that once Indian Preference requirements are met, Veterans’ Preference will be applied as set forth in 5 CFR 302.

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